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Golf Participation Update — Bigger, Younger and Cooler

(🔉 Click to listen to the audio version)

NGF’s research on golf participation primarily focuses on the green-grass game, but we’ve also been vocal advocates and very interested observers, measurers and reporters on golf engagement away from the course.

To better understand golf’s consumer base, we look at three different participant groups: on-course only (12.1 million in 2023), off-course only (18.5 million), and those who engage on both fronts (14.5 million).

The number of on-course golfers has now increased for six straight years, but also notable is that the demographic makeup of the base is changing — albeit gradually in a sport with over 26 million Americans who play recreationally.

The demographics of off-course only participants have looked more similar to the mix of the U.S. population overall, exhibiting a younger and more diverse representation (age, gender, race and ethnicity) than the on-course population.

 

Golf has enjoyed a renaissance since the pandemic and that’s resulted in more positive perceptions of the game, particularly among younger age cohorts. Off-course engagement and social media have played key roles in golf’s popularity and cool factor, as celebrities, athletes, and content creators with sizeable followings are boosting golf’s positive visibility, especially among non-golfers.

With 45 million Americans participating in golf, and roughly 40% of our national population playing, reading and watching golf, there has been a noticeable impact on the demographics of green grass golfers.

The following table reveals the slow but significant shifts within the on-course participation pool in just the past five years.

 

Over this time, some of the biggest rises in on-course players have come in categories traditionally under-represented: females and people of color. The number of women and girls playing golf on a course has risen 23% since 2018, while the number of Asian, Black, and Hispanic golfers has jumped 43%, outpacing the changes in a U.S. population that’s becoming more racially and ethnically diverse. Meanwhile, there’s been a 40% increase in the number of juniors getting out on the golf course.  Golf is getting younger and cooler… what an amazing time to be involved in this game.

NGF members can find the latest golfer research in the 2024 Participation Report, which features the latest year-end 2023 data on various segments and age groups, along with information on off-course only participants and interest in the game among non-golfers. This new member report is available HERE, with the annual Golf Facilities in the U.S. report to follow soon. Stay tuned.

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National Golf Foundation
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