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How Golf Grew to an $84.1 Billion Industry

For the past five years, many in the industry have touted golf as an “almost $70 billion business.”

The latest numbers are even more robust, with golf directly driving $84.1 billion in economic activity across the U.S. in 2016, according to a study commissioned by the World Golf Foundation. The findings reflect a 22% increase from $68.8 billion in 2011, the last time the U.S. Golf Economy Report was conducted by TEConomy Partners.

Golf is big business indeed.

The latest Golf Economy Report was released at National Golf Day in Washington.



The WGF and WE ARE GOLF, a coalition of the game’s leading associations and industry partners, recently released the latest economic report ahead of National Golf Day in Washington D.C., when golf industry leaders participated in 230 meetings with members of Congress, the Executive Branch and federal agencies to discuss the more than 15,000 businesses involved with the game.

The golf industry supported $191.9 billion in total annual activity in 2016, including 1.89 million jobs and $58.7 billion in wages and benefits.

The U.S. Golf Economy Report is the fourth of its kind released since 2000 and measures golf impact as gauged through golf course operations, tourism real estate, supplies, tournaments, associations, charitable events, capital investments and other commercial segments.

The biggest economic driver for golf in 2016 was facility operations, as approximately 15,000 golf facilities in the U.S. generated almost $33.3 billion in operating revenue — money that comes from greens fees, membership and range fees, golf cart rentals, spending on food and beverage, and off-course facilities such as Topgolf.  Operational revenue was up almost 12% from $29.8 billion in 2011, a noteworthy turnaround after the financial crisis that ended in 2010.

Tourism was the golf industry’s second-biggest contributor, generating about $25.8 billion in spending. Up from $20.6 billion in 2011, the increase is driven by greater spending per trip and growth in total trips taken, and represents a 4.6% compound annual growth rate (CAGR).

World Golf Foundation CEO Steve Mona (right) with Jay Karen, CEO of the National Golf Course Owners Association.



New golf home construction, which closely tracks national trends, climbed to $7.2 billion in 2016 after dropping to $3.1 billion seven years ago – an annual 18.5% CAGR.

On-course and off-course sales of golf equipment, apparel and media were $6 billion in 2016, with the strongest sales growth in the equipment category.

Spending on professional tournaments, associations and player endorsements grew to about $2.4 billion while charitable fundraising brought in roughly $3.94 billion.

While new golf course construction was $210 million in 2016, existing facilities invested $1.9 billion in existing courses, bringing total capital investment to $2.16 billion, up from $2.07 billion in 2011.


Erik Matuszewski
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