1. The Impact of COVID-19 on Golf
Even with a range of safety precautions, no ball washer, closed clubhouse, rakes in sand traps, golf is one of the sports best positioned to weather the COVID-19 pandemic through social distancing norms. With less competition for outdoor activities, the pandemic has provided golf with an opportunity to attract new participants.
The golf industry cannot say whether the increased demand during the pandemic will continue due to other factors such as the recession and the costs of installing safety procedures on revenue. However, the golf industry may be able to capitalize on the increasing interest from new golfers once a vaccine is developed, safety protocol is lifted, and economic conditions improve.
This may also translate to increased television audiences. Golf has experienced increased viewership during the pandemic, and many new players may be looking to events to better understand the game. Along with a greater social media presence, this provides golf with an opportunity to expand its base.
2. Changing Membership Fees
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying recession, the disposable income of many everyday golfers has gone down. This has caused many clubs to rethink their membership fees and lower their prices for playing around. While demand has experienced a sharp increase, for now, there is no way to predict how demand will look months from now. If the recession is prolonged, some country clubs may see a substantial decrease in revenue, forcing them to consider shutting down.
3. Quicker Events and Courses
One of the more noticeable trends in golf is that there is a bigger push to move to short events, playing only 9 holes instead of a full round. More people are being drawn to shorter courses and the opportunity to play fewer holes because of work and family requirements. This allows golfers to get onto the course quicker, and shorter courses are increasing in popularity. Golfers can expect more 6 and 9 hole courses to complement the traditional golf courses.
Golfing legend, Gary Player, said in an HSBC report that golfing community would have to come up with ways to play that do not take as long as a complete round for golf to grow. He thinks this will make it more accessible to the everyday golfer and will give a chance for designers to build courses that appeal to broader segments of the population.
4. Younger and Female Golfers
Around a third of all golfers in the U.S. are now millennials, which could be a shock to the golfing community given its clear appeal for the middle-aged and older crowds. Younger golfers like Rory Mcllroy are proving the stereotype that golf is a sport for the older segments of the population wrong. In 2019, over 14 million millennials indicated that they would be interested in playing a game of golf this year.
However, this noteworthy trend will impact other aspects of golf and trends around eating and the use of technology in the game. As will be discussed in further detail in this article, millennials and generation z are starting to influence the food and beverages offered at the local course and have been the biggest fans of the use of technology to improve the golfing experience.
Additionally, the younger population’s increased presence has influenced the menus of local clubs, guiding them towards healthier alternatives. In combination with the fact that the older population has also grown more health-conscious, clubs can expect higher demand for healthier options.
Another noteworthy demographic shift is the increasing interest in golf from women. In 2019, women were about a quarter of all golfers, and surveys found that their presence in the key beginners and juniors segments of golfers has grown as well. They are especially interested in off-course golf experiences, including golfing ranges, comprising up to 40% of all off-course golfers.
This bodes well for the future of golf and the vision to become a more inclusive sport enjoyed by all. It will also provide more business opportunities as chances to appeal to the female demographics in golfing equipment and fashion can be expected to increase in 2021.
5. More Technology in Golf
Like many other sports, technology is reshaping the sport of golf and offering opportunities for golfers to improve their game. The effects of technology on golf can be seen in the design of the golf clubs, the use of global positioning system devices for measuring the distance to the hole, and swing analysis which can correct errors in the swing.
Robogolfpro is a training system that allows golfers to correct their swing and work on their ideal swing. This appeals especially to younger segments of the population who are more acquainted with data analytics and swing technology. It records measurements such as impact, distance, direction, curvature, and clubhead speed.
Depending on the golfer’s flexibility, it will direct them on how to achieve the perfect swing and allows the user to compare it to their current swing. Every subsequent swing will be analyzed against the perfect swing so that the golfer’s muscle memory is built towards achieving the best possible swing.
Self-driving push carts carrying bags and clubs have become more popular, which has improved the social aspect of the experience. Club Car’s Tempo Walk is becoming more widely popular since its release in 2019, and golfers can expect to see more of them in 2021. It has a sensor that attaches to the golfer’s belt buckle allowing the bag to track their movements and follow them. While it has only been leased to clubs more recently, we can expect more individuals to possess them in the coming year.
6. Healthier Food Options at Resorts and Clubs
Society has experienced changes in food preferences towards healthier choices and away from traditional options. Clubs and resorts have adapted vegan options, along with cocktail options and craft beers, to adapt to changing tastes. Considering these changes has helped to attract younger millennials, generation z, and others seeking to adopt healthier diets.
7. Changes in Fashion Trends
New fashion trends will provide both aesthetic and functional appeal for golfers in 2021. Because stance and alignment are critical elements of golf, clothing is being developed that is specialized to help improve the alignment of the spine and neck to maximize their game.
Social media and media coverage are essential parts of golf’s strategy to reach out to more segments of the population, especially the younger crowd. Given that over 60% of millennials are active Instagram users, the sport of golf will be looking to reach this crowd by providing more coverage of tournaments and more highlights of amazing shots.
In 2019, PGA Tour Golf covered about 900 hours of live PGA tour golf, and while the COVID-19 pandemic has put a damper on 2021 expectations, golfers can expect the overall trend of increased coverage of tournaments and an increased social media presence to continue in the coming years. Whether it is Instagram, Tik Tok, or Facebook, the PGA is seeking to cultivate the younger members of the population into the next generation of golfers.
9. Growing Golf Markets in India and China
India and China are two of the world’s largest emerging golf markets. The golf industry in Asia has taken off with rising income and more visitors. India and China, which already attract large numbers of tourists seen the need to serve increasing numbers of members in their countries.
While COVID-19 has negatively impacted visitors to these countries in 2021, it is likely that more tournaments and events will be held in Asian countries as interest in the sport grows. This means that golfers can expect more Asian golf brands to expand into the world golf equipment and fashion market. Additionally, it is possible that the next upcoming golf star will be a young Asian golfer.
10. Increasing Attention to Environmental Impact
HSBC’s report has highlighted that the golfing community is looking to become a model in areas such as water management, conservation, and biodiversity. Additionally, the concept of carbon positive courses is expected to gain more traction.
Given that the younger population is more conscious of the dangers of climate change and many are already starting to see its impacts, there will be pressure on clubs and the PGA to manage their properties in ways that minimize environmental impact.
Golf Industry Stats and Growth Projections in 2021
Here are ten statistics that are relevant to golf’s future trajectory:
- 441 million rounds of golf were played in 2019
- 24.3 million people played on-course golf in 2019
- 41 percent of Americans supported their states allowing the reopening of golf courses during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Between April 23 and May 5, 2021, the number of rounds sold online at public courses that were open was up 60% from the previous year
- 14 million millennials are interested in playing a game of on-course golf
- Women are 40% of off-course golfers
- In 2019, 900 hours of PGA Tour golf were covered by media.
- The average price of a round of golf costs $35
- Juniors (6-17) and young adults (18-34) make up about 35% of all on-course golfers
- 75% of U.S. golf facilities are open to all players