National Golf Foundation (NGF) reports record beginner golfers

  • National Golf Foundation (NGF)
    Image: bernardbodo/Adobe Stock

Golf continues to be in a good place. Play and participation is up and engagement is still strong. 

The National Golf Foundation reported that over each of the past five years, an average of 2.8 million Americans (ages 6+) have headed to the golf course for the very first time, which adds up to almost 14 million beginner golfers. Yet the total number of golfers during that five-year stretch has increased by 1.3 million, according to NGF

Of those beginner golfers, women and juniors account for a higher proportion than they do among the overall U.S. on-course golfer population. 

  • Women and girls accounted for 37% of those who played on a golf course for the first time in 2021. By comparison, females make up 25% of the 25.1 million on-course golfers overall. 
  • Juniors comprised 31% of beginners in 2021. Overall, kids between the ages of 6 and 17 accounted for 12% of U.S. on-course golf participants. 

Beginning golfers

The question now — and has typically been over the years — is how to retain these new golfers. 

NGF reports that off-course forms of golf, like playing at a golf entertainment venue, may contribute positively to the game’s retention rate. 

“Golf entertainment in particular leads to more confidence and competence, with NGF research indicating that on-course beginners who played at a golf entertainment venue are 20% more likely to stick around,” NGF reported. 

“Over the past two years, the number of beginning golfers in the U.S. is higher than it was back when Tiger Woods was at his most dominant,” wrote Joe Beditz, president and CEO of the foundation, in a recent letter. “It’s now been six straight years that the number of on-course beginners has exceeded the 2.4 million newcomers Tiger helped introduce to the game in both 1999 and 2000.” 

But, Beditz wrote, “as overall participation increased, the average number of rounds played per golfer decreased.” 

By comparison, he added, “the average number of rounds played per golfer today continues to increase. For the past four years, extending back to pre-pandemic days, newbies have averaged more than 12 rounds annually. Among beginners, this is an increase of more than 50% compared to just a decade ago.”

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