As the embers of COVID slowly begin to burn out in the UK and across Europe, it becomes time to evaluate the impact of COVID-19 on the golf industry. Other sports have been badly hit by both COVID-19 and the measures implemented to combat it. However, its effects on golf have been very different.
Impact of COVID-19 on the golf industry – General Impact
While golf courses did have to close in the UK as part of the initial wave of lockdowns, after courses started to reopen a boom began. This effect was seen both here and around the world. We can start with the core golfing demographic. In the United States, surveys done by the National Golf Federation show that 70% of core, non-retired golfers were able to spend more time golfing because working from home made their time more flexible.
However, looking purely at an increase in greens fees and rounds played might obscure what is actually happening. That could be marked down to purely golfers playing more rounds to make up for the lockdown. However, we also saw increases in equipment sales and membership. These both clearly indicate a spike in new players. Golf has in the past struggled to recruit fresh blood, but the lack of alternatives as other sports have shut down may have driven active people to use golf as a substitute. Golf was able to keep operating even when other sports were not. It was also safer even when other sports had opened back up.
Impact of COVID-19 on the golf industry – Youthquake
Critically for a sport that’s largely seen as a pastime of the elderly, the COVID-boom brought with it a surge in youth interest in golf. One golf club in Scotland reported that two-thirds of new members in 2021 were under-29. Golf has a fairly high barrier to entry for a sport. But COVID has acted like a Trojan horse. Giving youth an incentive to experience the sport for themselves has broken the ice for many. This does suggest that in the future clubs could benefit from youth drives to try and get the next generation on the green. Clubs need to have more confidence in the appeal of their sport, since it clearly exists.
But this massive opportunity could be in danger of being squandered. Golf clubs must act swiftly to improve their member retention. Otherwise, this burst in players may prove to be a mere fad. Rather than a sea change, the COVID-boom will simply be a herd of fattened cows to be followed by lean cattle. But at Mango Golf, we have decades of hands-on industry experience. If you’re interested in making sure your golf club benefits as much as possible from the spike in membership, you can book a free 30-minute consultation at this link.