Golf participation is booming, and total rounds played this year in the United States are on pace to be as much as 10 percent higher than in 2019. Those extra rounds have been a boon for course operators and, in the past two months at least, equipment companies as a whole.
Recent surges in rounds played are in despite of – and largely because of, at the same time – the coronavirus pandemic. While COVID-19 has shut down many other recreational activities, especially indoors, players of all levels have flocked to golf courses.
The National Golf Foundation and Golf Datatech released a report last week that said rounds played in August in the U.S. were up 20.6 percent over 2019. That was roughly 10 million more rounds played in August 2020 than in August 2019. The report said that was the largest year-over-year monthly increase since Golf Datatech began tracking rounds two decades ago.
All that comes on the heels of year-over-year increases of 19.7 percent in July, 13.9 percent in June and 6.2 percent in May. That was after more than half the courses in the U.S. were shut down in parts of March and April because of the pandemic or seasonality – rounds played in April 2020 were down 42.2 percent versus April 2019.
The report said each state saw an increase of at least 2 percent in August year over year. Texas had the largest increase at 39 percent, followed by Florida with a 37-percent jump and Arizona with a 31-percent increase.
Sure, it was hot in August, but apparently that wasn’t enough to keep people off the courses in some of the game’s largest and warmest markets. And as fall weather cools in such hotspots, rounds played should be expected to continue to outpace 2019.
That could add up to an 8-percent to 10-percent increase in total rounds versus the 441 million rounds played in 2019 in the U.S.
A substantial amount of those increased rounds has been by children. NGF research shows the number of golfers ages 6 to 17 could rise by as much as 20 percent this year, with the increases occurring since pandemic lockdowns began. Approximately 2.5 million kids teed it up in 2019, so 2020’s increases could mean half a million more juniors giving the sport a try.
With all these rounds requiring golf equipment, that industry is on a months-long run despite the pandemic. The NGF and Golf Datatech reported golf retail spiked 32 percent in August 2020 above the same period in 2019, reaching $331 million. The previous record for August had been $287 million in 2006 before the market crash that reversed years of golf’s growth.
August’s robust retail numbers followed $389 million in sales in July, which was the highest for any month Golf Datatech has ever tracked.
The report went on to say records were set in five equipment categories: balls, irons, wedges, gloves and golf bags, which were the best performing category with a 55 percent jump over 2019.
But overall, golf retail sales are still down 4.1 percent this year versus 2019 because of huge retail and supply chain shutdowns in March, April and May. Those three months typically account for almost 40 percent of annual shipments, Golf Datatech reported, and the loss of sales in those months has proved to be a giant hurdle in annual comparisons.