Golf Numbers Soared In 2020, But COVID Doesn’t Get All The Credit

Were you one of the hackers out there like me who played the most golf of your life in 2020, getting fresh air and socially distancing from COVID? The numbers from the National Golf Foundation are in, and golf rounds soared in 2020 — the NGF is still waiting for the December statistics.

With December numbers still to go, the industry was already 13.1% ahead of 2019’s pace, even with spring golf wiped out across much of the country as courses were locked due to COVID. Golf rounds played in November 2020 were up 57% vs. 2019.

“Since June, the surges in play have yielded almost 70 million incremental rounds compared to a year ago,” NGF reports.

“For the year, the net gain is almost 57 million extra rounds over 2019, when 441 million rounds of golf were played at the nation’s more than 16,000 golf courses.”

Golf rounds played by year
Golf rounds played by year / via National Golf Foundation

Public courses are up 12% year-over-year at public courses, while private courses have seen a massive 19% jump in rounds.

How big was golf in 2020? Golf equipment sales in July saw its highest sales for a single month since at least 1997, when numbers were first tracked. Sales of irons were up a staggering 83% compared to July 2019. Woods were up 74%. Sales are up so big that even Costco is now selling a wedge set and putters. The box store is also selling a Kirkland brand putter weight kit.

COVID doesn’t get full credit for the golf boom. Weather also played a major part. The NGF reports that higher national temperatures combined with lower precipitation from 2018-19 levels allowed people to get out, particularly across the Northeast and Great Lakes.

Add up the numbers, and the marketplace could see a record number of golf courses for sale before play begins in the spring. A course in Attalla, Alabama has been for sale on Facebook for a number of weeks with an asking price of $450,000.

“154 acre, 18 hole, par 70 irrigated golf course with newly updated 2 story club house, pro shop, banquet room, bar, and restaurant,” the listing reads. “Outside you have a maintenance building with mowers, tractors , and all other tools and equipment you need to maintain the course. Also you have 24 golf carts and rental shed that holds 32 carts.”

Golf is back, but is it temporary? Will golf ever compete with family vacations and youth sports tournaments? That’s the real test.

Written by Joe Kinsey

I'm an Ohio guy, born in Dayton, who roots for Ohio State and can handle you guys destroying the Buckeyes, Urban Meyer and everything associated with Columbus.

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