The old industry saying is that all golf is local. While this is mostly true – more than 80% of rounds are played within an hour of home — golf travel is a significant and vital part of the golf industry.
The NGF’s 2018 Travel Report finds that a total of 8.2 million golfers played 57.6 million rounds of golf while traveling for business or leisure in 2017. The golf travel industry overall in the United States is a $20.5 billion business, a robust market that ranges from playing fees and accommodations to travel costs, food & beverage, and entertainment expenses.
Whether it was buddies’ trips, couples getaways, family vacations, business travel or a solo journey to a bucket-list destination, 39% of adult golfers in 2017 took a trip for business or leisure with an overnight stay during which they played at least one round of golf. There are plenty more golfers who aspire to take that special golf journey every couple of years. This reflects the almost 4 million golfers who didn’t play while traveling in 2017, but say they are interested in doing so in the coming year.
While the incidence of golf travel is down slightly compared to the NGF’s last measurement in 2007 (prior to the Great Recession), travel golf rounds represented approximately 13% of total golf rounds played in 2017. Eleven years ago, that percentage was 14%.
The more passionate a golfer is, the more likely they are to try to squeeze in a round during a work trip or vacation. The statistics bear this out, with the more avid golfers playing more rounds while traveling.
Like travel in general, the incidence of golf travel increases with income — 52% of golfers with a household income of $100,000 or more took a trip in 2017, compared to 35% of golfers with a household income of less than $100,000.
From buddies’ trips in Myrtle Beach and bachelor parties in Las Vegas to golf getaways at ballyhooed resorts like Pebble Beach and Bandon Dunes, 72% of golf travelers said their journey was leisure-related. One-third of those surveyed said they took both a business trip and a leisure trip involving golf. While this balance holds true for all age segments, the share of leisure trips increases with age – as retirees and those with grown families typically have more free time for golf.
The NGF’s latest look at travel takes a holistic look at the market, examining who plays and why they play. The report then delves into how much golf travelers spend and how they research golf travel, along with when they play and, ultimately, both where they go and where they would most like to go.
Because not all golf is local.
Erik is the Editorial Director for the NGF. Before joining the National Golf Foundation, he spent more than two decades with Bloomberg News, both as a writer and editor, with a focus on sports business and the golf industry. The New Jersey resident has also written about golf for outlets that include Forbes, LINKS and the Met Golfer.
Some golfers travel near and far to find courses that challenge their game and provide them with a unique, enriching experience. But golf trips don’t just benefit golfers, they contribute to golfer spending, rounds-played and deepen engagement.
Understanding the travel habits of golfers can help golf businesses capture more market share with this segment of golfers. This report provides broad information about the golf travel market, including the total number of golf travelers, the number of trips taken and the number of rounds played. In addition, the study examines different types of golf trips (buddies trips, family vacations, business trips, etc.), highlights the most popular geographic regions for golf travel, and identifies factors that influence destination selection.