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A Record for U.S. Rounds?

(🔉 Click to listen to the audio version)

Throughout the peak season in 2023 and beyond, the number of rounds of golf played nationwide trended slightly ahead of last year’s pace. They also kept pace with 2021’s record levels… at least until the final month of the year.

With a last hurrah in December – which incidentally was the warmest ever in the U.S. – 2023 play levels finished in uncharted territory, eclipsing the previous high from two years earlier by just three-tenths of a percent. In total, more than 531 million rounds were played at U.S. courses last year.

There are a few key drivers beyond the broad pandemic-catalyzed surge in golf demand that continues to exhibit staying power:

  • On-course participation experienced the largest year-over-year net increase since 2001 (+1M vs 2022)
  • More weekday rounds made possible by greater work flexibility, with more people having control over when/where they work
  • Favorable golf weather, generally speaking, as 2023 was the fourth-warmest year on record

To the last point, weather has typically presented the biggest variable when it comes to on-course play, as precipitation and seasonality greatly impact the number of playable days in an outdoor sport like golf. When it comes to rounds, the usual weather-related fluctuation ranges between plus or minus 3% year to year.

The pandemic era has seen somewhat of a “perfect storm,” with increased engagement and far more favorable golf weather than in 2018 and 2019, which were two of the wettest years on record. Three times in the past four years annual play levels increased by more than 3%.

Over 500 million rounds have been played each of the past four years, just the second time in history that’s happened.

In 2023, 32 states had near average or below average statewide precipitation totals and 35 had a top-10 warmest year in the 129 years of tracking by the NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. Among the latter, 30 states were in the population-dense – and golf-rich – eastern half of the country, with a number of Frostbelt states in the Northeast and Midwest getting to play a longer golf season.

For more on 2023 play, members can click here to access NGF’s annual rounds played overview. This short summary report relies on the monthly rounds reports produced by Golf Datatech, to which we contribute facility-level data.

A sincere thank you to those operators who continue to confidentially share their monthly rounds, from the busy resort courses and municipal facilities to the intentionally low-volume private clubs. This comprehensive look is a terrific help in our ongoing efforts to track one of the industry’s most vital health metrics in aggregate and enables you to compare your monthly performance relative to play in your region, state or major metro area.

 

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If you’re a course owner/operator who needs to enter January 2023 rounds or have never contributed your rounds numbers, we strongly encourage you to take 30 seconds to do so. Visit roundsplayed.com, type in your golf course name and simply plug in the latest numbers requested.

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National Golf Foundation
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