The weekend foursome is still a thing.
And so, it appears, is the mid-afternoon-on-a-Wednesday grouping.
So says a new Stanford University study on working from home. Among its takeaways were that WFH has powered a golf boom — and has done so dramatically at perhaps untraditional times.
We’ll get to some of the data in a sec — because three quotes from the study sum it up well.
“You can’t tell the difference between the week and weekend,” a consulting manager in Phoenix said in January of this year. “The place is totally packed all the time every day. Late afternoon, it’s jammed.”
“We were going to refurbish the course in 2021, but golfing has boomed so much we put this on hold,” a golf course manager said in February. “Every course, every minute is packed now throughout the week, with no more quiet Wednesdays.”
“I think my colleague was taking his Zoom call from the golf course,” a tech executive from California said in January. “He was on mute and video off, but once when he was talking, I heard somebody talking about the fairway and strokes.”
You can laugh at that last quote. It’s funny. But maybe you know someone who’s done something similar. Or have done it yourself.
According to the study:
— “Golf-course trips” have increased post-pandemic. One of the more notable numbers: August of 2022 saw a 52-percent increase in trips, versus August of 2019.
— The increase has been powered by mid-week golfing. In 2019, there were 11,400 trips on Tuesdays, 10,800 on Wednesdays, and 15,000 on Thursdays. In 2022? The numbers were 25,800, 26,200 and 26,300, respectively.
— The weekday increase happened throughout the day — peaking at a 278% increase (!) at 4 p.m. on Wednesday.
— Friday, Saturday and Sunday were popular in 2019 so the increase was less — Saturday 2022 was, in fact, below 2019 levels.
In compiling its data, the study identified 3,400 U.S. courses through AI analysis of satellite images, and used anonymized vehicle and phone GPS data to determine golf-course trips. The study also believed that those WFH were playing golf as a break.
A PowerPoint of the study also asked this question:
“So is Golfing while WFH bad?”
We’ll end our story with its answer:
“It depends — if employees make up the time later (as in Bloom, Han and Liang 2023), then this does not reduce productivity. Indeed, national productivity during/post-pandemic has been strong.
“If employees remain productive, this indeed could be good. Golf courses are getting higher usage by spreading playing across the day and week, avoiding weekend and pre/post-work peak-loading. This will raise “golf productivity” — the number of golf courses played (and revenue raised) per course.
“This improved usage and productivity is likely true for other leisure activities, like shopping, gyms, sports and personal services.
“So WFH may be improving national productivity by using personal assets — golf course, shops, gyms, hairdressers etc — more efficiently. This size of this may also be large — in our golfing data, productivity is up about 50%, and these ‘leisure activities’ are a substantial component of GDP.”
Editor’s note: To see the PowerPoint presentation from Stanford University, please click here. And to read another story on leisure and working from home, from the New York Times, please click here.