Rounds have been up since the pandemic hit and industry analysts are now predicting that it is not just a one-time bump, but a sustaining trend. The swing up has also made golf the fastest-growing sport in the U.S. in terms of overall players, when golf entertainment is included in the mix.
Since June 2020, rounds have only underperformed in two months when compared to pre-pandemic numbers, according to the National Golf Foundation. Those months were April 2022 and 2023, which is largely due to April’s status as the most variable month for golf rounds in the U.S. because of weather. In every other instance, the given month outperformed its pre-pandemic equivalent, some by more than 40 to 60%.
Twenty-four of the past 37 months were higher than their peak equivalent going all the way back to 2007. Only five months in the period ended more than 5% below their 13-year peak, and all of those were months such as February, March, April and November, which already tend to have lower volume because of the weather.
Jim Koppenhaver, an industry consultant from Pellucid Corp. who has long positioned himself as a more pessimistic version of the NGF, said golf has shown surprising resilience in the face of the pandemic.
“Looking at the progression of rounds through June versus last year’s results, we’re seeing continued strength in demand against what’s still an elevated base compared to pre-COVID,” Koppenhaver said. “Specifically, five of six months beat 2022 (all but March) and all of them beat the five-year average which is a more ‘normal’ benchmark and includes both pre- and post-pandemic conditions. Our crystal ball for the end of year suggests we could end the year with both record Rounds and Golf Revenue for the post-2000 period for which we have reliable tracking. Has the COVID surge for golf peaked? The current fact-based answer would appear to be, ‘Not yet.’”
As of the beginning of July, the number of rounds played is less than one percentage point behind June 2021’s historic pace, and more than 15% higher than the 2017-2019 average. Off-course golf also continues to grow at a fast pace, introducing golfers to the industry.
In almost any other scenario, these numbers would be cause for celebration. Recent events, however, have made people apprehensive and more than a little hesitant to declare victory.
“Golf’s trajectory is impressive in its own right, but the story is usually modulated for fear of sounding opportunistic … and…