Is golf’s boom slipping? NGF reports number of rounds played have dipped, with weather largely to blame

·3 min read

If you’ve recently tried at the last minute to book a weekend round of golf just about anywhere in the U.S. – especially if the weather was nice – you know how packed many courses are. Golf has boomed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and wise players have learned to schedule early.

But will the boom continue?

That question has been front and center on the minds of many course operators and industry insiders, and recent numbers provided by industry tracker Golf Datatech and the National Golf Foundation haven’t been entirely definitive on the recreational game’s trajectory. There are many factors to consider, with weather likely chief among them. But based solely on the number of rounds played, the sport in the U.S. is in decline compared to the boom years of 2020 and ’21.

Golf Datatech this week reported that rounds played in April 2022 in the U.S. slipped almost 13 percent versus the same period in 2021. That follows a 14.3-percent decline in rounds played in March 2022 versus the same month in 2021. Golf Datatech reports that total rounds played in 2022 in the U.S. have dipped 9.8 percent through April versus the same four-month period in 2021.

As golfers frequently love to do, you might be able to blame the frequently crummy weather more than a drop in interest.

The NGF reports that golf industry analyst company Pellucid Corp. says bad weather has been a major factor in the decline in rounds played. Pellucid reported that so far in 2022, playable hours dropped 14 percent. Pellucid uses detailed weather data from across the U.S. to determine playable hours, and its research showed that extreme cold, rain and snow kept players off the courses in many regions more frequently than in recent years.

And because fewer total rounds are played annually in the first several months of each year because of winter, especially in northern climates, the recent dip in rounds played likely will have only a small effect on total rounds played for the year. If the weather is better this summer, the game appears to be in good shape to continue its rebound – that assessment is based on the fact that club and golf ball sales have climbed 14 percent versus the same period in 2021.

So apparently there are plenty of players who have been stuck at home waiting for the weather to clear so they can use all those new clubs and balls. Our advice: Book early.

This all comes on the heels of some of the most dramatic increases in rounds played in history. The total number of rounds played in 2020 surged 13.9 percent versus 2019 as the pandemic shut down many alternative entertainment and exercise options. Rounds played increased again in 2021, rising 5.5 percent as the popularity of golf continued.

Are those kinds of numbers sustainable? Time will tell. But in the meantime, keep an eye on the weather and your favorite online tee time booking site.

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