It’s all but a certainty that the number of 2020 rounds-played nationally in the U.S. will finish ahead of last year despite the loss of almost 20 million rounds due to coronavirus-related courses shutdowns. The question is how much?
After record-setting months in July and August, play is 6% ahead of the 2019 pace entering the final four-month stretch of the year.
The summer months have seen approximately 27 million more rounds played nationwide than a year ago. Play was up year-over-year in every single state in the U.S. for June, July and August. After a +13.9% June jump, rounds surged by +19.7% in July and then were +20.6% in August — the biggest increase in a peak season month since Golf Datatech began tracking rounds two decades ago.
Looking ahead to the final third of the calendar – golf’s typical taper period – there’s good reason to believe that the momentum will continue, given anecdotal reports from course operators, record equipment sales and continued spikes in online searches for the game’s ultimate consumable: golf balls.
No doubt the weather has really cooperated. It was a spectacular summer for much of the Midwest and Northeast, and the warm weather is showing no signs of stopping as 2020 passes its second and final equinox. And yet this prolonged summer may come with heightened late-season tropical activity, including some extreme weather conditions that could affect a number of sizeable golf markets. It’s been one of the most active hurricane seasons, with storm names cycling through the alphabet once already, and damaging weather has affected the Gulf states a number of times.
September typically accounts for just under 11% of total annual rounds nationwide – even higher than in the spring – so another strong month would make it very possible that the industry ends up with an 8% increase over last year’s 441 million rounds. For perspective, the last time we saw even a 5% Y.O.Y. increase was in 2012, thanks to an early-season heatwave.
September rounds data is typically available in late October.
Given that play in June, July and August has been in the +15%-20% neighborhood, the assumption there might be a 10% Y.O.Y. increase for the last four months isn’t an unreasonable best-case scenario.
For the forecasters out there, let’s say that extreme weather kicks in and the final four months end up down 5% versus same period last year. That kind of fluctuation may seem unlikely at this point but is certainly possible – in September through December of 2018, rounds dropped at least 7% each month Y.O.Y. due to heavier-than-normal precipitation. This scenario, likely a worst-case, would still leave us up 2% for the year.
Let’s see what the fall brings.
The National Golf Foundation is a community of individuals and golf businesses committed to being the most well-informed advocates for the growth of the industry. With the world’s largest research team dedicated to golf, NGF provides members with the most accurate and objective insights on the game. We help golf businesses better understand their market and grow their businesses. The NGF is the only association for everyone in golf, and we advocate for growth by educating and connecting our members.