Golfers are playing more, but traveling less, a study finds

Golf courses saw an increase from a year ago in rounds played in May.

Getty Images

Golfers are playing golf.

They’re playing golf close to home, too. 

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, golf trips this year could be down as much as 40 percent from a year ago, according to a recent National Golf Foundation report. The report surveyed 864 golfers who have played eight or more rounds over the past 12 months.

While travel has declined, play has recently increased.

The Foundation, citing a report from Golf Datatech, said that golf rounds in May were up more than 6 percent nationally from a year ago – or about 2.4 million rounds totaling $120 million in revenue. The increase follows decreases in March and April, when cases of Covid-19 started to rise and courses closed. 

In March, according to Golf Datatech, golf rounds decreased 9 percent, and in April, rounds dropped 42 percent – or about 20 million total rounds totaling $1 billion in revenue. The Foundation said if the rest of the year is flat – no increase or decrease from the year before – golfers will play 2.8 percent fewer rounds than last year, or about 12.3 million rounds. 

If golfers are going to travel to play, they wouldn’t mind a longer car ride.   

According to the report, 76 percent of those surveyed who said they still had a trip planned said they would be willing to drive more than four hours one way to play: 31 percent said they would be willing to drive more than eight hours; 18 percent said they would be willing to drive six to eight hours; and 27 percent said they would be willing to drive four to six hours.  

But one side of the country, the Foundation found, now likely won’t travel to the other. 

According to 230 golfers east of the Mississippi River, at the start of the year, they had been planning trips not only close to home, but also to California, Nevada and Arizona. Now, they’ll likely not be heading west.  

Golf resorts are apparently noticing. They’re focusing more on road trips, reported Forbes Magazine (in a story written by the Foundation’s Erik Matuszewski).

“We definitely shifted our efforts to focus more on drive-in markets,” said Matt McQueary, assistant director of golf sales and marketing for Big Cedar Lodge in Ridgedale, Mo. “Branson was starting to get more regional flights to the local airport, but with that industry suffering right now, it has made much more sense to focus our social ads and targeted ads on golfers that can easily and safely make the trip in their personal vehicle.”

generic profile image

Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor