Report Indicates Rounds Played May be Close to Peaking

Picture by Chris Keane/USGA.

Kissimmee, Florida, United States: Golf Datatech has unveiled the 2021 Mid-Year US Golf Retail Performance & Rounds Played Report, analysing retail sales of golf equipment, golf apparel, and rounds played over the first six months of 2021.

Due to the impacts of the pandemic on normal economic activity, making comparisons to 2020 doesn’t tell the whole story, so Golf Datatech’s analysis also compares the performance of the first six months of 2021 with the same period in 2019, which was the last ‘normal’ year prior to the worldwide impacts of Covid-19.

Highlighting the report, Golf Datatech analysis indicates rounds played through June 2021 were up nearly 23% versus 2020 and high single digits versus 2019. 

During the same timeframe, golf equipment sales (balls, clubs, shoes, bags, gloves, distance devices) were up 78% compared to 2020 and 41% versus 2019, while golf apparel is rebounding after a challenging 2020, up 68% versus 2020 and 10% versus 2019, reversing the negative trend it followed during the depths Covid-19.

“The question everyone was asking coming into 2021 was whether golf could continue to sustain its upward trajectory as the US economy heated up and golfers had access to alternative activities,” said John Krzynowek, Partner at Golf Datatech.

He added: “However, through the first six months of 2021 the results are very encouraging, as all segments of the golf economy continue to prosper, even in the face of supply issues, particularly for products made abroad. While manufacturers of golf balls, clubs, shoes, bags, have all struggled to meet demand and replenish drained product pipelines, much of the industry still remains in a hand-to-mouth struggle to ship product in a timely manner.

“Golf equipment sales had never reached US$400 million in any single month prior to April of 2021, when retail sell-through totalled over US$425 million, and now in June we’ve had the third consecutive month with sales above US$400 million, so significant momentum continues in the equipment sector.”

In regard to apparel, Covid-19 was particularly hard on golf clothing manufacturers in 2020, as many Green Grass golf shops closed for extended periods of time, and once opened to the public they urged golfers not to linger, while dressing rooms were frequently closed, return policies were tightened (or not allowed at all), and people were encouraged not to touch/feel the merchandise.

Additionally, many large resorts lost significant traffic from European and Asian visitors, and these customers would typically spend significantly on apparel.

As a result, coming off that difficult period, the bounce back in golf apparel sales through the first six months of the year has been particularly welcome news to battered apparel brands.

After being mired in a negative position, the golf apparel category finally turned the corner during the first half of 2021, and the US$552 million first half is the largest since Golf Datatech started tracking golf apparel sales, beating the previous high of US$536 million from 2015.

Krzynowek added: “Combining equipment and apparel sales through the on and off-course channels, total consumer demand in dollars for golf products were 66% higher than last year for the first six months of 2021 and compared to 2019 sales are up 23%. At some point consumer demand for new products will have to slow down. However, thus far it has held up very well to the pressures of the pandemic.”

2021 Mid-Year Rounds Played Analysis

In 1998, Golf Datatech undertook the task of creating the golf industry’s first monthly projections of rounds played by state and region around the country. The company’s objective from day one was to provide accurate estimates of the health of golf by tracking rounds, which are the engine that drives almost every other aspect of the business.

The company also receives support from the National Golf Foundation (delivering course data) and WeatherTrends (weather data) in an effort to provide the industry with granular detail at the market level.

According to data compiled directly from golf course owners and operators, rounds of golf played through the first six months of 2021, at public, private and resort courses nationwide, were up 23%, and compared to 2019 they remain up in the high single digits.   

However, June 2021 data showed a very small improvement (+0.4%) in rounds versus the same month last year, suggesting the tsunami in rounds might finally be slowing, and comparisons to 2020 will become increasingly hard to beat. 

Tee time capacity at golf courses has not increased significantly, if at all, from a year ago, and 2020 was a summer of excellent weather with minimal precipitation and relatively mild temperatures across much of the nation.

“It will prove difficult for rounds to stay on pace with last year over the last six months of the year, but if we can stay within a few percentage points of the 2020 levels it would be a big win for the industry,” said Krzynowek.

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