Surprising number of golf courses now open across U.S., new study says

golf courses open

58 percent of U.S. golf courses are now open, according to the National Golf Foundation

National Golf Foundation

Golf courses are opening back up in a big way.

The National Golf Foundation continues to release good news for pent-up golfers across the country, calling this week’s data a “turning point” for courses as the majority of U.S. facilities are now open for play.

“Open for play” means something different in the current climate, of course. Modifications have been made at nearly every facility. But the NGF has been calling courses across the country trying to get a sense of how local and statewide orders have affected access to golf. Here’s what they’ve found in a latest study (which you can read here):

1. Some 2,500 golf courses opened up in the last week

“We may have recorded a turning point for golf course operations last week as more states and counties began allowing play,” NGF CEO Joseph Beditz said in an email. A good chunk of those newly-opened courses came in New York , where restrictions were lifted in the past week.

2. More than half of all courses are now open for play

In addition to New York, Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois approved golf courses to reopen under strict social distancing rules. From an extensive survey conducted nationwide, the NGF found that 58% of courses were open for the week ending April 26, and that number will continue to rise.

3. Public daily-fee courses are now open at the highest rate

Until this week, private courses were the most likely to be open for play. But public daily-fee courses are open at a 62% clip, just ahead of private courses (61%, well within the margin of error). Municipal courses, which are more likely to be restricted by policies enacted by city or county governments, are open slightly less frequently at 44%. Those numbers are well up from 46%, 47% and 33% respectively since April 5.

4. That number of open courses is expected to skyrocket in coming weeks

It’s worth noting that the NGF has been spot-on with estimates thus far, erring on the conservative side, if anything. But its latest report projects that by mid-May, 78% of U.S. courses will be open for play. Continued openings in the Mid-Atlantic census region will drive that number higher. The golf-rich states of Pennsylvania and Illinois will open their courses as of May 1, Washington’s courses will open May 5, and counties in Florida and California have been easing restrictions over time. Cold-weather courses are also opening up, too, with 46% of even the country’s northernmost courses (above 45 degrees latitude) now open for play.

us golf courses open
Green dots indicate open golf courses, while red dots are closed courses (and grey dots are un-sampled).

5. Seven states still specifically disallow golf

The NGF lists a handful of states as “pending” — Alaska just opened for play and Illinois, Maine, Pennsylvania and Washington will soon — but seven states still have the designation of “closed.” Those states: Nevada, New Mexico, Maryland, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire.

We detailed the back-and-forth struggle of one mayor attempting to open up his local municipal golf course in a small New Mexico town here.

What varies state-to-state and even course-to-course are the measures being undertaken to ensure player safety. Some states have banned carts. Many continue to keep pro shops and clubhouses closed. Almost every situation remains fluid — but across the country, golf is increasingly available as a recreational activity.

In the meantime, be safe out there!

You can check out the complete NGF report here.

Dylan Dethier

Golf.com

Dylan Dethier is a senior writer for GOLF Magazine/GOLF.com, where he’s told the story of a strange cave in Mexico, a U.S. Open qualifier in Alaska and plenty in between. Dethier joined GOLF in 2017 after two years scuffling on the mini-tours. He is a Williamstown, Mass., native and a 2014 graduate of Williams College, where he majored in English. Dethier is the author of 18 in America, which details the year he spent as an 18-year-old living from his car and playing a round of golf in every state.