Survey: 20 million rounds lost to coronavirus pandemic

Golf industry now poised to surge despite spring downturn

Things were looking good for the 2020 golf season as it was trending nicely with unseasonably warm weather in January and February in parts of the U.S. typically in their offseason according to the latest findings of the National Golf Foundation (NGF) ending June 14. Entering March, and perhaps due to the earlier course openings, the number of rounds played was up 15% with double-digit growth, then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and the bottom dropped.

The NGF reports an estimated 20 million rounds were lost due to facility shutdowns and consumer anxiety resulting in a loss of roughly $1 billion in golf course revenues all by itself. These substantial numbers do not include losses in food and beverage, retail sales, and events in and around the game so the industry losses in aggregate are much higher.

However, industry performances show signs of vitality and could well surge from now through August as that is the timespan when nearly 50% of annual rounds are played. According to the NGF: “There's evidence both anecdotal and scientific that rounds in May might be up significantly over last year as a result of a surge in demand, not only from core golfers, but from beginners and lapsed players too.”

Recent play among those “core golfers,” defined as U.S. adults playing a minimum of eight rounds over a year and accounting for nearly 90% of all golf spend, continues to grow at an exceptional clip and shows no signs of waning.
If these positive trends continue through the summer, there is a glimmer of hope the golf industry could recoup the rounds and revenue that went down the drain in March and April. If rounds are up a mere 5% through December, the industry will, in essence, “break even for the year.”

Prospects are also looking rosier in off-course golf retail it is in chipping distance of getting back to full capacity. As of June 15, 94% of all outlets are now open, as increase from 92% the week prior.