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A Publication of the National Golf Foundation

Questions, Answers and Insights for Everyone Interested in the Business of Golf

Golf is Getting Off Course

by Joe Beditz

May 2021

It’s now common knowledge that rounds played surged in 2020, and most know we’re off to a good start this year.

We’ve noted previously that on-course participation experienced its biggest net increase in 17 years. Off-course participation, meanwhile, continued its impressive run in 2020 by more than doubling the noteworthy gain that was seen on-course.

NGF estimates there were just over 24 million off-course participants last year; just shy of the number of on-course golfers.

Twelve point something …

Golf’s overall participation base in the U.S. – combining on- and off-course players – rose 8% in 2020 to 36.9 million. This leaves us with three closely-sized and mutually-exclusive groups of Americans (age 6+):

  • 12.6M who played only on-course golf (average age 50 / 29% female)
  • 12.2M who played on AND off-course golf (average age 42 / 21% female)
  • 12.1M who played only off-course golf (average age 31 / 45% female)

 

As you can see in the above chart, the total number of off-course golfers (Topgolf, ranges, simulators, etc.) has just about matched the number who play on a course. And it won’t be long before traditional, “green grass” participants are out-numbered. Very likely this year.

This is good news for golf.

Our research tells us that the approachable, non-intimidating environments of Topgolf, and venues like it, help to cultivate interest in the traditional game. Course operators in proximity to these golf entertainment venues should be doubling down on their marketing and player development investments, as there are an increasing number of customer prospects being generated right in their backyards.

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Joe Beditz

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.