News & Opinion

Study: Golf serves as an oasis from the chaos of pandemic

Research shows that golfers view the game as an outlet during the pandemic, much as they did after the tragic events of 9/11

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of articles that look at trends within the golf industry.

For as long as I have been conducting golf research, I’ve had a fascination with the key emotional drivers that bring people into the game and, more importantly, keep them engaged.

My career has afforded me an opportunity to study how these dynamics vary across a variety of demographics and golf behavioral characteristics. Perhaps most dramatic has been the differences in golf IQ observed between those with varying degrees of engagement and skill level. Despite seeing it literally thousands of times, I still sometimes initially question the value of interviewing golfers who refer to grips as “handles” or fail to understand — or care about — equipment-technology parlance such as COR (coefficient of restitution) or MOI (moment of inertia), even though I know that those who do are few and far between.

Through research I’ve conducted over the past 30 years, the overwhelming majority of golfers connect with the game on a more recreational and superficial level. One common thread between each extreme is that golf consistently provides distinct social and spiritual benefits that set the game apart from almost every other sport or recreational activity that we have studied. The dynamics of spending four-plus hours with one to three other people while communing with nature, away from the rest of the world, always has been a valued commodity.

After the tragic events of 9/11, the editor of a leading consumer golf publication asked me to examine whether the game no longer occupied the same place for golfers and if the tonality of the magazine needed to change. To the contrary, proprietary survey and qualitative research that we conducted to address this question showed that the social and escapist elements of golf became even stronger in that time of crisis. A frequent theme that emerged was that challenging times amplified the fragility of valued human relationships and the role that golf could play in advancing them.

Sports & Leisure Research Group — BTNB 2

Nineteen years later, I find it poignant that as we are again navigating a national crisis, our Back to Normal Barometer surveys continue to show golf as an oasis from the chaos in the minds of golfers of all demographic and behavioral stripes. As the graphic illustrates, this sentiment has been embraced by a growing number of golfers since the onset of the pandemic. We saw a similar phenomenon in our post-9/11 research, and it stands to reason that nationally reported golf-participation rates remain on an upswing.

Sports and Leisure Research Group provides customized research services to clients in the sports, travel and leisure categories.

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