Should golf courses stay open during the coronavirus pandemic? Your age might determine your opinion

April 9, 2020

Younger golfers think courses should stay open. Older golfers think they should close. All golfers seem to still have the itch to play.

The National Golf Foundation surveyed 520 active golfers about the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on their lives. The survey found that attitudes of the golfers, who had played eight or more rounds over the past 12 months, split heavily by age.

For golfers ages 18 to 34, 67 percent said they do not support government restrictions on play, while 26 percent do. That gap closes with age: 43 percent of 35- to 49-year-old golfers don’t support restrictions, while 39 percent do; for golfers 50 to 64, 40 percent don’t support, while 41 percent do. The oldest group of golfers — those 65 and over — was much stronger in its support of the restrictions, at 55 percent in favor and 30 percent opposed. The results had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent, according to the Foundation.

The golfers were also asked about their “itch” to play, on a scale of 0-100. The average itch was 81.

The foundation juxtaposed that itch with golfers’ levels of anxiety over Covid-19, also measured on a scale of 0-100. The average level of anxiety for golfers was 59, with most of those who had a low itch to play among those who said they had higher levels of anxiety. About half of players say they expect to be in worse financial position after the coronavirus has passed, while 80 percent say they are currently spending less.

Other findings released this week by the Foundation:

— Slightly less than half — 44 percent — of golf courses were open the week ending April 5, which is down 2 percent from the previous week. More private (47 percent) and public daily fee courses (46 percent) are open than municipal courses (33 percent). The percentages are based on phone surveys of 1,279 golf facilities conducted March 31-April 2, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.

— A greater share of courses are open in the South, reaching as high as 82 percent. In parts of the Midwest, only 16 percent of courses are open.

— About 4 percent of total off-course golf-specialty retail square footage (285,000 out of 6.5 million) is open to in-store customer traffic, with the largest retailers (Golf Galaxy, PGA Tour Superstore, Worldwide Golf Shops) temporarily suspending in-store operations. About 20 percent of the nearly 400 independent/regional golf retailers currently remain open (down from 35 percent last week).

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