Brighter Future Indicators

The golf industry was an easy target for negative press for many years. Folks within the business still carry the negativity brought on by the last recession. But something is happening!

Golf is an expensive sport. When bad economic conditions occur, golf is one of the first cutbacks people make. Golf recovery also lags behind the general economy. Indicators have been glimmering positive light for a couple of years with more positive indicators starting to shine.

From the NGF:

Beginning Golfers-

The industry set a record high in 2016! 2.5 million new golfers tried the game from the low in 2011 of 1.5 million. The next highest number was in 2000 when Tiger Woods was all the rage.

Golf Interest

More people hit the course to give golf a try, but even more want to. Those who expressed a “Very Interested” response in taking up the game rose 7.6% in 2016 to 12.8 million. The Very Interested category has doubled over the past 5 years. There is another 27.8 million who answered “Somewhat Interested”.

Golf participation is trailing right behind the consumer confidence numbers. Also similar to the spending and GDP curves. TopGolf has added a welcomed boost the past couple years.  More people are now watching golf on TV, with an estimated 95million (almost a third of our population) people having watched at some point in 2016.  Interest in traditional green-grass golf play is on a roll.

Committed Golfers-

Committed golfers account for 95% of all play. Rounds played by them in 2016 rose from 19.5 million to 20.1million.

Off Course-

A new category, but an important one fueling the growth of younger golfers. Facilities such as TopGolf and other driving range type entertainment is allowing people to test drive golfing.

It’s an easy, fun, cheap, and non-threatening environment that is causing a lot of non-golfers to try and get comfortable with golf before they visit their first real driving range, take a lesson, or jump out and play their first round. The Off-Course facilities may be the key driver of younger people joining the game.

Off-Course participation is now tracked by the NGF. Showing an 11% increase in 2016 with more than 20 million people playing. Of those 8.2 million had never played a round on a golf course.

Total Participation-

Adding On and Off course play together means the golf customer base increased to 32 million people.

About the Off-Course Participation

Until recent years the NGF never followed off course play; unlike other sports who do.  Because of that golf was always at a disadvantage when being compared to participation with other sports. Golf has transformed as a game. Lots of people are swinging golf clubs, just not all at a golf course.

There are the facilities like TopGolf, but also consider the golf simulators and various forms of driving ranges. All of these help bring people into the game, which then adds to the total players playing rounds on a traditional golf course.

The NGF does not count games played on home golf simulators, such home video game units, or at miniature golf facilities. Only games that involve swinging a club.

More from the NGF

Avid Golfers– Making up a little over a third of all golfers at 8.8 million they played almost two thirds of all round on a courses. 98% report they will do the same or more this year.

Casual Golfers– Almost half of all golfers at 11.3 million, they play nearly one third of all rounds. 96% say they will continue at the same level.

Fringe Golfers– The unengaged, numbering about 3.7 million. They play off and on, typically less than 5 times per year. Cause play of 3-4% of total golf rounds. When surveyed if they will continue with the game their answers are wishy-washy. Many often skip a year between playing. By the way, almost all losses of players in the last 5 years is from this group.

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