What if the Covid pandemic had spawned a new golf fad?
This is suggested by the record figures just published by the National Golf Foundation and that prove that 101 million people played golf around the world last year (including 25 million in the US, plus 14 million who hit balls on the driving range or at places like Topgolf).
This represents an increase of 20% in the United States compared to 2019, it is true marked by the Covid and a drop of 42% in attendance. In one year, the increase in courses played is 11.3% (that is, more than 50 million). The most dynamic states were Texas (+39%), Florida (+37%) and Arizona (+31%). Note that the percentage of young golfers aged 6-17 has increased by 20% (that’s 500,000 kids!). Proshop turnover even reached $389 million in July!
In the United Kingdom, according to the BRS agency, the number of courses played by the club’s 705,000 members, between August 2020 and August 2021, reached 15.3 million units (that is, +938,000). A slight decrease in summer is explained by the European Football Championship keeping fans at home, bad weather and the reopening of restaurants and bars… However, the figures are still very high compared to the period prior to the pandemic.
In Australia, the post-pandemic period showed that 230,000 adults had started (or resumed) playing golf and the number of courses played had increased by 12%.
A worldwide phenomenon that highlights the need to find an outdoor sport that can be practiced with friends without risk to health.
As for brands, business is going well. Callaway announced a 91% revenue increase in the second quarter of 2021, Acushnet announced an increase in sales of its golf clubs of 111% with a doubling of turnover and taylor did it was sold to a Korean company for $1.9 billion.
What about us in France?
We asked the question to Christopher Muniesa General Director of Ffgolf as well as Laurent Boissonnas, President of the GEGF (Groupement des Entrepreneurs de Golf Français), the first professional association that brings together owners and operators of golf courses. http://Group of French Golf Employers (gegf.eu)
Christophe Muniesa: we are going to break our record number of licensees!
I can confirm that the trend is excellent for the development of golf in France.
At the end of 2021, ffgolf will break its record for the number of licensees. The previous record, reached at the end of 2012, was 422,000 affiliates. We will exceed 430,000 licensees by the end of 2021. This rate represents a growth of almost 8% compared to 2020 and just over 4% compared to 2019, which was already a very good year.
Obviously, the measure of authorized practice is not alpha and omega, but it still allows one to see the trend.
A massive influx of new players.
Beyond the general figures, the other good news is the massive influx of new golfers. In 2021 we will register more than 50,000 new licensees, that is, more than 10% of the total number. This dynamic had not been observed since the end of the 1980s, but at that time about 30 courses were created per year, which is no longer the case today. In fact, the number of courses is stagnant today.
This strong growth is due to several trend elements. First of all, before the 2020/2021 crisis, the dynamics were already on the rise. We have been making progress, albeit more modest, since 2016. The “100 small facilities” plan, which has helped create more than 80,000 new golfers between 2008 and 2018, has played a central role in welcoming these new fans of the white ball . The celebration of the Ryder Cup illuminated our sport and helped to catalyze this new attraction of a greater part of the French population for golf. Finally, the clubs have carried out vast campaigns of “open door” operations, most of the time free of charge, in all areas, whether urban or rural.
the questions are simple
Today, thanks to the studies that we carry out periodically (Union Sports & Cycles, Sports Marketing Surveys, EY, etc.) we can see to measure the number of players and evaluate the types of practices as well as the motivations of the players, that The lever of The most important development is the offer of the practice itself. The questions that anyone interested in golf asks are quite simple: Where can I play? At what price? What will be the “benefit” of this practice for me in terms of pleasure or well-being? Will I be supervised/accompanied by a teacher? And, will they “take care of me” so that my experience is pleasant (notion of service)?
The fact that the clubs are present in all these dimensions makes us clearly think of sustainable growth. We believe that this renaissance of our discipline echoes a desire for nature and the friendly sports practice of many French people.
This wish, of which the year 2021 has been revealing, is very promising for the future of French golf.
