Golf Industry Momentum
As golf has enjoyed a nationwide resurgence in play and purchases amid the pandemic, NGF researchers have chronicled the increases in rounds and equipment sales.
But beyond golf courses and golf clubs, other consumer-focused sectors of the golf business have had similar success. We reached out to a handful of industry executives, from instruction and technology to apparel and accessories, to get perspective on what their businesses have experienced in 2020.
CEO Joe Assell
Since reopening our locations in mid-June, we’ve seen a huge surge in activity—setting all-time records for both lessons and club fittings. In July we set a company record for club fittings with over 5,000 given—a 62% increase vs last July. In September, we gave over 100,000 lessons—a 31% increase over last September and another all-time record for that month. Overall, since mid-June we’ve seen a 15% increase in our lesson activity and a 65% increase for club fittings. With the increased amount of golf being played and new people coming to the game, we definitely expect to see a surge in golfers looking to improve and take lessons. In many cases it’s already happening. As with many other things within the golf industry, we see that rounds played is a great leading indicator for what will happen with golf lesson demand. In the past couple months, we’ve set new records for the number of golfers who have come to GOLFTEC looking to get better or be fit for new clubs—we’re optimistic that the trend will continue.
Sun Mountain Sports
President Ed Kowachek
When I think back to March and April of this year, I would never have thought our business could have recovered to the degree it has due to the negative impacts the coronavirus was placing on the world. Thank goodness for the resiliency of golf through this troubled time. Whereas Sun Mountain’s golf bag and push cart sales were down roughly 24% and 5% respectively through May, as compared to 2019, the same two product categories were up 11% and 116% respectively through October as compared to 2019. As promising, current demand, for delivery from today into the Spring, for our golf bags are up 54%, push carts up 450% and outerwear up 119%.
Founder David Hunter
In the past 12 months, we’ve been trying to move over to the U.S. and it’s been so well-received by retailers and golfers, so we just want to take advantage of the opportunity and catch on. We had about 30,000 V2 users and in the last three to four months, that’s doubled with the V3 coming aboard. The scale has really accelerated. We sold out of the V3 at retailers in the UK and Europe. While we’re in 105 different countries, we were established in the UK, so 75% of rounds and users are in the UK, with probably about 20% in the U.S. and 5% elsewhere. But we didn’t really push the v2 in the USA; the v3 is the one we want to go from being known in the UK to being known in the USA. We’re now in PGA Tour Superstore, DICK’s Sporting Goods, Golf Galaxy and in talks with other retailers. Golfballs.com has taken it on. Our goal before the start of the season (in 2021) is to have 100,000 users on the system and then scale from there. The level of growth is going exponentially at the moment. We can’t build them fast enough, which is a nice problem to have. There is no better game that golf to use the data and stats to try to figure out your strengths and weaknesses, and then take it to the range and try to improve.
Sun Mountain Sports
President Ed Kowachek
When I think back to March and April of (2020), I would never have thought our business could have recovered to the degree it has due to the negative impacts the coronavirus was placing on the world. Thank goodness for the resiliency of golf through this troubled time. Whereas Sun Mountain’s golf bag and push cart sales were down roughly 24% and 5% respectively through May, as compared to 2019, the same two product categories were up 11% and 116% respectively through October as compared to 2019. As promising, current demand, for delivery from today into the Spring, for our golf bags are up 54%, push carts up 450% and outerwear up 119%.
President Jeff Lienhart
It’s amazing to see the growth the sport has experienced – even in the face of a global pandemic. The fact that people can play safely, get outdoors, social distance, etc. is certainly positive. Although retail has experienced an uphill battle this year, we’ve seen tremendous demand in our online channels. With this heightened level of interest in the game, our focus on being the most progressive golf brand in the world has helped us realize market share gains in apparel and footwear around the world. It’s an affirmation that our approach to create products that are bold, versatile, and inclusive, but still packed with the best materials and technology, are being recognized and appreciated by golfers everywhere. With our progressive mindset, we’ve also continued to introduce products that create buzz within the industry, whether that’s through our COLD.RDY Hoodie that generated conversation after Tyrrell (Hatton)’s win at the BMW PGA Championship, or our limited-edition footwear products that have sold out quickly around the world. Considering all the headwinds we faced as an industry in 2020, we’re very optimistic about the road ahead for our sport.
CEO Mike Jakob
After a very challenging Q2, we saw tremendous growth in skill gaming contest participation in a number of our markets through Q3 – particularly in the upper Midwest (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan and Indiana). In these states, we saw year on year increases of 20% to 50% for same store sales and overall market growth of 50% to 300% by state. Most of our courses in these markets are daily fee courses that cater to local golfers and are not dependent on travel or package play. We’ve seen mixed results in our winter markets. Florida, Arizona and Nevada have been flat to slightly up (10% to 20%) while South Carolina has been down. Our courses in South Carolina are primarily resort courses and we’ve seen significant drops (20% to 50%) in the number of package play golfers on the tee sheets each day. The winter markets that primarily depend on tourism seem to be faring the worst while those regions with a strong base of full season residents (e.g., Arizona and Florida) are holding their own.
CEO Bryan Finnerty
In many ways, 2020 has served as a tipping point for the utilization of technologies that enable people to be productive from home or anywhere. The V1 Golf and V1 Pro apps are helping tighten the student/coach bond and giving golfers the satisfaction of improving on an accelerated pace. We’ve been seeing digital golf lesson spikes since June. September 2020’s activity on the V1 Pro and V1 Golf platforms marks the most lessons delivered in the month of September in the last five years and a 55% increase over 2019’s digital lesson total. We tallied a grand total of 44,520 digital lessons delivered by all of its affiliated golf academies using the V1 Pro platform for digital lessons. Heading into the winter months when remote digital lessons usually spike organically due to golfers in cold-weather locales gravitating to indoor modes of practice, we’re optimistic growth trends will continue. The other factor is the increasing number of pros we’re talking to who’ve been able to grow their business and bases of students through COVID times using our mobile lesson platform. It’s completely transformed the way they manage their lesson calendars.
Global Director of Sales & Marketing Brandon Sowell
Historically golf has seen its ebbs and flows of must-have hot products, but right now the entire golf industry is on fire across all categories. We have seen that strength in our retail channel with year over year sell-through growth of 50%. In addition to keeping up with our retail demand we are working equally hard to deliver product to our OEM partners to support their equipment sell through surges, as well as their 2021 new product builds. The year ended in a dramatically different position than we thought it might six months ago, and with the 2020 season occurring predominantly in the second half of the year (and moving into the first half of 2021) the industry is looking at back to back windows of a six-month peak season that will result in massive sales results over a rolling 12-month period. Transitioning into (2021), retail inventories are below what is considered ideal across all categories, and managing the industry’s new normal from this spike will be critical to ensure we don’t collectively overcorrect and create a new problem.
Image courtesy of Troon Golf, Silverado Resort and Spa)
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