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March 2020 National Rounds Played Report

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The coronavirus had its first significant golf facility impact in March 2020, with 15 states experiencing statewide course shutdowns or widespread restrictions on play by the final week of the month.

National rounds played were down only 8.5% in March compared to a year ago, however, as decreases in the South Atlantic and Pacific regions were somewhat offset by warmer weather and increased play across much of the Northeast and Midwest early in the month. The promising early spring in parts of the country typically still “out of season” was then derailed by the virus outbreak, with Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin among the states requiring golf courses to suspend operations.

Even with the nationwide decline for March, rounds-played for 2020 were still up 3.8% year-over-year heading into April. It is April, however, that will likely be the major question mark as golf operations in many supply-rich markets were halted by state or local orders for a good portion of the month.

In assessing March’s decline, the biggest driver was California, which was the first state to impose some kind of stay-at-home order for residents on March 19. Rounds-played were down almost 40% in California.

On the other side of the country, rounds were down 7% in the South Atlantic region even though there weren’t any statewide shutdowns in year-round golf states such as Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.

Those notable declines in regions with typically heavy play in March more than offset the increases in regions like the West North Central (+37.5%) and New England (+33.4%), which had a far more limited volume of rounds played due to seasonal factors. The Mid-Atlantic (+13.8% in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania) and the East North Central (+11.1% in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin) also had very strong trajectories for the month before the virus interrupted play in many areas.

Looking at the impact on the year-end numbers, however, it will likely be April that really tells the tale.


NOTE: For the foreseeable future, Golf Datatech will not report data for specific metropolitan areas, as the database of reporting courses makes some markets statistically unstable.  

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