Think back to early April of this year. COVID-19 had essentially shut down commerce in America, and the golf industry was overcome with fright about a potentially lost year.
The number of rounds played in April declined 42 percent. Golf equipment sales cratered. Many courses were closed, part of the overall lockdown. Pinehurst Resort closed its doors for a period of time, although its courses were open. Bandon Dunes shut down completely for about six weeks. In northern states, when courses were just beginning to open for the season, the doors remained locked. Never mind that getting outside, getting some exercise, getting coronavirus off one’s mind was a good thing.
What a difference 90 days can make.
Golf Datatech, the company that tracks the number of rounds played in America on a monthly basis, recently released its June report. Rounds played during the first six months of the year were down ever so slightly, 1.7 percent.
That represents a stunning turnaround relative to April expectations. And it won’t surprise anyone if rounds played finishes 2020 up, perhaps considerably, ahead of last year.
Anecdotally, the health of the golf business is astonishingly good. Lapsed golfers are returning to the game, seeking socially-distanced respite from the COVID-19 storm. There is unprecedented demand for women’s and children’s sets of golf clubs, and you would be hard pressed to purchase a decent trolley, either online or in your favorite golf shop.
There is unprecedented demand for women’s and children’s sets of golf clubs, and you would be hard pressed to purchase a decent trolley, either online or in your favorite golf shop.
Tee times? Good luck finding one. Golf courses across the nation, both public and private, have tee sheets full from dawn to dusk. Course owners and operators are thrilled with what they are seeing.
Golf clubs that were hanging on by a thread as the year began are seeing membership grow, in some places dramatically. Golf retailers are having a year that they could not have imagined in April.
This is not just an American phenomenon. The examples above are occurring around the world.
If our game can hold on to 10 to 15 percent of all the new and returning players around the world, the COVID-19 era might just be remembered around the game for something in addition to the the deaths and illness it caused and the economic devastation it wrought.
A silver lining in a difficult time.