Leaves and temperatures are falling in many parts of the country, but golf course tee sheets remain crowded and there are still more major golf championships on the calendar – The Masters Tournament for the men as well as the KPMG PGA Championship and U.S. Open on the women’s side.
So, it begs the question: after a record-setting summer for golf, how much longer might this season’s surge stretch?
Golf has long been one of the nation’s most popular participation sports, with more than 24 million Americans taking to the course every year, but the game has been even more of a draw during the Covid era given its unique positioning as a safe and healthy outdoor activity conducive to both social interaction and physical distancing. Consider this: rounds of golf rose in every single state in the continental U.S. in June, July and August as compared to the same period in 2019.
The number of rounds played in August jumped by almost 10 million nationwide, a 21% year-over-year leap that set a record for the biggest increase in a peak season month since Golf Datatech started tracking the figures back in 2000. The previous record had been an increase of almost 20% just a month earlier.
In total, there were about 27 million more rounds played in June, July and August than the same summer stretch in 2019. The GolfNow tee time engine reports that the daily record for total online round bookings has been topped more than 100 times this year.
Heading into the final three months of 2020, the golf industry is more than 6% ahead of its pace in 2019, when 441 million rounds were played. It’s been an unprecedented rebound after the virus forced more than half of the nation’s 16,000+ golf courses to close, resulting in the loss of 20 million spring rounds. Since May 1, when most courses had resumed operation, GolfNow reports that the revenue its generated for golf courses has been up more than 92% year-over-year.
Amid all the negative storylines in 2020, it’s possible that U.S. golf rounds could ultimately top last year’s total by a healthy 8%, according to the National Golf Foundation. For perspective, there’s only been one yearly increase even greater than 2% over the past 15 years. What’s almost hard to conceive is that this jump in play happened during a year in which some golf courses were closed for two months and even when they reopened were occasionally required to put limits on players in a group or the number of tee times they could offer per hour. It speaks to the pent-up demand for golf; no doubt many people had a desire to play, but under normal circumstances work, family demands (including kids’ sports) or other activities often have a knack for getting in the way.
The game’s outdoor nature and inherent distancing certainly boosted its appeal, and having the PGA TOUR and LPGA on TV as essentially the first professional sports leagues to return to action provided further encouragement for men and women of all ages to get back out on the links.
More play means more golfers buying balls, clubs, bags and gloves, not to mention shoes, apparel and accessories. Sales of golf equipment hit $389 million in July, the highest ever tracked in a single month, while August set its own monthly record at $331 million.
The question is whether the golf season – both playing and buying – is further extended by this unusual Covid year.
Indications are that golfers will still have an itch to get outside and play as long as the weather cooperates. Meanwhile, the holiday season could be a promising one on the golf equipment sales front, especially as many club manufacturers waited until a bit later in the season to release new products.
We may be moving into the final three months of 2020, but momentum in the golf business remains strong.
And you don’t think some golfers will have an entirely new appreciation for fall golf when they see players in layers tackling Augusta National in mid-November?
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