Golf play expected to be up 12% in 2020

After losing 20 million rounds in the spring, golf play exploded in the summer and through the fall, as golf has been seen as a safe sport amid the pandemic. Golf Datatech now predicts that annual rounds will be up 12% compared to 2019. 

“Since golf returned from a near national shutdown in late spring due to COVID-19, we’ve recorded double digit growth every month for the last seven months” said John Krzynowek, partner at Golf Datatech. “November was another excellent month for rounds, up an astounding 57% over the same month in 2019. Typically, it’s a time of year when much of the country is starting to wind down for winter, and it can be uncomfortable to be outside to play. This year, however, we had above average weather for playing the game, continuing a lengthy streak of minimal precipitation and warm temperatures.”

Joe Beditz, president and CEO of the National Golf Foundation, said in a recent letter that he expects an annual increase of around 50 million rounds over 2019. 

That will mark the largest increase in rounds in one year since 1997, when Tiger Woods had his breakout year and golf play jumped by 63 million rounds.

During the past 20 years, rounds played have moved up and down no more than a few percent each year, making 2020 remarkable, Beditz said, predicting a 12% increase over 2019. 

November’s rounds data shows that only three states — Hawaii, Florida and New Mexico — had negative results for the month. Florida was hit with a storm, and New Mexico courses have been shut down by government decrees. 

Hawaii is experiencing a season-long decline in golfer travel.

“Based on our analysis, since the start of the pandemic and related lockdowns, international and long-distance travel remains a challenge for many (but not all) resort facilities, particularly in markets like Hawaii where rounds are down over 35% year-to-date,” Krzynowek said. 

However, public and private clubs continue to perform well. Private courses are up nearly 19% year-to-date, higher than all other categories. 

“To the surprise of many, the market for club memberships and golf community real estate has been encouraging this second half of 2020,” wrote Jason Becker, president of Golf Life Navigators. “Since June, we have seen buyer sentiment shift dramatically with 15 to 30% of buyers (who had originally planned to pause their search of a club) decide to restart their search in November.”

He said golf community real estate sales are also increasing, up 20 to 40% in many Sunbelt markets.

“The market for private club golf is on fire, and we should embrace the demand,” Becker wrote. “However, the door of opportunity could close at any time, just as it opened unexpectedly this summer. Our suggestion: keep marketing and keep engaging with prospects so those pipe-lines of buyers remain full throughout 2021.”

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