Equipment bouncing back, golf travel still grounded

by Joseph Beditz

August 2020

Hello again from Jupiter, FL, where the population noticeably dropped the past couple weeks as all of our resident touring professionals left for Columbus.

NGF’s OEM shipment reports for June are hot off the presses and GOOD NEWS: wholesale sales of clubs were up over 30% in dollars year-over-year while golf balls saw a bump of more than 20%. Though encouraging, there’s still a lot of ground to make up. We hopped on the phones to check-in with manufacturers and retailers to see if the June surge was carrying into July … it is. Everyone seems bullish on strong sales continuing at least through the end of this month. So, 2020 may not be the lost year for equipment sales that seemed likely while under the pall of the April shutdown.

It had been a few weeks since we last surveyed our panel of core golfers, so we decided to check in with them as well to see how things are trending. We found that while anxiety levels about Covid-19 are up again (concern about contracting the virus has reached a new high point), “golf lives” are reportedly in much better position than personal and work lives – another positive sign for golf’s recovery. An increasing number of golfers say they’ve recently purchased equipment, including 40% who bought golf balls in the past 30 days, and the number of consumers who’ve visited off-course golf retail continues to inch upward, even as anxiety levels increase. For the latest data and insights, visit our COVID-19 webpage.

While equipment sales are staging a strong comeback, the same can’t be said for golf travel. Our analysis, based on consumer-reported behaviors and plans, continues to point towards a 35% to 40% reduction in trip volume this year. Consider this: TSA airport checkpoint data is showing the number of air travelers in the U.S. is off about 75% versus last year and recent norms, having stalled a bit in the past few weeks. And most airlines are now projecting limited Q3 recovery.

Most golfers with chronic wanderlust tell us they’ll be driving to their golf destinations this year, and not necessarily close to home. Two-out-of-three say they are willing to drive more than four hours each way for a golf getaway, and those with a trip still planned for this year tell us they’ll spend an average of 6 to 7 hours in the car getting to the first tee. That’s why U.S. golf resorts and destinations continue to aggressively target the drive-in market.

The following map shows how intent to travel to various locations (among golfers living east of the Mississippi) has changed since the beginning of the year. Trips out west by “Easterners” appear to be drastically fewer, while southeast golf destinations may suffer the least, owing to the very large number of golfers living within driving distance.

We’re now halfway through July, which in 2020 would have been a great month for sports. The All-Star Game would have been played yesterday in Dodger Stadium and competitors vying for the Claret Jug would have been teeing off in The Open Championship in Sandwich tomorrow. Not to mention the Olympics – we’d have been lighting the flame in Tokyo next weekend. All things considered, we’re not in such a bad place.

 Joe

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