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Golf’s Biggest Participation Jump

(🔉 Click to listen to audio version)

As participation levels have increased the past several years, the overall golfer base has gotten more diverse.

Some of the most notable U.S. participation gains have been among females and people of color.

But the biggest participation increases over the past three years – since the start of the pandemic – have come in the junior ranks.


The net gain of almost 1 million juniors (ages 6-17) is the most significant of any on-course participation segment. At just over 3.4 million in total, the youth golfer pool is now at its highest level since 2006, just prior to the Great Recession.

Juniors account for about 13% of the on-course golfer population. Away from the course, that representation is even greater: more than one quarter of off-course golf participants are under the age of 18. As impactful as the various junior golf organizations continue to be in the industry, when it comes to introductions – and swinging a golf club in a fun, non-intimidating environment – it’s hard to downplay the important role places like Topgolf are clearly having in spurring interest and encouraging more on-course trials among the youth ranks.

And while female on-course representation has matched an all-time high, at one-quarter of all golfers, it’s even higher in the junior ranks. More than 36% of junior participants are girls.

Also encouraging for the game’s future growth, the biggest cohort when it comes to latent demand is juniors. Whether it’s golf programs in schools, high energy golf entertainment venues, likeable young pros or golf being perceived as “cool” again, it’s notable that another 5 million+ kids – non-golfers – say they’re very interested in playing on a course.

NGF members can access more information on various segments here in our annual Golf Participation in the U.S. Report.

For more on one-page reports on groups from beginners to Baby Boomers, see our accompanying Spotlight story.

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