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December 29, 2022

Rounds played: Almost, but not quite…

By Joe Beditz, National Golf Foundation
National Golf Foundation Chart 1

Another record-breaking year, almost

A year ago, the National Golf Foundation was tracking a record-setting 2021, with more rounds of golf played in the U.S. than ever before.

And throughout this year, questions lingered: Would demand dip? Would golf’s Covid dividends begin to wane?

While there’s been a slight decline from a year ago, indications are this is attributable to weather more than demand.

As we await the imminent release of November’s rounds data, we note that play has been down year-over-year in six of 10 months in 2022. There’s a good chance November YOY will show a decline too – this based on operator feedback and Golf Playable Hours being down 19 percent, per Pellucid, a golf industry analysis firm.

Projecting the remainder of the year, and accounting for a much smaller volume of play and seasonal facility closings, we’ll finish just 2 to 3 percent shy of 2021’s record play levels. Not bad at all.

There are two important points of note here:

First, this expected YOY change is in line with typical year-over-year weather-related variances (about +/- 2 to 3 percent annually).

National Golf Foundation chartSecondly, this is still one of the most productive years for play in history. When we look at 2022, total rounds will end up somewhere between 2020 and 2021.  And when you look at the average (or just the visual above), you’ll see that all three years are well ahead of the three-year, pre-pandemic average. Comparing the two three-year periods, Covid-era play is up about 16 percent.

As we barrel into 2023, one of our most frequently asked questions remains: Are we going to be able to hold up this volume? Throughout last year, we hedged our bet and said there was too much uncertainty to say for sure. Well, there’s probably even more uncertainty ahead for us in 2023: inflation, rising interest rates, a probable recession, worldwide market and political instability.

So, can golf remain a recreational priority, even in light of these uncertainties? Judging by the other challenges and uncertainties we’ve weathered over the last three years, it sure seems possible. As ever, we’ll keep you posted.

Joe Beditz writes for the National Golf Foundation

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Featured image courtesy of the National Golf Foundation

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