THere are 2 aspects I'd like to separate.
First my opinion on buying illegal gear to face difficulty.
I think the biggest difference is between a game and a "sport". One of my old gruff high school coaches would argue that a "sport" that wasn't a game wasn't worthy of being called a sport.
Some would argue golf isn't a pure game, since you don't directly compete against opponents but mainly against the course. But it still is somewhat a game with a score.
Ok, so what's the point. In a game, you're more directly playing against an opponent. So there is a sense of gamesmenship, fair play and so on so you don't buy illegal equipment.
In a non-game sport, your goals are more abstract and typically at best it's a clock that is being competed against if there is competition (this is all Athletics). In recreational skiing, you have some more abstract goal to just have FUN, so you buy the gear that helps you accomplish that.
If you cheat in a game and beat your opponent with illegal gear, you know in your heart's heart it wasn't as good as beating him straight up. However, when you are in a non-game and say you want to run a 5min mile or something like that whatever, it's a personal challenge (obsession?) and you will be more accepting to "cheat" to get that goal. It is easier to cheat and lie to yourself, then have to face someone else with your lie.
2nd. Your theory that golf is profitable because of difficulty, and that is why people buy lots of clubs.
I would also put in my opinion that your concept that difficulty is why golf is profitable is flawed. Playing football or basketball is much much harder than golf. Why do all pro athletes from the really "tough" sports retire and then take up golf?
Rather, I'd assert the bigger reason why golf is profitable, is that it has a long lifespan, and it is Competitive, not difficult. Old codgers can still play the game until they are 90years old, even as they get worse and worse at the game. Why do they still play instead of giving up? Mainly it's because they are competing with their friends (or even strangers), and with handicaps to make it still competitive. This is coupled with the fact that people in their mid-life onward have more dispensable income and is why golf is profitable.
Edited by raytseng - 10/6/13 at 11:49pm