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Golf’s Participation Base Remains Stable, Says NGF Report

April 23, 2019 Golf Tourism No Comments Email Email


The National Golf Foundation (NGF), the only trade organisation that works with every sector within the golf industry, has released its 2019 Golf Industry Report, a comprehensive state-of-the-industry overview.

The Golf Industry Report (GIR) compiles many of the game’s key data points in a single publication and is intended to provide the most holistic view of the business of golf and the health of the game within the United States to stakeholders and the media.

The GIR includes the latest NGF data on golf participation, engagement, rounds-played, latent demand, golf course supply and development, retail supply, golf equipment sales and golf’s reach.

Golf’s participation base remains stable, with an estimated 24.2 million people (aged six-and-above) who played golf on a course in 2018 – a slight increase from 23.8 million a year earlier.

Almost as many people play off-course forms of the game, with 23 million hitting golf balls with clubs at golf entertainment facilities like Topgolf and Drive Shack, indoor simulators and driving ranges. With 9.3 million people exclusively playing golf off-course, the game’s overall participant pool has increased by 4% to 33.5 million.

There were 434 million rounds of golf played in 2018, a 4.8% year-over-year decline attributable in part to the third-wettest year on record nationally dating back to 1895 (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association).

Despite the negative weather impact on the nation’s top outdoor, pay-to-play participation sport, there are 14.7 million people who didn’t play golf last year but say they are ‘very interested’ in playing golf on a course. This untapped demand helped contribute to the 2.6 million beginners who picked up the game in 2018.

The total US golf course supply declined by 1.2%, with the opening of 12.5 new 18-hole equivalent golf courses and 198.5 course closures. Closures have outweighed new openings nationwide since 2006, an on-going correction of supply and demand within the market that followed an unsustainable 20-year building boom during which more than 4,000 courses opened, boosting the US supply by 44%.

The US remains the best-supplied golf market in the world with 14,613 facilities and 16,693 courses – more than 75% of which are open to all players, the highest public-to-private ratio in history.

Other 2018 highlights from the Golf Industry Report:

  • Golf’s total reach of about 107 million people in the US is comprised of 33.5 million total golf participants plus approximately 74 million who watched and/or read about golf, but didn’t play on or off course. This represents more than one-third of the US population (aged six and older) and is a 10% increase from 2017.
  • Juniors (six-to-17) and young adults (18-34) comprise approximately 35% of all on-course golfers, with 2.5 million junior participants and 6.1 million young adults.
  • There are 5.7 million women who played golf on a course in 2018. Women account for 23% of the on-course golfer base and 44% of off-course only play.
  • Newcomers to golf are increasingly diverse: 31% are female, 26% are non-Caucasian and 62% are under the age of 35.
  • The number of golfers aged 65-and-over increased almost 17% to 4.2 million in 2018. This number should continue to increase as the balance of Baby Boomers cross this milestone.
  • There are more than 20 million committed golfers who account for approximately 95% of all rounds-played and spending.
  • Golfers played an average of 17.9 rounds in 2018.
  • The average price paid for an 18-hole round at public golf facilities is US$35.


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