National rounds played for May 2021 were up an estimated 18% over a year ago, when golf operations were still limited due to the coronavirus in some parts of the country.
The May increase follows jumps of +45% in March and +81% in April. In 2020, the three-month stretch from March through saw the most significant virus-related impacts, with the loss of around 20 million spring rounds.
This year’s resurgence puts the industry at +33.6% year-to-date entering June.
In 2020, there were early indicators of golf’s bounce-back by mid-May, when 98% of facilities had resumed operations. But 12 states — among them California, Illinois, New Jersey and Pennsylvania — still had restrictions on golf operations early in the month and a number of areas were also faced with safety limitations that included wider tee time intervals, two player groups instead of foursomes, walking-only provisions, and reduced guest play.
As a result, it was expected that May 2021 would show a fairly substantial increase in play. Of note, play at public courses was up 22.7% for the month compared to a modest 2.6% increase for private facilities. That’s in part because private play in May 2020 was +18% compared to +3% for daily fee and municipal courses.
Looking ahead, June’s rounds-played data will be the first real test of the sustainability of last summer’s surge.