What happens when the old golf normal returns?
Updated: Mar 17
What happens when the old golf normal returns to replace the new normal? Will golf still be in as healthy a state as it seems to be right now once this Covid-19 nightmare ends?
I have my doubts.
The silver lining of this mess we’re in seems to be golf has enjoyed a surge in popularity. All the metrics point to a boon for the game once we emerge from his coronavirus calamity. It’s not just anecdotal evidence either, as the current World Golf Report 2021 from Golf Datatech, LLC, and Yano Research Institute Ltd reveals:
“Despite the worldwide pandemic, golf participation and sales are higher, with 2020 global sales of equipment and apparel up 3%, at $13.93 billion,” said John Krzynowek, Partner, Golf Datatech, LLC. “Consumer demand for golf equipment was higher in the majority of countries around the globe."
There were fears 12 months ago golf clubs would suffer as a result of lockdown. That was certainly true in the first half of last year. However, as Krzynowek notes, golfers more than made up for lost time when they were set free from being forced to hit backyard chip shots and watch endless reruns of old tournaments or golf tips on YouTube.
“It was a long, hard, painful first half of 2020, but the game, and the business of golf, quickly gained momentum during the late spring/early summer months,” Krzynowek said. “Golf courses were soon full and rounds played soared, including an influx of newcomers to the game, while many others who used to play decided to come back again. As a result, sales of golf equipment exploded, and even those countries that were severely impacted by the early 2020 shutdown enjoyed record months during the summer and continue to trend positively.”
So far so good. Those positive findings are likely to continue in the immediate aftermath of this pandemic’s conclusion and we return to normal. Then what?
You have to surmise golf has increased in popularity during the pandemic for several reasons: it’s a relatively easy and safe sport to play and maintain social distancing; with attendance at other sporting events such as rugby and football not allowed, those who might invest in either a season ticket or occasional matches have probably used that money to get back to golf; same goes for those who might have invested in gym memberships; those working from home have perhaps realised time saved from the daily commute can be allocated to a round of golf, while those on furlough have more spare time to play.
From speaking to some in the industry, the worry is that once we get back to normal, assuming we ever do, then those increased participation numbers might start sliding back to pre-pandemic levels. I share those fears.
Let’s hope the increased participation trend continues. Oh, and that golf course operators don’t kill the goose that laid the golden egg and try to take advantage by jacking up green fees and membership costs. That would only drive away those newcomers and returnees.
If the game even retains 5-10% of the newcomers and increased rounds, then we will have emerged from this pandemic on a positive note. And there won’t be many industries that can say that.
#JustSaying: “Ye’ll come away from the links with a new hold on life, that is certain if ye play the game with all your heart.” Shivas Irons, Golf in the Kingdom