Millennial golfers more drawn to club life, study reveals

  • Millenials Photo by Helena Lopes from Pexels

By Hil Anderson

Millennials who have been bitten by the golf bug are willing to invest more time and money in enjoying the country club lifestyle, according to a new survey.

The COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted home and family life for millions of Americans, seemed to bring the 30-something crowd to the links more often, increasing the amount of time and money spent pursuing one of the few recreational activities that was not completely locked down.

As the economy reopened this spring, 60% of respondents to the fifth annual Millennial Golf Industry Study also said golf has become more important to them during the past year.

Global consulting firm GGA Partners and Nextgengolf, a subsidiary of PGA of America, compiled the study from interviews with more than 1,600 experienced golfers from the millennial generation, which is making the turn into the 30s and even 40s, as well as from Generation Z, which is now the 20-something demographic.

The survey was conducted between November 2020 and January 2021.

“Not every millennial is the same, but it’s often communicated that way,” said Matt Weinberger, director of operations at Nextgengolf. “We see tremendous opportunity for PGA Professionals and golf facilities to deliver value to young people. The key is understanding how golf businesses mesh with millennial lifestyles.”

Titled “Life in Flux: The Evolving Priorities of Millennial Golfers,” this year’s report contains insights that course managers can use to reposition their facilities to appeal to millennials as well as the older crowd that fills out the weekday morning tee times.

Bennett DeLozier, manager at GGA Partners, said that in order to attract millennial and Gen Z golfers, club operators should focus on building brand reputations around the younger generations’ values, such as diversity, inclusiveness and environmental stewardship.

“This type of brand position, combined with offerings that go beyond golf as a sport, is expected to increase the relevance and value proposition of facilities in the eyes of young golfers,” he said.

The survey showed that the average number of rounds played by the respondents in the past year increased 9% from the previous year to 33.9 rounds — a record high for the annual poll. Some of the increase likely was due to more millennials working from home, which 51% of respondents said gave them more time to squeeze in a round of golf at the end of the day. The experience paid off in the form of a 5% decrease in the average handicap to 8.8. A golfer with a handicap below 10 is considered skilled.

The average annual household income of millennial golfers surveyed was $96,000, and most did not see a drop in income because of the pandemic.

The survey found that 42% of respondents would rather pay higher annual dues than a stiff one-time entrance fee to join a club. The cost thresholds for both were unchanged from last year, at about $6,000 for the entrance fee and $3,800 for annual dues. Like many golfers, millennials prefer to play courses that are within a 20-minute drive, although many said they’d be willing to drive twice that far.

According to the first survey in 2017, the average amount players spent per round was $34. In this year’s survey, respondents reported an average of $47. Part of that sum was in the form of purchases made at the course pro shop.

The increasingly dominate “millennial lifestyle” seems to favor private clubs, although 64% of respondents said they generally play public courses. Private clubs, however, are able to offer a solid platform for social activities and non-golf amenities, such as dining and fitness centers, as well as outside-the-box activities, such as high-tech simulators and night play. The survey said 60% of respondents prefer such settings.

Sixty percent of participating millennials said they prefer golf venues that actively exhibit social and environmental values, with 64% saying these traits would influence their likelihood of purchasing a membership. Approximately three-quarters of those surveyed said they would be willing to pay higher fees if outstanding social and environmental practices increased the costs of golf venues.

 “The consistency of figures around millennials’ tolerance to pay fees required to join and belong to a private club, as well as their strong interest in non-golf amenities and opportunities for socialization, continue to be among the most noteworthy findings,” DeLozier said.

The full report may be accessed here.

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