The sun is shining and I am writing this dispatch from a small town in the northwest corner of Massachusetts, the last state in the country to announce its roll-out plan to reopen golf courses — which came just a couple hours ago. Vermont, just 300 yards north from here, just allowed its 71 courses to open their doors, too. So maybe I, as an eager golfer, am just feeling optimistic. But I’m here to tell you, the American sportsperson (apologies to our international readers, plus District of Columbia golfers) that you, too, have plenty of reason to embrace some good news about getting back on the course.
Leaning on the research of our good friends at the National Golf Foundation, whose work here remains extremely useful, I have recruited 10 numbers to show you why. Here they are:
States without rollout plans for their golf courses. Massachusetts announced Thursday morning that its courses could open, effective immediately, under a set of strict guidelines.
Positive net increase, since April 11, in consumers’ willingness to spend money on golf now versus pre-coronavirus. Pollsters asked respondents to project their spending in a theoretical post-COVID-19 world and in both versions of the study (April 11 and April 19) people said they anticipated spending more money on golf than they had before the virus.
Confused? Just know that this is good news for the golf biz at large.
States opening for play this week; in addition to Massachusetts, Maryland and Vermont (the other two final holdouts) also allowed courses to open on May 7. Washington, which was hit particularly hard by the virus early on, allowed courses to open on Tuesday, May 5. California will lift some remaining restrictions on courses by the end of the weekend (Los Angeles County courses can open May 8), and New Hampshire will become the 50th state to open its courses next Monday, May 11.
Percentage of off-course golf-related retail locations and square footage now open, up from just 4% a month ago. Golfers suddenly have many more places to buy gear in person.
Percentage of golfers who are still “somewhat” or “very” concerned about the idea of shopping in retail stores or pro shops. This might not seem like good news, but it is — the NGF has pointed out that open courses and facilities mean a “yellow light” rather than a pure “green light.” If we’re all cautious, everything will work out better, particularly in the confines of indoor facilities like golf shops. I’m mildly concerned, ironically, by the 12% of respondents who said they’re “not at all” concerned about handling golf clubs that other people have touched. Be smart!
Percentage of golfers who don’t feel comfortable getting closer than six feet from people who live outside their household. An additional 22% don’t feel comfortable getting within three feet. As with the previous number, this is encouraging because it suggests golfers will be cautious of transmission risks at the course. Being outdoors and keeping socially distanced is relatively safe. Let’s keep golf safe.
Percentage of municipal courses now open, a marked leap from 44% a week ago. Some government restrictions make munis more difficult to open and operate than privately-owned courses, but the number of munis open has now more than doubled in the last month.
Percentage of U.S. golf courses that had already opened by the beginning of this week (May 3). That means 4 in 5 courses, and higher in most regions besides the West Coast and New England. That number is sure to climb this weekend.
Percentage of public daily-fee golf courses already open this week, a slightly higher level than private courses (77%) and municipal courses (66%). If you’re looking to support a local business, there’s a good chance you could do it by booking a tee time (online, cash-free!) at a course near you.
Percentage of U.S. courses expected to open by the end of this weekend, according to NGF projections — although that number may creep higher with additional announcements including the course openings in Massachusetts.
Nothing is simple about the reopening of golf courses — or any other businesses — in the current climate. But here’s hoping golf can provide some safe outdoor recreation, some entertainment, some exercise, and some fun. Be safe, and enjoy!
You can read the complete NGF report here.