When COVID hit the US, people found that doing outdoor activities was safer than anything they could do other than hide in a cave for 12 to 18 months. Some people are still buried, but not golfers. They showed up and took to the course in record numbers, according to Golf Datatech, a company that tracks both rounds and retail sales.
“The question that everyone was asking in 2021 was whether golf could continue on its upward trend as the US economy heated up and golfers had access to alternative activities,” said John Krzynowek, partner at Golf Datatech, in a prepared Explanation. “The results in the first half of 2021 are very encouraging, as all segments of the golf industry continue to prosper despite delivery problems, especially for products from abroad.”
Joe Beditz, CEO of the National Golf Foundation (NGF), stated in a press release that this year’s reversal from last year is where rounds are played.
According to NGF, rounds for public courses are up 26 percent for 2021, compared with 13 percent for private clubs. Beditz said there was a larger lap gain in private courses than public courses in 2020.
In June, July and August the number of rounds of golf increased astonishingly. They rose by 13.9 percent in June compared to 2019, 19.7 percent in July and 20.6 percent in August. It didn’t stop. In September 2020, the rounds of golf increased by 25.5 percent; in October 32.2 percent. Even November and December 2020 had monster gains of 56.6 and 37.3 percent, respectively.
The golf industry expected that this year’s 2020 comparisons would be difficult to achieve, that there would be little room for improvement. But golfers proved once again how committed they are. Across the U.S., rounds are up 22.8 percent from 2020. If golf only held its own from 2020, that would have been considered really good. But people keep playing, and in some places they play more.
June was slightly higher nationwide than last year, 0.4 percent across the country. That means golfers haven’t left the sport and those who were players in 2020 will continue to enjoy it.
Certain areas exceeded that for 2021. The Mid-Atlantic region, which includes Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey, rose 11.5 percent in June.
Some areas went back. The South Central region, which includes Texas, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, and Louisiana, experienced an 8.1 percent decrease; and there was a 4.6 percent decrease in the South Atlantic states, including Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, North and South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.
In context, however, really crazy numbers have been released comparing 2021 to spring 2020. For example, March was up 45 percent from 2020, April was up 81 percent from 2020, and May was up 18 percent from 2020. That’s because almost everything in the US was closed after mid-March and most of April. Some courses opened in May.
Still, the fact that golfers played 22.8 percent more golf nationwide in 2021 is pretty astonishing.
In addition to the rounding for the first half of 2021, retail sales are also increasing. Sales of equipment, including balls, rackets, shoes, bags, gloves and distance devices, increased 78 percent compared to 2020 and 41 percent compared to 2019.
Golf Datatech felt it was important to compare with 2019 as this was the last “normal” sales year. Even golf apparel increased in 2021, 10 percent compared to 2019 and 68 percent compared to 2020.
In April 2021, golf equipment sales hit a new benchmark of over $ 425 million. Both May and June were also over $ 400 million.
The golf clothing stores, pro shops and retailers that were closed during the COVID lockdown were particularly hard hit in 2020.
Now golf apparel retail is recovering. Revenue for the first half of 2021 was $ 552 million. This is the highest number since the company started tracking retail sales, according to Golf Datatech. It surpassed the previous high of $ 536 million in clothing sales set in 2015. The company started tracking retail sales in 1995.