Like most American industries, golf is taking a direct hit as the coronavirus cascades across the country. According to the latest data from Golf Now, nearly 40% of public and private layouts in its 5,350-course database are currently closed to golfers, either from orders to close as nonessential businesses or through the owner's own discretion. The virus continues to spread, as over the weekend the U.S. cracked 304,000 total reported cases, with more than 27,000 cases reported in the preceding 24 hours. Obviously, those are grim numbers. Many golf courses will no doubt struggle to withstand the sudden loss of revenue, and it’s inevitable that some may not return after the virus is finally controlled.
But a deeper look at the data reveals that not everything is doom and gloom across the U.S. golf industry – at least, not yet. Thanks to a mild winter, many markets still report dramatic increases in total rounds played year-over-year, despite suspensions and social-distancing measures. Some of those markets have been slow to adopt the stay-at-home orders that, as of Sunday evening, were active in 42 states. But others have simply benefitted from balmier-than-average weather with less rain and snow.
Based on data through Sunday, April 5, Golf Now’s nine courses in Utah report that total rounds played are up 282% year-over-year. Nebraska's 18 courses are up 156%. Pittsburgh has also more than doubled so far this year, up 137%.
New York City has tragically become the epicenter of the virus outbreak, but statewide courses are open, and the 100 facilities tracked by Golf Now report a 101% increase in total rounds YOY.
The data is also broken down into weekly rounds, and the hottest golf markets Golf Now charted last week were Utah (+604%), Oregon (+192%) and Pittsburgh (+71%).
The data doesn’t capture every course in the country, but it’s a useful snapshot. Here’s a look at Golf Now’s biggest market risers and fallers so far in 2020:
Year-to-date risers (number of courses reporting):
Utah (9) +282%
Nebraska (18) +156%
Pittsburgh (15) +137%
New York (100) +101%
Oklahoma (31) +80%
Kansas City (43) +65%
Wisconsin (7) -64%
Minnesota (7) -47%
Central Illinois (14) -33%
Washington (30) -32%
Myrtle Beach (20) -28%
Chicago (120) -25%
Courses in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and Washington are among those suspended as non-essential business during the outbreak. Myrtle Beach courses are currently open, but only to local residents.
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