Golf is truly my favorite thing to do and after close to 30 years in the game, to think that the game may be dying is mind-boggling.
Who couldn’t learn to love golf?
Recently when I heard it mentioned that golf is a dying game, I decided to do a bit of research and find out the truth. Luckily, this is not what the statistics have to say. Golf is still going strong, and here is some excellent evidence to back that up.
1. PGA Tour Purses
Golfers that play on the PGA Tour are sometimes considered underpaid athletes. After all, golf is an individual sport, and there is no safety net to fall back on should you have a bad round. However, in the last few years, we have seen some major gains in the PGA Tour total purse payouts that have helped with showing us this sport is still going strong.
In 2022 the PGA Tour set up a 427 million dollar tournament prize purse. This was about a 15% increase in each event. The golfers don’t play for money; they play to win, but it can’t hurt to win some extra money in the process.
In addition, the LPGA Tour is starting to pay closer attention to the payouts, and this is only done as the popularity of the sport increases. With more people playing, the LPGA Tour can pay out about 12% more pre-tournament, some of the highest payouts this tour has ever seen.
2. 2020 Corona Boom
When we were in the thick of the pandemic, and everything was shut down, many golf courses and clubhouses remained open. After all, participation in a round of golf was relatively safe if you stayed outside, didn’t touch the flag, and even walked without riding with your friends.
Golf saw increased equipment sales, longer waits for a decent tee time, increased viewership of golf tournaments on television, and much more. It’s truly something that the game hadn’t seen since the years when Tiger Woods was keeping us glued to our television with his red shirt on Sundays.
During the Covid golf boom, more than 60 million rounds of golf were played. A number like this had not been seen since the late 1990s. Not only did golfers feel as though playing golf was a release from the stress of dealing with the pandemic it was also a great way to increase exercise and movement.
The only thing that worried some skeptics was whether or not this surge in popularity was just a fluke.
3. Growth Continued in 2021
One of the big stories in 2021 was the way that the game grew through the Covid pandemic. Many thought this was a boost to the game of golf related simply to the fact that people wanted to be outside, but things would eventually start to fade.
We anxiously awaited the 2021 stats, and they came in very strong. The National Golf Foundation reports that the total number of rounds in 2021 beat 2020 by about 5%.
This is not something that was expected as life returned back to some sort of normalcy; we expected to see the clubs be put back on the shelf in the garage; however, this is not at all the case. Instead, people are still lining up to play.
4. Expanding Off The Course
Avid golfers often think about the game on the golf course, but there is an entire world of golf that has nothing to do with golf courses, and it continues to become more popular. So many golfers are learning that indoor golf simulators, golf entertainment venues, and driving ranges can be fun without even a round of golf played.
We all have friends that would never think to head out onto a golf course, but they love Top Golf, Drive Shack, or an indoor golf simulator with friends. These venues and golf experiences do not require much skill, and they are designed to make the game a little less stuffy and a bit more fun.
Even if it’s not for you, it’s working to grow the game.
The National Golf Foundation found that there are a total of 37.5 million Americans over six years of age that played some kind of on or off-course golf in 2021. Millennials are finding that even if they don’t have time for a five-hour round of golf on the course, they will be happy to meet friends at Top Golf and enjoy a great round.
5. PGA Tour SUPERstore
Another great place to look to see how golf is not dying is equipment sales. Many individual companies like Callaway and Titleist reported higher numbers in 2020 and 2021 than they have ever seen before. However, we thought it would be interesting to look at a store that sells from several manufacturers.
PGA Tour Superstore, at one point, reported that business was up almost 70% from the prior year. This store sells gear to new golfers and those that have been around the golf game their entire lives.
New brands even have a chance to enter the market to be able to keep up with this demand for equipment sales. The golf business side of things is stronger than it has been in many years. If this popularity continues, get ready to see even more new brands come to market.
One of the issues that stores like PGA Superstore were facing was supply chain problems. The access to the gear that people were purchasing was undoubtedly taking longer than usual to put together. Although this created some frustrated golfers, things have started to move faster, and players are getting equipment at a more normal pace at this point.
6. More Beginners Than Ever
One of the key indicators as to the direction of golf is how many new people are picking up the game. For many years golf was considered an old man’s sport, and this unfortunate perception has made it difficult for skeptics to look at the future of golf in a favorable light.
However, in 2021 there were more than 3.2 million new golfers that took up the game. This is an incredible number of people, and when you consider the fact that the record before this was 2.4 million in a year, the sport is really showing some strong gains.
In the past, it was Tiger Woods that was bringing people into golf. Tiger did a tremendous job of grabbing the audience, bringing them in, and helping them feel as though they were somehow involved in the creation of golf history.
What we love about this new growth in 2020, 2021, and 2022 is that it has more to do with the love of the game. Golfers aren’t following a single player only to be at some point disappointed in their decision-making or golfing ability. Instead, people are playing the game of golf because they like it, it’s good for you, and it’s a way to be outside with friends.
7. More Females and Younger Golfers
Women have never played as much golf as men. The sport has done a great job of accommodating women golfers through the years, with proper equipment, clothing, and even tee boxes on the golf course. However, it has taken a while for the game to catch on.
In 2020 the average number of rounds of golf played by golfers was 20.2 a year. However, the largest increases were found among female players and younger golfers. We can attribute some of the growth in the younger golfer’s rounds to the remote work situation, flexible hours, and junior golf memberships at clubs around the country.
Women golfers are starting to look at the fitness side of the game and realize that a walk around the golf course with friends is a great way to spend your time. Although it is doubtful that the number of women golfers will ever surpass men, it’s essential to consider the importance of more women taking up the game.
8. Keeping The Doors Open
Last but certainly not least is one of the most important indicators of what the game of golf is doing, and that is the number of golf courses that are closing or opening. For many years, we watched golf courses closed, houses were built, and people had to find alternative places to play.
So in 2021, when we heard that the number of golf course closures was down 53% from previous years, that was a huge indicator that golf is not dying. Golf courses close doors when they can no longer afford to keep them open. However, when they are making money and people are playing, they are more than happy to stay open!
There are currently just over 16,000 golf courses in the United States, and although that number does not grow all that often, the fact that it is not declining is a tremendous benefit and piece of positive news to those that love the game of golf.