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Golf Industry Challenges and Opportunities in 2021

As 2021 advances, the golfing industry will grapple with some ongoing problems. Yet, these challenges also offer significant opportunities for growth. Consider just five of the most pressing issues facing golf courses and players at this time:

Resolving COVID-19 Related Disruptions

Although the coronavirus pandemic sidelined numerous businesses (including many in the hospitality sector), golf courses emerged from the crisis in a much better condition than many analysts had predicted. COVID-19 outbreaks resulted in numerous temporary closures during March and April. An estimated 35% decrease occurred in golf-related travel during 2020. Yet, the golfing industry has already begun recovering from these disruptions.

Today, some 98% of golf courses have already reopened. Equally as encouraging, the National Golf Foundation reported the number of rounds of golf played at courses nationwide actually increased by some 26% during September 2020. These statistics suggest golf clubs began recovering much faster than most other entertainment venues. Previously, players had conducted a reported 441 million rounds of golf during 2019. The disruptions during the pandemic may actually have sparked wider public interest in this leisure activity.

Addressing Increased Public Demand

Filling the increased demand for golfing services will interest numerous established golfing facilities this year. One recent survey found some 43% of responding golf course managers anticipated men between the ages of 19 and 39 pose a demographic group spurring higher demand. More than one in every five golfing facilities also anticipated increases in the number of men over age 40 likely to take an interest in golfing this year.

To address this issue, the golf industry enjoys numerous options. Some possible solutions include adding additional training and educational classes. Implementing additional 9-hole courses and practice facilities to assist new players may also prove helpful.

Obtaining Financing

For some time, the issue of financing new golf courses and facilities has challenged some industry promoters. Yet, the strong demand for golf services currently assists entrepreneurs. Attorney Frank Jermusek has noted in blog posts that five main funding sources serve this industry: conventional financing, investments from life insurance companies, commercial mortgage-backed security loans, private equity financing, and Small Business Administration loans.

One key aspect facing golf course founders seeking financing confronts virtually every business startup: persuading lenders a venture poses an acceptable degree of risk. In this respect, the American Society of Golf Course Architects offers some helpful tips. The organization recommends presenting proposals in a professional format. Document a detailed Master Plan, which includes attention to site selection, operations, management, permits, zoning approvals, and the developer’s financial projections. They urge promoters to ask a respected third party to conduct (and fully document) feasibility studies.

Solving Labor Issues

One recurring problem that will likely continue to affect golf courses this year involves the need to recruit labor (and reduce turnover) in low-paid maintenance positions. Industry experts note the national average wage of $10.60 per hour for golf course workers and the rigidity of working hours both dampen recruitment.

Paradoxically perhaps, the soaring unemployment rate resulting from the recent pandemic may somewhat alleviate this issue during 2021. Before the arrival of coronavirus, low unemployment nationwide made recruiting golf course labor difficult in some markets. Over the long term, of course, labor shortages will continue to pose challenges for some sites.

Minimizing Weather-Related Concerns

Yet another ongoing challenge for golfing facilities concerns cancellations and delays due to weather. This problem has caused some facilities to create more indoor practice options. Establishing formal protocols for addressing operations during inclement weather may prove useful.

The high-profile PGA tour discovered advantages in consulting with on-site meteorologists. This option significantly alleviated some weather-related problems. Managers use forecasts to help plan activities.

Effective Golf Digital Marketing Strategy

The effective use of digital channels to drive sales and build a customer base are two of the primary digital transformation challenges the golf industry faces. Many golf courses and golf gear companies have difficulty being efficient, effective and measuring the impact of their marketing channels such as paid media, enterprise SEO, Local SEO, content strategy, or social media. In our opinion, one of the primary challenges these companies have is their digital experience, website design, and presentation of their brand. There are several marketing challenges that the industry will face in the year 2021. However, there is also room for growth.

2021: A Year of Opportunities

Despite challenges, businesses engaging in the golfing industry in the United States enjoy an excellent opportunity to expand and prosper this year. A resolution of the COVID-19 crisis may well fuel renewed public interest in this historical, recreational pursuit. Most facilities and courses contended successfully with public health restrictions during the pandemic bodes well for a very successful 2021!