Latest data suggests golf world is primed for a huge comeback

Sunrise through trees on golf green

The latest report from the National Golf Foundation has a host of good news for golfers.

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Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the National Golf Foundation (NGF) has provided priceless insight into how golf courses and the golf industry as a whole has been faring. The Foundation’s latest report reveals a host of good news for golfers in the United States — and suggests a golf boom may be in the offing.

The report, released on Tuesday, May 26, includes detailed information on golf course reopenings across the country, as well as data about golf retail operations, consumer behavior, and participation. Here are the most important takeaways from the report.

How many golf courses are open in the U.S.?

The percentage of golf courses open for play in the United States continues to rise. Last week, we learned that golf courses in all 50 states had reopened, totaling 95% of all courses in the country. Now, that number has risen to 97%.

That represents a dramatic increase from April 5 when the NGF found that only 44% of golf courses were open, the lowest percentage at any point during the pandemic.

NGF map showing status of course openings in the United States.

Courtesy of NGF

Golf retail shows positive signs of recovery

Like most retail stores in the United States, especially in the regions hardest hit by the pandemic, many golf retail locations were forced to shut down at some point in the last few months. With people worried about the virus and discouraged from spending in public, consumers went shopping less often. But both of those realities are changing fast.

The NGF report found that 80% of golf retail locations are now open for business in the U.S. Two-thirds of pro shops are also open, though 10 states still have restrictions against pro shops and clubhouses, including New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Illinois. On the consumer side of things, golfers are showing less concern about visiting physical retail locations, increasing their spending, and, in general, faring better financially than the average citizen.

NGF map showing status of golf retail locations in the United States.

Courtesy of NGF

Evidence suggests golf boom among beginners

One of the most interesting nuggets from the NGF’s report wasn’t a statistic they formulated through surveys, but anecdotal evidence suggesting an unusual increase in golf participation.

“There seems to be a surge in participation among beginning golfers and those who haven’t played in a while,” writes Joseph F Beditz, Ph.D, president and chief executive officer of the NGF, in an email announcing the latest report. “Course operators are telling us they are seeing lots of new faces, and retailers are saying they are moving an unusually large number of beginner (boxed) sets of clubs.”

Though not based on solid numbers, the apparent increase in participation is a great sign for the future of the game, and not all that surprising given the nature of the pandemic. Golf is increasingly seen as a safe way to get outside, exercise, and have some fun while easily maintaining social distancing guidelines. And millions of people who have been largely locked up in their homes are hungry for safe activities to do outside the house.

If do plan on dusting off your golf clubs and heading to the course, be sure to follow these simple guidelines to keep you and your fellow golfers safe.

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Kevin Cunningham

Golf.com Editor

As managing producer for GOLF.com, Cunningham edits, writes and publishes stories on GOLF.com, and manages the brand’s e-newsletters, which reach more than 1.4 million subscribers each month. A former two-time intern, he also helps keep GOLF.com humming outside the news-breaking stories and service content provided by our reporters and writers, and works with the tech team in the development of new products and innovative ways to deliver an engaging site to our audience.