Survey: 48% of U.S. golf courses are open as springtime's arrival offsets COVID-related suspensions

US Golf Map, April 17, 2020
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The survey also suggests that the industry could rebound quickly as golfers appear eager to play again

In its weekly poll on the state of golf during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the National Golf Foundation (NGF) announced today that 48% of all golf courses in the U.S. remained open for play as of April 12. The new poll numbers reflect an increase of 4% from the previous week’s survey ending April 5.

The NGF findings are based on phone surveys of 1,753 golf facilities conducted April 7 – 10. The poll saw significant regional differences. While the South saw an increase in closures, more than 80% of the region’s courses remain open for play, especially in golf-rich Sun Belt states including Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. The poll revealed more layouts are opening in the northern part of the U.S as warmer “golf weather” becomes more prevalent, which more than offset the number of COVID-related suspensions.

As of April 16, 45 states have instituted some form of “Stay-at-Home” order in place for residents (as seen in the map below from Golf Advisor), but confusion and controversy have come to light on whether the game is considered a “non-essential” recreation activity. Numerous local and state governments have received petitions from golfers seeking to keep golf courses open with social distancing guidelines maintained.

The NGF additionally announced new golf consumer data examining how golfers anticipate spending habits to change in several discretionary categories in the second half of 2020. The findings focused on attitudes, behaviors and anticipated behavioral changes of "core" golf consumers – those playing eight or more rounds in the past 12 months who also account for more than 90% of annual total golf spend.

The NGF reports seeing clear indicators that golf consumers – although more financially secure on average than the broader U.S. population – aren’t immune to the current or potential financial impacts of the coronavirus. They reveal the outbreak has created anxiety and led some to postpone or even abandon planned purchases and other spending (golf or otherwise).

However, the NGF is also seeing indicators that the "itch" to play golf is intensifying despite financial and personal anxieties. The data predicts that golf spend in the second half of 2020, at least in comparison to other meaningful purchase categories, is not expected to be scaled back to the level of other “typical” spending. Perhaps most notably, the indicators suggest golf might end up faring better than other industries.

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About the Author
David Wood is an author, world traveler and former stand-up comedian with several David Letterman Show appearances under his belt. A few years back, he took a one-year sabbatical to travel to exotic golf locales around the globe. He turned the adventure into the critically acclaimed book Around the World in 80 Rounds.” His new golf video blog “Have Clubs Will Travel” is featured on The Morning Read. He resides in New York City.