Given the Stanley Cup Playoffs are underway, I thought a hockey analogy might be appropriate. What, you say? Consider that the golf year, like a hockey game, really has three distinct periods:
- January-April (in the books)
- May-August (underway)
The four-month periods that bookend the calendar are important, no question, but the current “summer stretch” of May through August is usually make-it-or-break-it for the golf business each year. Almost half of annual golf rounds are played during these months, and the weather in the Northeast and West North Central regions can – and usually does – have a big impact on results.
Last year, of course, was an exception extraordinaire. Rounds and equipment sales plummeted early in the year (especially April), shot up in the summer, and extended into the fall. The big question that arose late last year and has carried into 2021 is whether golf will continue to ride this wave of demand.
Here’s how the scoreboard looks:
Rounds played and equipment sales in the first period are up considerably over 2020 – no surprise as just over half of golf courses were closed for some length of time during golf’s first third in 2020. Rounds were up 24% YTD through March – a number that will climb for sure because April 2021 rounds will crush April 2020. Wholesale equipment shipments are way up over 2020 too, but are also 25% ahead of 2019. The chart below illustrates these increases (we’ll know definitively about rounds in a few days).
So will this performance last into golf’s most important middle period? Can’t tell yet, but indicators seem positive. Among them, Google searches for golf balls remain up over 2019 (chart below).
Unlike the Stanley Cup, by the end of golf’s second period we’ll have a pretty good idea for how rounds played and equipment sales will turn out in 2021, at least directionally. For the Stanley Cup, you’ll have to wait for the horn at the end of the third period. (Or longer … did you know that last year’s champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning, played 216 minutes of overtime on their way to capturing the Cup, which is almost 150 more minutes than the average of all other champions since the league switched to its current playoff format in 1986?)
Joe is in his 35th year with the NGF and has served as President and Chief Executive since 1989. One of the industry's leading experts on the business of golf, Joe has published a myriad of studies and reports about the state of the game and, as a speaker, is frequently asked to provide insight and information on consumer and economic trends affecting golf's present and future.