Golf is a game of numbers, of course. Golfers can obsess over their strokes and the course yardage (and somewhere around 242 other statistics, thanks to various newer technologies). Golf course superintendents can track budgets, schedules, applications, on and on. Folks in the pro shop focus on sales and how much gear is in stock. Manufacturers and suppliers … well, you get the picture.
Everybody, though, cares about the health of the game. On the brink of the fourth quarter of what sure seems like another strong year for golf, let’s look at some of the more important numbers:
Rounds played in August were down 7.3 percent compared to August 2020, according to Golf Datatech. Not ideal, but last summer was booming and this summer was … wet. Precipitation was up at least 18 percent this August compared to last August in six of the eight regions tracked. Rounds are still up 11.3 percent over last year through August.
Golf apparel sales are also up double digits, according to Golf Datatech — 11 percent this August over August 2020, and up 12 percent through the same point in 2019, before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Golf club and ball wholesale dollars sales through June, meanwhile, jumped 77 percent over 2020 and 35 percent over 2019, according to the National Golf Foundation.
Another indicator of the industry’s overall health? Course closures. Only 60 golf courses closed in the United States through the first half of this year, according to the NGF, a 46 percent drop from the first half of 2020. Factor in some of the larger mergers and acquisitions the industry has ever seen — already this year Callaway agreed to pay Topgolf $2.66 billion for the remaining 86 percent stake of the company, Platinum Equity is ponying up $1.7 billion for Ingersoll Rand’s golf car business, and Centroid Investment acquired TaylorMade Golf for $1.7 billion — and the game is not only healthy but thriving, and maybe even ... booming.
One of the few statistical bummers? According to a June poll Golf Course Industry conducted on our Twitter account, nearly 67 percent of the 444 respondents said they have high schoolers working on their crews. That is great for golf course maintenance during the summer and potentially great for the long term, but it is definitely another labor-market challenge with students back in school now. Nearly every turf pro we’ve talked with over the last month or so has indicated their crew numbers are down significantly since schools opened their doors again, leading to some revised maintenance practices.
Will the industry numbers keep looking up? Stay tuned — and be sure to fill out our State of the Industry survey when it arrives in your inbox next month. Our annual report will be published in the January 2022 issue and we want to hear your experiences and opinions.Matt LaWell is Golf Course Industry’s managing editor. Editor-in-chief Guy Cipriano contributed to this report.