Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, NGF has conducted research on thousands of “core golfers,” a group of particular interest when studying golf behavior and consumption.
Core golfers — defined as U.S. adults who have played a minimum of eight rounds of golf in the past 12 months — are the game’s best customers, accounting for almost 90% of golf spend and rounds played.
In early May, with the vast majority of golf courses nationwide now open without any statewide restrictions on operation, golf retail has begun to follow suit as other parts of the economy gradually start to reopen. But even as shutdown measures are reduced and cases of the virus itself lessen, many consumers will likely continue to avoid exposure risks.
To assess core golfers’ feelings on “exposure avoidance,” we asked about their concerns about going into golf retail stores and pro shops. The question itself was phrased as follows:
Imagine golf retail shops open back up next month, and you’re in the market for golf equipment. How concerned do you expect you’d be about handling clubs and other products that may have been tried or held by others?
Almost half of core golfers indicated they would be at least “somewhat concerned” about shopping in a store or pro shop, although the majority said while there may be a risk, it won’t stop them from trying a club or making a purchase.
For brands and businesses with physical locations, the obvious challenge will be to facilitate a sense of comfort and reassurance, and to find solutions that allow customers to engage safely. Golf businesses that recognize this challenge and act intentionally, creatively and transparently will find better success for the foreseeable future.
When it comes to spending itself, core golfers don’t anticipate much of an adjustment when it comes to golf once things return to “normal.” It is notable, however, that indications are that saving practices will increase while generally less money may be spent on many non-essential items and activities — from luxury goods to entertainment.
As for personal financial outlook, golfers on average tend to be a bit more optimistic than the average American.
This is in part because of a general skew in affluence — the household income for core golfers is more than 50% higher than the average U.S. household. Age and career stage are also factors, as approximately one quarter of core golfers are retired, a rate 33% higher than non-golfers.
When it comes to overall consumer confidence among golfers, this continues to improve as pandemic-related anxieties are eased.
Additionally, the below graph shows that there was little change in core golfer sentiment related to personal financial outlook throughout the month of April and now into May, with little differentiation by income level.
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