- Alistair Tait
Has the Covid-19 Golf Bubble Burst?
Updated: Aug 26, 2021
Interesting story in today’s The Golf Business on a drop off in golf participation numbers following the unexpected silver lining the game was given despite Covid-19 wrecking our world.
Golf has boomed during Covid-19 or, rather, following the lockdowns Covid-19 imposed upon society. When people realised what those of us have known for so long – that golf is a sport enjoyed safely in the great outdoors where social distancing is easy to maintain – they naturally either returned to the game of took it up for the first time.
A study by BRS Golf and GolfNow looked at visitor rounds at nearly 1,900 British and Irish golf clubs over the last three years. As the graph below shows, visitors rounds soared.
With gyms closed, other pastimes off limits, team sports curtailed except at the highest levels and fans barred from attending big sporting events, it was no surprise many took to the fairways for some exercise and sporting fixes.
However, the graph also suggests golf may have seen the best of times. The trick now, as BRS Golf so rightly points out, is to hold on to those newcomers who took up the game for the first time, and those who returned to this great sport. That’s especially true for women and girls, since the game in Great Britain has been drastically, arguably shamefully, under represented in those categories for decades.
"The last two months have coincided with a relaxation of restrictions as the world starts to get back to some form of normality,” BRS Golf writes in The Golf Business. “People are returning to the office – though many are taking a more flexible approach with a mix of home and office work – furlough is ending, bars and restaurants are open, and youth and team sports have started again. Golf now has to compete with all these factors again for its share of peoples’ recreation time.
"Now is the time for all people involved in the golf industry to take a long hard look and ask the question: What can we do to ensure those currently interested in golf stay engaged?”
Good question. As I wrote in May, Covid-19 has presented our game with a dividend we need to take advantage of. Anecdotal evidence suggests there has been a rush by some to whack up prices – green fees, the price of a bucket of balls, etc – just the sort of factors that could potentially turn away all but affluent participants. That's the last thing the game needs.
The graph obviously shows just a moment in time. It certainly can’t be taken as a trend. It will become one if golf gets its act wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time.
BRS Golf is spot on when it states:
"Clubs need to be agile and adapt to retain the new customers sent their way during the pandemic.
“The golf market is changing, so offering choice and flexibility will help clubs adapt to this diverse customer base’s needs."
#JustSaying: “It is vital that golf seizes the opportunity to maintain this heightened interest by offering new and returning golfers compelling reasons to stay within the sport.” R&A Chief Development Officer Phil Anderton