There have been a record number of beginning golfers the past two years, yet when one thinks of introductory programs, the tendency is to think of the industry’s many junior initiatives. But the reality is that almost 75% of beginning golfers are adults. That begs the question of where are all the adult-specific beginner programs?
In Spring of 2020, more than half of U.S. golf courses were temporarily closed due the coronavirus, seasonality or a combination of the two. By June, more than 98% of facilities had reopened and surges in play followed as golf was embraced as a safe, healthy outdoor sport that could be played by participants of all ages despite the pandemic. Through the end of the year, more than 75 million additional rounds were played nationwide than the same seven-month stretch in 2019.
• Currently open
• Not yet open or operations suspended temporarily
• Non-sampled golf facilities
The map above represents a sample of approximately 10% of all golf courses in the U.S., and is intended to provide perspective as to the geography of courses that are either open or have temporarily suspended golf operations.
While not representative of a complete view of golf course availability, it is the most nationally representative sample of courses available in the industry -- one that includes daily fee, private, municipal, resort and residential communities.
Trend in Course Openings
Less than 50% of golf courses were open to play for more than a month during the height of the coronavirus pandemic -- a combination of governmental efforts (state and local) to reduce the spread of the virus as well as seasonality (wintry weather in the northernmost parts of the country).
The percentage steadily increased from the last week of April through mid-May as more than a dozen states lifted bans on golf while others -- most notably California and Florida -- eased significant local restrictions. By early June, no states had restrictions on play.
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Seven years ago, the proportion of all female golfers was 27%. Since then, the volume of female participants has grown by 43%. And more opportunity exists.
As golf provided an escape from daily coronavirus anxiety for millions of Americans in 2020, nobody played more than 61-year-old Texas resident Barry Gibbons.
There’s a multi-million dollar question floating around the industry these days: How do we retain more golfers, particularly in light of the extraordinary inflow of returners and first-timers in 2020 (+27% vs. ‘19)?
Whether golfer demand or equipment sales, trends suggest a return to where the golf industry was pre-financial crisis of 2007–08 rather than a “new normal”
As golf’s overall participation base has increased, we’re left with three closely-sized and mutually-exclusive groups.
Limitations on golf trips in 2020 have created a bottled-up demand to return to golf travel. NGF surveyed golfers and resort operators to quantify the interest.
Working remotely has provided greater schedule flexibility for many people over the past year. It’s also had a significant impact on golf.
NGF News & Reports
NGF’s Graffis Report, a overview of an unprecedented year for the golf business in 2020, is now available for NGF members.
The NGF extends a warm welcome to the newest members of its growing community, both facilities and businesses.