Laurent Boissonnas: The golf family has stuck together during the crisis
and today, the signs of hope are there!
The golf industry has not escaped the Covid 19 crisis. As a result of 3 months of total administrative closure, 2.5 months of additional restaurant closures and post-lockdown traffic restrictions, golf businesses, regardless of their form of commercial and associative management – lost an average of 19% in total turnover in 2020 and 11% in pure golf activities (subscriptions, green fees, practice, rental, etc.).
Despite this, thanks to the efforts of the employees of the golf courses, the investment gap and the different state aid (8% of the 2019 turnover affected in 2020 on average), the clubs have managed to overcome this unique crisis without mortgage the future
business is picking up
The golf family has remained united during the crisis to better defend its interests and promote its values with a single voice before public administrations with other outdoor leisure activities where appropriate. These actions have allowed the fields to limit the closing periods (which could have been aligned with restaurants, or even sports practiced indoors) and thus reopen at the end of November 2020, a priori not mortgaging 2021.
Despite the closure of bars and restaurants until May 19, activity has picked up well in 2021. Thus, in the first half of the year, activity grows strongly compared to 2020, but above all also by 4% compared to 2019 – which is quite remarkable. In the second half of the year, the increase in average activity follows a trend of over 5% on average, which is very positive although it hides important disparities. Clubs whose activity is linked to international tourism are severely penalized, while those that mainly capture a local leisure clientele can go further, especially on the coast -consequences of new behaviors linked to the covid crisis (teleworking that allows a new organization of conferences, residences that become almost main, etc.).
The values of golf
The period of confinement and the social dynamics that it has activated are having a beneficial effect in 2021 for golf and outdoor activities and sports in general. More than ever after being “locked up”, the French wanted to be outside, in the middle of nature, having fun with friends or family… So many values that golf perfectly embodies, beyond all the usual prejudices. They are from another era, far from reality.
The reality is that golf is fun, good for your health and good for your spirit.
The challenges are not lacking, and in the first place the ecological transition
The license figures for 2021 confirm that there are more golfers (the number of FF Golf licensees will break a record in 2021 with more than 430,000 licensees) and above all that the curiosity about golf is stronger. In fact, the number of new licenses created in a year could approach historical records with more than 45,000. This is good news for golf after 10 years of stagnation. However, this trend must be confirmed in 2022 because the challenges are not lacking for the clubs, in particular as regards the ecological transition.
And tomorrow ?
Many people never thought they would become golfers. Others who had left their clubs in a garage have found them happy. Others who played 5 times a year play 5 times a month!
We also met young people who are throwing themselves fully into this sport that they thought was reserved for retirees. The notion of relationship with time, health and nature has changed with the pandemic. And that’s good for golf development.
There are many solutions in the clubs to deal with this influx of fans: advanced orange jerseys for young people, flexible schedules, rental series, installments, etc.
The other face
But on the other side of the coin, there are also other problems that can arise: the main ones are of three types.
First of all, this phenomenon should not be a fad that will be abandoned as soon as it is tried. To the golf courses, that is, to retain newcomers who are often forced away from their favorite place and who have taken up golf by default.
This influx then created traffic jams at some already packed golf courses. In certain geographical sectors such as the Basque Country, it is very difficult to get departures, even a week in advance, especially if you want to play in a group.
Finally, staff are not always well resourced to meet this demand, with operators reluctant to invest while the future is still uncertain.
Keep in mind that the most optimistic imagine a new wave of field construction to welcome the fans of this first individual sport in the world!
How many golf courses are there in the world?
According to NGF, there are approximately 38,000 courses in the world, present in 82% of the countries listed, that is, 206 countries out of 251.
A sport therefore highly represented throughout the planet but whose main course -80%- is concentrated in a dozen developed countries.
With a statistic that also explains the success of golf in the USA: contrary to what one might think, 75% of the courses that exist are public.
Cover photo The Champions Course – Evian Resort Golf club