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July 5, 2023

Tourism is a key component of golf industry

By David Lorentz, National Golf Foundation
Old Course tee times, Swilcan bridge

We're traveling more than we did pre-pandemic

If we want to talk about the sturdiness of golf demand,  no metric is more direct or appropriate than rounds played, which was up 10 percent in May.

And yet there are other ways to assess the current depth of consumer interest and investment in the game.

Golf-equipment buying is probably the next obvious measure. Economically, we’d view this kind of spending – even more than a round of golf – as “non-essential,” as it’s something you want but can live without. It’s discretionary spending like this that most reveals what makes people happy.

Thus, we also monitor golf-related travel, perhaps the ultimate discretionary expense and expression of demand for the game. It requires planning, commitment, tradeoffs and, for some, intense negotiating with loved ones. In other words, you’ve got to LOVE golf to make this investment.

It’s encouraging to see, then, that golf travel continues to trend positively.

This week we heard from 40 golf resort and destination properties across the U.S., who told us advanced bookings are up 5-7 percent over 2022. Around this time last year, the same audience reported that advanced bookings were outpacing 2021 by roughly 12 percent.

Other data we track tells a similar story:

  • More than 70 percent of Core golfers tell us they have – and/or expect they will – take some kind of golf trip before the end of the year. We know this to be ambitious, but anything north of 50 percent would represent a higher proportion of travelers than pre-pandemic.
  • Online search popularity for golf travel bags is maintaining at a level 30 percent ahead of pre-pandemic.

Golf tourism is not just an important indicator for overall golf demand, it’s a critical component of the U.S. golf economy – it’s the second largest sector, in fact, generating more than $31 billion in spending in 2022. This accounting includes only those expenditures that took place away from the golf course (travel, lodging, meals, incidentals, etc.) during a trip in which a person traveled 50-plus miles and played golf as a key recreational activity for business, leisure, or “bleisure.”

Golfers dished out another $9 billion in green, cart and range fees, merchandise and F&B on those trips, which pushes the impact of golf travel in the U.S. to $40 billion, or roughly 40% of the industry’s direct economic contributions.

David Lorentz write for the National Golf Foundation

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Featured image of the Swilcan Burn Bridge at the Old Course in St. Andrews courtesy of the St. Andrews Links Trust

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