Did golf have another good year? This chart says…yes!


Since the pandemic began, total rounds played are up 16% in the U.S.

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You have more golf friends than you used to. More golf invites, too. And perhaps even more people asking you about the equipment you use, the prospects of LIV Golf or if you’re free on Saturday. Golf has boomed since the start of 2020, and, yes, we’ve taken notice.

The global pandemic that has crippled us at times has offered a silver lining for the golf industry, wherein many people took to golf to get outside, stay outside and spend time with others. Golf-equipment companies profited greatly. Heck, even golf websites like this one have never been so popular. But more than anything, the boom led to a massive increase in rounds played.

2021 proved that golf demand was greater than ever before. Rounds played in 2021 finished up 19% when compared to pre-pandemic levels from 2017-19, according to National Golf Foundation data. Nineteen percent! Absolutely massive gains. And that came on the heels of a 13% gain in 2020, the year where the sport basically lost an entire month, country-wide, due to pandemic constraints.

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After consecutive years like that, there were two things for the sport to do. 1. Celebrate. 2. Wonder, is this sustainable? Could 2022 maintain what 2021 accomplished? 

The early signs are yes…mostly.

Through October’s rounds played report, which is compiled by the NGF and Golf Datatech, rounds played in the U.S. were slightly down from those peak 2021 numbers. Nationwide, the total rounds played measured 2.4% less than 2021. And while that might draw some concern for a sport that has gone through ups and downs of popularity this millennium, it is merely just slightly below golf’s recent peak. 

When compared to pre-pandemic averages from 2017-19, forecasts for 2022 are still calling for a 17% increase in total rounds played, despite the year having worse weather overall than 2021. The 2-3% decline year over year, the NGF would like you to know, is the sort of fluctuation that can arrive with a shortened or rainy golf season. The recreational popularity of the sport, by this metric, looks great. Check out the graph below, shared by the NGF. 

total rounds of golf
Courtesy of National Golf Foundation.

Sean Zak

Golf.com Editor

Zak is a writer at GOLF Magazine and just finished a book about the summer he spent in St. Andrews.