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The first returns for golf’s post-crackdown are in and looking pretty good.

The May rounds report from Golf Datatech showed play was up more than 6% nationally. While this isn’t as positive as some had hoped given reports from operators about new faces and full tee sheets, it’s moving in the right direction. Given the uptick in May play – which by the way translates to a bump of about $120 million in course revenues – the NGF’s year-end status quo forecast (which assumes the rest of the year is flat) improves from -4% to -3%, and still has a significant amount of uncertainty attached to it.

So how about June? Anecdotal reports and initial data continue to be very positive, not only regarding rounds played but also golf retail.

Mike Loustalot at Sagacity shared some new rounds data with us showing significant June and year-to-date gains in golf markets that never completely closed, like Orlando and Phoenix. On the other hand, markets that were completely shut down, like San Francisco and Palm Springs, remain behind (or even well behind) in their year-over-year positions.

Changing clubs … I mean gears … equipment sales are definitely rebounding. Over the past week we’ve spoken to OEMs and retailers, and all are reporting record or near-record June sales. As hoped, Father’s Day was strong, and then the surge in sales continued through the end of the month. That said, this business segment will need more than one good month to make up for lost spring sales.

But there’s another positive indicator … Google data shows that searches including the terms ‘golf balls’ and ‘golf clubs’ are both about 20% more popular right now versus their previous 5-year high marks.  

To an extent, this could reflect a shift – whether fleeting or lasting – towards buying online (given recent store closures and/or golfers not wanting to visit physical retail), but based on the intel from manufacturers and retailers we suspect that this lift in search popularity is largely a sign of increased purchase interest and behavior. All in all, it feels like golf has some momentum, from participation to rounds played to equipment purchasing, and this is saying something given what else is going on right now.

Keep your distance, stay safe, and pray for good weather. Joe

Joseph Beditz
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