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New Normal or Old Normal?

The question continues to be asked whether the current higher levels of demand, seemingly for all things golf, can be sustained. If you believe in history repeating itself, the answer is “Yes.”

To put today’s market demand in context, we looked at per capita1 wholesale sales of golf equipment over the past 20 years. While wholesale sales are not equivalent to point-in-time retail sales, both measures fairly reflect what’s being bought in the market over longer periods.

What Figure 1 may suggest is more of a long-awaited return to where things were before the global financial crisis of 2007–2008, as opposed to the setting of a ‘new’ normal. An examination of golf ball data points to the same finding. This, despite a very real attenuation of current sales due to supply chain and logistics issues.

How about supply? Here we looked at the number of golfers per 18-hole equivalent (18HEQ)2.

Figure 2 shows that the number of golfers per 18 holes appears to be returning to a balance that existed 20 years ago, when golf courses were more economically successful, as a whole, than they’d been over the past decade or so.

What does today’s environment have in common with that of 20 years ago? Quite a lot, actually. A reasonably healthy economy, for one thing, along with high consumer confidence. And household net worth among golf’s customer base is also higher than ever, just as it was back then — this being driven by a decade-long bull market for stocks and new peaks in home values.

And there’s one other very important consideration: a decidedly positive media narrative about golf in non-endemic publications, such as Esquire, Adweek and the Wall Street Journal. It was only a short time ago that headlines blared golf was doomed. Today, pundits are raving about golf’s renaissance like they haven’t since Tiger’s heyday. We’ve assembled some of the more notable positive stories about golf, which you can read here.

For many reasons, golf has undoubtedly benefited during the pandemic. But it’s not just the pandemic that has driven demand. Let’s hope these fair winds continue to blow.

Units per thousand golfers.
Total golf holes divided by 18

For more on golf’s changing narrative, click here

Joseph Beditz
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