The 2020 Golf Boom

A few years ago, I was having a discussion with the general manager of a public golf course and was trying to convince him that some new programs could enable course operators to grow demand for golf.

He shut me down cold… and made it very clear that he believed that the only way to grow rounds and revenue was by taking them away from other courses.  In other words, there was no way to grow the overall demand for golf… it was a zero-sum game.

While that is hardly a universal opinion, I’ve heard it from a sizable number of people in the industry.  And admittedly, it has been tough to counter the argument as we have seen a slow, steady decline in the number of rounds of golf played in the US for more than a decade.

But look what happened in 2020.  In the Minneapolis-St. Paul market and many others, demand for golf exploded upward.  Every operator I have talked to in the last month has said that rounds, revenues and profits are up substantially this year.

Sure, there was a perfect storm of conditions that decimated many of golf’s competitors, but people didn’t have to head to the golf course.  They could have taken walks, ridden bikes, headed to the lake, vegetated at home, etc.  But they flocked to the golf course in numbers not seen since the go-go days of the early 2000s.

Here are 5 opinions relating to the 2020 golf boom.

You don’t have to steal rounds from other courses in order to grow.

The industry got a windfall in 2020.
Industry actions didn’t stimulate the demand… COVID-19 did.

Continued growth is possible in 2021 and beyond, but it’s going to take a concerted effort by golf course operators to improve the golf product and stimulate additional demand.

There are 3 primary levers that can be used to grow demand:
Make golf MORE FUN

Affordability is not holding golf back.
If anything, prices should ratchet up a little.
The focus should be on MORE FUN and MORE CONVENIENT… we’ll be providing some food for thought in the coming weeks on these two themes… there are lots of options.

Which of these opinions do you agree with?
Which would you counter?

If you want to weigh in, post a comment.

1 Comment

  1. Whether golf is fun or not is in the eyes of the player. Instead, making golf more enjoyable should be the objective. Change white stakes to red. Put holes in the middle of the greens on the busiest days, and move up the tees. Cut down the rough, and keep the greens to no more than 9 or 10 on the stimpmeter. If the average player scores a few strokes better than normal, he/she will come back for more. If you think this will adversely affect your course rating, who gives a shit? Let your best players know, that 5%, that on certain days, you’ll set up the course to maximum difficulty, and they can come out and bludgeon themselves to death.

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