NGF notes some emerging trends in golf in 2020

As H&LA keeps abreast the continually changing impact of COVID-19 on the economy in general and hospitality sector in particular, we are sharing insights from industry experts and stakeholders with our clients and partners. This report from National Golf Foundation highlights some recent trends in golf participation and engagement. Golf has been well-positioned throughout the pandemic as a healthy and safe outdoor activity, and because of this unique advantage there’s been a lot of curiosity of late about the effects on rounds and participation overall. 

Source: National Golf Foundation, Joe Beditz, President and CEO, August 2020

Twilight tee times and the discounted green fees that go along are evidently in high demand. We’ve been hearing from operators that afternoon slots are selling like hotcakes. Seems many work-from-home golfers have shifted their hours to begin earlier in the morning (we hope) so that they can tee off later in the afternoon. I wonder if Zoom traffic data supports this hypothesis?

Sorting through our monthly golf participation and engagement research we spotted a couple of interesting emerging trends. First, more golfers are playing alone. Last year 31 percent of core golfers indicated they had hit the course solo at least once. This year, that proportion is up to 43 percent. Appears golf is fulfilling some other needs right now (mental respite vs. social interaction).

Second, there’s been a significant increase in nine-hole play. The number of short loops (as a percentage of total loops) is up over 15 percent in 2020. This will be seen as good news by many, especially the USGA given their PLAY9 initiative, and would indicate that the “time barrier” to golf is being overcome by more golfers. The pie will grow if more people see nine holes as an option.

Two weeks ago, we talked about the increase in beginners and youth golfers, so clearly the late-day tee times aren’t just for the work-at-home crowd. Those nine-hole twilight rounds are an opportunity for families to get to the course after an early dinner, or for newbies to get comfortable during off-peak times.