June 18, 2020

NGF Update: 20 Million Spring Rounds Lost to COVID-19

Jupiter, FL – The U.S. golf industry lost as many as 20 million rounds in March and April due to course closures and coronavirus-induced anxiety, according to the most recent National Golf Foundation estimates.

After double-digit growth in rounds played in January and February, rounds were up 15% for the year entering March. Due to the outbreak of the virus and associated shutdowns, year-over-year drops of 9% in March and 42% in April left the industry down 16%. More than half of golf courses closed nationwide for most of April and the drop in rounds volume alone accounts for a loss of about $1 billion in golf course revenues. (This doesn’t include related losses in F&B, retail sales, events, etc.)

The months of January through April account for a third of the calendar but only a quarter of annual rounds of golf. So, while rounds-played were down 16% Y.O.Y. for those four months, if the balance of the year is flat, the industry would end up down only 4% versus 2019. That line is reflected in the attached graphic forecasting rounds for 2020, resting in the middle of NGF’s current “cone of uncertainty.” Conversely, a participation surge in May through August, when nearly half of rounds are played, could help the industry offset the spring impact of the coronavirus.

“There is evidence both anecdotal and scientific that rounds in May might be up significantly over last year as a result of a surge in demand, not only from core golfers, but from beginners and lapsed players too,” said NGF President and CEO Joe Beditz. “If this surge proves true and if it persists even partially into the summer months, then we could recoup the rounds and revenue lost in March and April. Put another way, we’ll break even with last year if rounds are up 5% for the period May through December.”

It’s important to note that rounds have increased by 5% over an entire year only twice in the past two decades – the same number of times over that period the industry has recorded a 5% loss. In addition to heightened demand, Mother Nature will have to continue to cooperate in the months ahead as well. The past two years each ranked among the top four wettest years on record in the U.S.

For the latest data and insights, visit NGF’s special webpage dedicated to continuing research on the effects of the coronavirus on golf:

 About the National Golf Foundation

The National Golf Foundation is a community of individuals and golf businesses committed to being the most well-informed advocates for the growth of the industry. With the world’s largest research team dedicated to golf, NGF provides members with the most accurate and objective insights on the game, while helping golf companies and organizations better understand their market and grow their businesses. The NGF is the only association for everyone in golf, advocating for growth by educating and connecting its members.

Erik Matuszewski
National Golf Foundation
Editorial Director
(609) 577-0652