National Golf Foundation COVID-19 Update

The map above represents a sample of approximately one-fifth of all golf courses in the U.S., and is intended to provide perspective as to the geography of courses that are either open or have temporarily suspended golf operations. It is not intended to represent a complete view of golf course availability.

 
While all facility types saw an increase of openings last week, the most were in the public daily fee course category. Almost two-thirds of daily fee courses are now open to play nationwide. →
 

Private and public daily fee course openings continue in lockstep.

 
Facilities OPEN-BY-TYPE-4-26-20
 

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What do eased restrictions mean for golf course supply?

Pennsylvania joins Illinois in allowing golf courses to reopen on May 1. 
Washington will allow golf operations to resume on May 5.
 

Based on analysis of the most recent developments, by mid-May or earlier we estimate that the percentage of open courses could climb to:

77%

 
In the past week or so, states like California, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and New York have given permission for golf to resume with significant operational modifications – walking-only play being among the noteworthy changes.
 
And more are on the way. Illinois and Pennsylvania have given the go-ahead to reopen courses as of May 1, with Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf (on April 27th) including the approximately 700 courses in his state among outdoor recreation businesses that help “maintain positive physical and mental health.” Washington Governor Jay Inslee echoed the “physical, mental and emotional well-being” from outdoor activities such as golf in announcing that the state’s nearly 300 courses can open to play starting May 5.
 
Yet re-openings tend to be progressive; for example, while some New York courses have been open for more than a week, play at the municipally-operated facilities on Long Island (including all of Bethpage State Park’s courses except for ‘The Black’) didn’t resume until April 27. Additionally, some facilities in the northern states that are reopening are also just getting around to officially starting their season due to weather.
 
In California, which has the second-most courses of any U.S. state, at least 10 counties have now eased golf restrictions. And in Florida, golf-rich Palm Beach County announced it will let all public and private courses open on April 29.
 
Note: This projection could climb higher if other jurisdictions opt to ease restrictions on recreational golf operations. It is also assuming no shutdowns by state or local governments, and no additional voluntary closures of significant scale.
 

Data points to slowing virus growth rates in the U.S., which will certainly influence decisions on course openings across the country.

 
Source: National Golf Foundation & Johns Hopkins University
Source: National Golf Foundation & Johns Hopkins University
 

Great Lakes area sees significant jump in openings.

 
With Wisconsin and Michigan courses permitted to allow play as of April 24 (at the operators’ discretion with strict safety protocols), the East North Central region saw an immediate surge in its percentage of open courses last week. It’s a noticeable increase in a golf-rich geography and will likely only continue to trend upward as more facilities in those states resume operations and more than 650 Illinois courses are allowed to reopen for business on May 1.
 
The Mid Atlantic also saw a noteworthy rise in facility openings despite New Jersey and Pennsylvania still having government mandates in place that prohibit golf, as more and more New York courses allow play with limitations that include no carts and no open clubhouses. This region, too, stands to see a noticeable increase in the future as Pennsylvania has given the okay for golf courses to begin reopening starting May 1.
 
The eased restrictions on golf in at least 10 California counties has additionally led to the increase in openings in the Pacific region.
 

FacilitiesOpen2020_04_27_2
FacilitiesOpenTrend 4_27-2020
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Changes in latitude, changes in attitude.

 
While wintry weather isn’t a factor for golf facilities in most parts of the country four months into the year, it can still have an impact in some of the northermost states.
 
Approximately 8% of the nation’s supply is located above the 45th parallel, which divides the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. States like Washington, North Dakota and Alaska lie entirely north of the 45th parallel. A number of courses in this part of the country are still unable to open due to snow on the ground (and tee boxes, fairways and greens), though that group continues to shrink as warmer weather creeps further north.
 
Source: National Golf Foundation

Source: National Golf Foundation

 

 

Measuring golfer emotions gives indication towards expected behaviors.

 
Key to understanding golfer behaviors and intentions is understanding their emotional stability and response to the current situation. One of the more direct ways to do this is to have golfers characterize their current anxiety level – when considering health, finances and concern for family and friends – on a sliding scale ranging from “Not anxious at all” to “Extremely anxious.” Alongside that, we continue to gauge pent-up demand for golf via their current “itch level” – measured on a sliding scale ranging from “Much less of an itch” to “Major itch.” These sentiments, as you might guess, have some predictive power when observing current and expected behaviors.
 

 

How do you plan to use your EIP?

Direct payments from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act began to hit eligible bank accounts a couple weeks ago, with 88 million individuals receiving payments worth nearly $158 billion in the program’s first three weeks. We wanted to understand the extent to which Core golfers have (or expect to) receive such payments, and what they intend to do with the money. The data below compares our results to a nationally-representative sample of U.S. adults (via Gallup), and shows that Core golfers are much less likely to have received an economic impact payment (EIP) than the typical American adult, and that virtually all of those receiving an EIP plan to either use it for bills and essential items, or save/invest it.
 
Source: National Golf Foundation & Gallup
Source: National Golf Foundation & Gallup
 
Q. As you may know, as part of the recently passed economic relief legislation, most Americans will soon receive a payment of about $1,200 per individual taxpayer from the federal government. If you receive such a payment, what do you plan to do with most or all of the money? (Source: Gallup)
 

As pro shops and retail begin to open again, expect serious exposure avoidance.

 
As COVID-19 cases ease and shutdown measures are peeled back, there’s little doubt that consumers will be looking to avoid any unnecessary risks and activities that might compromise health or finances. Nearly half of Core golf consumers express concern with returning to course pro shops and golf retail. For brands and businesses with physical locations, the obvious challenge will be to facilitate a sense of comfort and reassurance, and to find solutions that allow people to engage safely. Businesses that recognize this challenge and act intentionally, creatively and transparently will win for the foreseeable future.
 

Source: National Golf Foundation
 
Q. Imagine golf retail shops open back up next month, and you’re in the market for golf equipment. How concerned do you expect you’d be about handling clubs and other products that may have been tried or held by others?
 

As we turn the page to 2020 golf equipment buying season, there’s evidence that consumers may be emerging from their COVID-19 hibernation.

 

Data source: Google; Analysis: National Golf Foundation
 
A five-year look at U.S. online search history shows a predictable seasonal trend for golf clubs that remains well off-pace in 2020, although may be starting to climb as we enter what has historically been a critical few few months for purchases.
 
(The information below is aided by ongoing research from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America)
 

As of April 26, 2020, 45 states have some kind of stay-at-home order in place for residents. There are currently 9 states with specific mandates in place disallowing all play.

 

 
Govt Order__2020_04_27_2 pa
 
Historical-GOVT-order-maps-2020_04_27
 

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Google trends logo 2
 

As golf restrictions ease in certain areas, searches for open courses peaking again.

 
Google searches for ‘open golf courses’ are on the rise again, with momentum in the market fueled by the reopening of more courses in New York, Midwest states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois easing restrictions, and gradual shift in California, where a growing number of counties are including golf among a group of safe outdoor activities.
 

 
Data source: Google; NGF search analysis: "Are golf courses open"
Data source: Google; NGF search analysis: “Are golf courses open”
 
Map shading shows in which location the search term was most popular during the specified time frames. Values are calculated on a scale from 0 to 100, where 100 is the location with the most popularity as a fraction of total searches in that location, a value of 50 indicates a location which is half as popular. A value of 0 indicates a location where there was not enough data for this term.
 
 
This article originally appeared on TheNGFQ.com.

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