The Current State of Golf

We’ve said it before, that “Autumn is golf’s best season.” This year it could literally be true.
 
The September numbers are in and Golf Datatech is reporting almost a 26% jump in rounds played versus a year ago. Percentage-wise, this is the largest YOY increase so far this year and represents about 12 million incremental rounds. (Thanks to all the golf courses that are supplying rounds played data to us and making these reports better and better.)
 
Once again, every state in the continental U.S. saw increases in play of at least 2% over last year. That makes it three straight months now. A major drop in precipitation helped fuel a 46% September rounds-increase in Minnesota, while other “Big Ten” states also saw notable increases: Illinois (+35%), Wisconsin (+29%), Michigan (+27%), Indiana (+27%) and Ohio (+26%). (College football kicks off for those states this weekend, you may be aware.)
 
As of September 30th, year-to-date rounds are up 8.7% nationally. As a result, we have updated our year-end forecast based on two different assumptions: 1) rounds in the fourth quarter come in flat compared to last year; and, 2) 2020 rounds continue to outpace 2019 in the final three months by 15%. If those high/low assumptions capture reality, then rounds for the year will finish up between 7% and 10%. A startling turnaround following a disastrous start to the spring.
 

 
Our upper +15% forecast assumption for the rest of the year may be optimistic, but it isn’t unrealistic, given the increases of 20%-and-better the past several months. And based on our calls with several management companies this week, the surge in rounds has carried into October, which is good news given that October has an outsized effect on fourth quarter performance.
 
A couple of things to bear in mind. All these extra rounds do not benefit everyone in golf equally. There are several business segments, such as resort golf, that are not enjoying a “V” recovery, and sme courses are playing plenty of rounds, but banquet and general F&B revenues continues to be off. Second, significant increases in rounds played don’t necessarily indicate the same is happening with golf participation. While we’ve recorded noticeable increases in juniors and beginners, the stocks and flows of our consumer base may end up evening things out in the end.
 
But let’s enjoy this while we can. And let’s keep promoting “Autumn. Golf’s Best Season.”
 
 
By Joseph F Beditz, Ph.D.
President and Chief Executive Officer
National Golf Foundation

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