Study: Golf’s participation surge continues into fall

Despite the continued pandemic and move from summer to fall, golfers are returning to courses at higher rates, a study shows

Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of articles that look at trends within the golf industry.

While Labor Day is typically viewed as the unofficial end of summer, that has not slowed golfers’ participation and fervor for more rounds of golf.

Our twice-monthly Back to Normal Barometer study has been tracking a representative U.S. population sample’s attitudes and behaviors regarding engagement in more than 16 activities and 13 sports since late March. It has been a rough ride for a number of categories such as movie theaters, commercial flights and hotels, but golf has been one of the few bright spots.

Sports and Leisure Research Group — Surge Chart

Rounds-played data have been reported as robust through August. Our latest Barometer data (displayed in the chart) show that, from a share of customer standpoint, in September’s first two weeks, 60 percent of the golfers who played at least one round last year also played in the last week. That’s the second-highest share of customer that Sports and Leisure Research Group’s research has seen since the onset of the study. Looking forward, a survey-high 54 percent plan to play next week. This is more than double what was seen just three months ago, as spikes in reported COVID-19 cases were popping up across wide swaths of the country.

Concurrently, equipment-sales data relayed to Sports and Leisure Research Group by OEMs and retailers continue to be brisk. Of particular interest is boxed beginner sets — reasonably priced equipment targeted to beginners as a low-end entry point into the game. Data support both anecdotal reporting and our Barometer findings that suggests meaningful trial and participation among both lapsed and new golfers.

Also, immediately after Labor Day, 71 percent of golfers agreed that there are more new golfers playing the game now than at this time last year. This is up significantly from 55 percent who believed the same in mid-July.