Golf Industry Trends 2018: What We Can Learn from the NGF’s Recent Report

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Golf Industry Trends 2018: What We Can Learn from the NGF’s Recent Report

For anyone interested in where the sport of golf is currently at and where it's heading, the National Golf Foundation is the source to turn to.

In May 2018, NGF released its "2018 Golf Industry Report." In this report, the group presents industry data and statistics from 2017 and makes projections about golf industry trends for 2018.

From this report, both golf professionals and golf enthusiasts can learn lessons about the sport's growth, changes and trends.

High Participation

American golf courses welcomed 23.8 million participants to their facilities in 2017. 20 million of those people were considered golf devotees. Although representing only 82 percent of on-course golfers, this group of people participated in 95 percent of the rounds played on traditional golf courses last year.

NGF also tracks those people who play golf but not in the traditional fashion. 21 million people picked up a golf club at a driving range, simulator or specialty golf facility in 2017.

Although this represents a shift from the ways golf is traditionally played, it can be seen as a positive trend for the golf industry. Over half of the people who visited off-course golf facilities also golfed on a course at some point during the year. Only 8.3 million people golfed off-course only.

In fact, among those who visit golf entertainment facilities:

  • 29 percent claim that they play more green-grass golf as a result.

  • 23 percent say that their experience at such facilities has motivated them to pay more attention to the sport of golf.

  • 53 percent suggest that their involvement makes them more likely to play on a course sometime in the future.

Those who value the traditional approach to golf can take away from this report the assurance that people are interested in the sport. It's a good reminder that extending a simple invitation may be all that it takes to bring new faces onto the golf course.

Overall, between on-course and off-course participation, 32.1 million people played golf in 2017. That represents a slight increase over the 32.0 million who participated in the sport in 2016.

Increasing Diversity

Golf continues to gain new participants. 2.6 million people played their first round of green-grass golf in 2017. That's a bit of an increase over the preceding year, during which 2.5 million tried the sport for the first time.

14.9 million additional people who aren't currently golfers shared that they were quite interested in taking up the game.

Beginning players are adding to the diversity of golf's ranks. 35 percent of new players were female. 26 percent represented non-Caucasian populations.

The youth demographic is another source of up-and-coming golfers. 2.7 million kids between the ages of 6 and 17 played golf on a course in 2017, and another 2.3 million participated in some off-course fashion.

More than 10,000 high schools offered golf teams. The PGA Jr. League Golf program involved 42,000 kids. You can learn more about this program for kids ages 13 and under in the video below from the PGA Marketing Resource Center:

To keep up with modern golf trends, private clubs must be willing to adapt to increasing diversity. Those country clubs that have already developed a welcoming, inclusive atmosphere will have an advantage over those that are just now beginning to make changes.

Course Changes

The United States has 14,794 golf courses. That's about 45 percent of all of the world's golf courses. About 15 new full courses opened in 2017, but over 200 closed.

The closures aren't surprising. As a result of market oversaturation, the number of golf courses has been on the decline since 2006. There are 7 percent fewer courses in the U.S. now than there were in 2006.

75 percent of U.S. golf courses are currently public facilities. 2,497 of those are owned by municipalities.

Private courses have never before represented such a small percentage of the American golf market. As the private segment shrinks, the remaining country clubs have an opportunity to bring in new members from the ones that have closed their doors.

In the face of a changing market, those interested in the benefits of a country club membership might do well to join a club as soon as the opportunity arises rather than risk a full waiting list down the road.

NGF projects that the overall number of golf courses in the country will continue to decrease during 2018. Although approximately 20 new courses may open their doors to golfers for the first time, up to 1.5 percent of courses may shutter theirs.

Facility Renovations

Rather than being invested in new course construction, the majority of money earmarked for facility development in recent years has been spent on golf course renovation.

Since 2006, over $3.25 billion has been spent on major renovation projects. To qualify as a major renovation, the project must have required the golf course to have had at least nine of its holes closed for a period of no fewer than three months.

Of course, both public and private golf facilities have also spent money on smaller projects. NGF doesn't track these minor renovations, but their costs surely add a significant amount of money to the overall total spent on golf course improvement since 2006.

NGF estimates that the renovation trend will continue during 2018. The group calculates that as many as 100 courses will undertake a large improvement project over the course of the year.

Golf courses and golfers can take note of this trend. Both public and private courses would do well to invest as much money as possible into their facilities in order to keep on par with other nearby courses.

Customers, on the other hand, can hold courses to high standards, seeking out the ones that maintain a top-notch golfing environment.

Golf industry trends for 2018 include continued interest in the sport and increasing diversity among participants. Golfers can expect the overall number of courses to decrease slightly and the percentage of private courses to decline as well.

Renovations are a popular trend among golf courses. Therefore, courses should continue to direct money toward improvements, and players are encouraged to expect high quality from the facilities where they golf.

Posted: 5/29/2018 7:17:39 AM by Brian Curtin | with 0 comments

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