To say that there have been “winners” in the pandemic might sound insensitive, but we all know that it is at least somewhat true. In pure capitalist terms, certain industries have seen a massive boom. The most obvious examples are creators of hand sanitizer and masks, as well as teleconferencing software. However, there are some more lowkey examples.
Golf is one such industry that has had a good time of it lately. The pandemic not only put professional sports on hold, but halted Sunday leagues and casual games as well. Contact sports like football, soccer, and basketball, are incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to play while keeping safe. You would need to take out the contact and wear masks throughout.
Golf, however, is different. It is the type of sport that was made for this scenario. You can play golf alone or with friends while maintaining social distancing with no trouble at all. In fact, it is one of the few social activities that has remained mostly safe – you do not have to get close to one another, you can keep your masks on with no difficulty, you don’t have to touch the same equipment, and you are outdoors.
Just how good has COVID-19 been for golfing? Here’s what you need to know.
A Major Upsurge
The stats show the sheer success the sport of golf has seen over the past year. In 2020, 12% more rounds of golf were played at public courses, and 19% more rounds at private courses. This is in spite of the fact that in the early days of the harshest lockdowns, when we had little clarity about anything, golf courses around the country saw a significant decline.
To put it into more concrete numbers, over 50 million more rounds of golf were played in the US in 2020 than in 2019! This increase has only been beaten by one year – 1997, after Tiger Woods won the Masters for the first time and made the sport trendy.
Optimism in the golfing world is necessarily curtailed by the reality that the pandemic has to end, and preferably as soon as possible. Once that happens, many more leisure activities will be available again, and the surge in golfing may disappear. However, there are reasons golfing establishments are confident that the dip won’t be too bad.
Owners of golfing establishments are best-placed to give their expertise on whether the trend will continue at all. After all, they don’t just see the bare statistics, but actually interact with players and observe their behaviors. There is one reason in particular that they believe the sport will remain more popular than before the pandemic.
It is not just the number of rounds of golf that have increased but the sale of golfing equipment as well. Individuals who want to do something to pass the time while their other hobbies are unavailable generally don’t spend money on equipment. They rather borrow or rent equipment so they can play casually without the major expense.
The fact that so many new golfers have bought their own equipment indicates a level of commitment. While owning expensive equipment is no guarantee that someone will continue to play, it serves as both a reminder of their commitment and motivation not to let their investment go to waste.
To put this into numbers, the sale of golfing equipment increased by over 50% in July compared to other years. The industry raked in $388 million in July 2020, compared to less than $250 million in 2019.
Who will stay and who will go?
That said, the numbers are likely to drop dramatically. With the pandemic over, millions less rounds of golf will be played, even by people who now own golfing equipment. The question is just how big this impact will be.
The good news is that the dip in numbers won’t harm the industry. There will still be significantly more rounds played than in pre-COVID times. The question of who stays and who goes will come down to a number of factors.
Hobbyists with deep pockets are least likely to be swayed by the expense of their equipment. They’ll happily find something new if they are no longer as enamored by the sport as before. In comparison, those who felt the cost are more likely to stick around so as to get their money’s worth.
There will be plenty of people who have simply learned to love the sport over the course of the past year, regardless of how much they spent on it. Many veteran players who only occasionally played have fallen back in love with golf.
It is yet to be seen just what happens in the golfing industry post-COVID, but we can be confident that any negative effects will be outweighed by the good.