• Alistair Tait

The Covid-19 silver lining


Maybe that old saying about behind every dark cloud…. is true. Even a cloud as dark as Covid-19.

Sports Marketing Survey’s report, “How Covid-19 is changing the UK Golfer,” brings a silver lining for our game at a time when it needs it most. The company polled 1,500 golfers across the UK to get a consensus on how this pandemic has changed attitudes. The findings make for interesting, and encouraging reading. For example, the report states:

“Golfers feel that the sport is extremely safe with 76% of respondents rating the safety of playing golf within social distancing guidelines as either 9 or 10 out of 10. For context, only 4% feel the same (9/10 out of 10) about team sports, 3% going to the gym and 5% dining out. Even meeting family/friends in person only saw 29% of the sample rate safety as at least 9 out of 10.”

R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers will definitely like the following finding:

“45% of core golfers will try to encourage more of their family to play golf in the future, post-Covid.”

Music to Slumbers’ ears since he’s made getting more families, especially women and girls, playing golf a central plank of his tenure as R&A head.

There is good news for golf clubs, but not so for facilities that rely heavily on visiting golfers. The survey says:

“Over a third of golfers believe they will play MORE at their golf club this year than 2019 which coincides with a similar percentage stating that they are less likely to visit other golf courses and pay a green fee.”

Club professionals have obviously had a hard time during the lockdown. That spring stock they bought at the start of the year in anticipation of members gearing up for the summer season had to stay under wraps. SMS has good news for club pros:

“There is a sense of loyalty and support among UK core golfers with over 50% anticipating buying more from their local pro than they did before lockdown.”

Mind you, there is a caveat to the above statistic. The survey finds:

“Covid-19 has hit the pockets of a considerable percentage of UK Core golfers. 31% say that they will have less disposable income to spend on golf in the future and a quarter expect to buy fewer golf products.”

Tour operators who rely on golfers taking trips to popular spots like Spain, Portugal and Turkey won’t enjoy the following reading.

Less than half of golfers believe it will be safe to travel abroad for a golf break before April 2021 compared to almost 60% who believe it will be safe to travel domestically by the end of 2020.”

That last statistic is no surprise. The thought of getting on a plane at this moment in time is not too appetising.

SMS’s findings gel with anecdotal evidence from friends in the industry. Courses have been packed since restrictions ended, with members eagerly returning to the fairways after sitting at home searching for a fix. Indeed, the survey found:

“40% are practicing golf at home more than they were before the virus.
"Over 30% of golfers are watching more golf content on YouTube as a result of the lockdown and almost a quarter have watched/followed more golf blogs/vlogs.
"Golf tuition has been the most watched form of golf content (67%) among core golfers during lockdown.”

So it’s statistically true: those who love this game just can’t get enough of it. Hopefully they’ll encourage more to take up golf so others can discover the health benefits of the greatest game ever invented.

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