On-course participation, while not at pre-2008 levels, has stabilized as the number of golf newcomers surpassed the two-million-mark for a fifth consecutive year in 2018. These are among the topline findings from the annual Golf Industry Report released last week by the National Golf Foundation.
While the number of U.S. golf rounds played last year declined 4.8 percent to 434 million, participation increased incrementally for the first time in 14 years to 24.2 million on course, and 33.5 million when factoring in popular off-course forms of the game such as Topgolf, Drive Shack and indoor simulators, the NGF reported.
Without playing the game, the organization says there were another 74 million Americans who watched or read about golf in 2018, a year-over-year increase of 12 percent and a gain partly attributable to the re-emergence of Tiger Woods and other budding stars at the pro level. Golf’s total reach of 107 million represents 36 percent of the U.S. population over the age of five.
Still, the NGF is realistic about the game’s expansion on course, suggesting it remains dependent on converting more newcomers to steady players and further expanding the demographic mix of participants to include more women, currently 23 percent of all players, and non-Caucasians, now 18 percent of all players.
In other golf news:
• PGA Tour Superstores intends to open six more stores in 2019, including Plantation, FL this week and Sarasota, FL this summer.
• Topgolf will celebrate National Golf Day on May 1 by offering free lessons to anyone who walks through the door. Those who register for a complimentary Topgolf Coach class on May 1 will receive an hour of instruction from a golf pro and a coupon for 50-percent off their next group class.
• Puma Golf signs four-time major winner Ernie Els to a multi-year endorsement contact. Els will wear the brand’s IGNITE PWRADAPT and NXT family of shoes on the PGA Tour. (photo)
• OnCore Golf, based in Buffalo, NY, strikes a partnership with So. California-based CHIP’d, to accelerate the final development and commercial launch of the GENiUS Ball, described as a golf ball with a brain. CHIP’d is incorporating GPS, Bluetooth, antenna and battery design into the ball that will allow golfers to connect and track GPS location and flight characteristics. Data from every shot will be stored in the cloud for post-round review and game analysis.