News & Opinion

COVID-19 fuels U.S. golf boom in 2020

Golfer At Twilight
Rounds played rise 13.9 percent in the U.S. in 2020, Golf Datatech reports.

Recreational play soars 13.9 percent in 2020 compared with the previous year, Golf Datatech reports, but will the frenzy last?

The number crunchers at Golf Datatech, an industry research company, have quantified what any recreational golfer in America could have told them: 2020 was a very busy year for golf courses.

Fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic and the desire to find open spaces, U.S. golfers logged 13.9 percent more rounds in 2020 than in 2019, Golf Datatech reported in its year-end summary released Monday. The final numbers for 2020 were boosted by a 37.3-percent spike in December compared with the same month in 2019. Play rose significantly for the year in every state except for Hawaii, Nevada and South Carolina, which are heavily dependent upon tourism traffic, which has been curtailed during the pandemic.

Private clubs led the 2020 increase in rounds played, with a 19.9-percent spike. Play was up 12.4 percent at public-access courses.

New England paced the December advance, more than doubling play from the same month in 2019, with a 101.1-percent jump. The region benefitted from less precipitation and warmer temperatures. Strong gains in the last month of the year also were reported in every other region, most of which recorded drier, warmer conditions.

Equipment sales also soared, by 10.1 percent from 2019, Golf Datatech reported, as green-grass golf shops and off-course specialty shops buzzed from the increased interest in the game.

“While the global pandemic wreaked havoc on many segments of our economy, the golf industry experienced a significant boost in rounds played and equipment sales,” said John Krzynowek, a partner at Golf Datatech. “On the equipment side, sales increased by low single digits in both 2018 and 2019, but the double-digit gains in 2020 can only be attributed to the pandemic and golf being a respite for so many.”

The year-over-year increase in rounds played was the largest bump in the 20-plus-year history that Golf Datatech has been compiling industry numbers. The increase was on top of a 1.8-percent gain in 2019, which was the first time in three years that the annual numbers had not fallen. Even with the 2020 spike, the annual number of rounds play has dropped in 14 of the past 21 years as the golf industry retrenches after the Tiger Woods-fueled turn-of-the-century construction boom.

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