How has the COVID-19 Pandemic Impacted the Golf and Turf Industry One Year Later?

30/04/2021 00:00:00
Blog

The COVID-19 Pandemic has left few industries unaffected from a financial or operational perspective. However, while many businesses faced an overall negative impact on their ability to function this past year, some, like golf, grew in popularity. As an outdoor sport where participants could properly socially distance, golf became one of the first recreational activities to reopen after initial lockdown measures.

Even with lockdown periods that kept courses closed, the number of rounds played globally increased significantly. In the US, courses in 2020 saw an increase of 14%, according to statistics from the National Golf Foundation. This amounts to about 50 million more rounds played than in 2019, and a higher percentage increase in rounds played since Tiger Woods’ breakout year in 1997. Over the last 20 years, a 5% increase in rounds was considered a “big” jump, making 2020’s 14% increase remarkable despite the industry’s initial struggle when an estimated 20 million rounds were lost due to strict shutdowns in the spring.

Meanwhile, in the UK, courses dealt with the closures that created a temporary slump in rounds. However, when courses reopened in July, the number of rounds played through September 2020 increased by 59% compared with the same three-month period in 2019. What’s more, according to the 2020 Golf Operation Impact survey, a survey of golf course operators and managers, 55% of courses saw double-digit growth in rounds compared to 2019.

While the golf fleet and turf segments of the business slowed momentarily, the consumer side of the business exploded, which continues. The Commercial/Resort space did take a little bit of a hit, but it is expected that will bounce back as people and families start to travel again as restrictions are lifted."

In Australia, a report by Golf Australia shows that, despite courses being closed for extended periods, rounds played nationally were only down one percent by the end of August 2020. This is especially remarkable considering the slow start to 2020 when initial closures caused a 16% decrease in first quarter rounds. As courses began reopening later in the year, golfers returned, and the 16% deficit rebounded.

Golf courses aren't the only ones benefitting from the surge. Equipment manufacturers report record sales. In the US, golf equipment sales topped $1 billion in the third quarter of 2020. With more people playing rounds, in combination with a persistent need for social distancing, golf cars are experiencing more wear and tear. This has made it necessary for courses to trade in equipment more frequently. Additionally, the buying season for equipment stretched longer into the winter than it has in decades as golfers continued to engage with the sport for as long as the weather permitted them to do so.

“Sales in the golf space over the last year have been running at record levels. There were massive concerns when the COVID shutdowns began about what would happen to the industry as a whole,” says Jim Stanley, DLL Golf and Turf Program Manager. “While the golf fleet and turf segments of the business slowed momentarily, the consumer side of the business exploded, which continues. The Commercial/Resort space did take a little bit of a hit, but it is expected that will bounce back as people and families start to travel again as restrictions are lifted.”

As a significant cause of the industry’s recent success, many long-time golfers took advantage of opportunities like remote employment, more free time and other conditions to increase their involvement with the sport. In addition to these golfers, many new golfers turned to the sport as a safer alternative to their usual leisure activities in the context of the virus.

Our DLL partners are forecasting for continued growth on a global basis and are reliant upon both retail and floor planning support from all DLL countries."

Though many new golfers took up golf in 2020, the extent to which they will be retained is still up in the air. Surges, new strains and vaccine distribution can either positively or negatively impact time on the course. Even before the influx of new pandemic golfers, the industry has had trouble retaining new golfers. Take the US for example; in the past five years, it saw 12 million people golf for the first time, but only 200,000 new “regular golfers” that became involved with the sport long-term. For this reason, the enduring effects of the pandemic on equipment demand is still uncertain.

Along with encouraging new golfers, there is good reason to believe that many of the 6 million golfers who did not engage with golf in 2020 will want to return to the sport in the near future. Whether they took a step back from golf due to virus anxieties, financial struggles or a cancellation of golf events that drew in occasional golfers, many have expressed an interest in returning to golf as the pandemic restrictions ease.

Most golf facilities around the globe experienced significant growth in rounds played due to COVID-19. The exceptions to this are resorts and golf destinations, as many of those properties took the opportunity to invest in refurbishment or expansion of their facilities in preparation for travel and tourism to restart.

“Our DLL partners are forecasting for continued growth on a global basis and are reliant upon both retail and floor planning support from all DLL countries,” says Derek Meinders, DLL Golf and Turf Global Program Manager.

With the fast-paced transformation the golf industry saw throughout the past year, the future of the industry looks more promising for golf courses, equipment manufacturers and players than it has in years.