The 2023 NGF GOLF 100 Revealed
As the game of golf evolves, so too does the National Golf Foundation’s Top 100 Businesses in Golf initiative.
An effort to highlight the vitality, size and diversity of an almost $100 billion-a-year industry, the NGF GOLF 100’s mission is to recognize the most successful, prominent, influential and innovative companies in the golf business. Included in this biennial compilation are companies and brands that deliver products and services primarily targeted to commercial golf and conduct all or a majority of their business within the U.S.
The range of golf businesses is wide, from broad-shouldered portfolio companies that have a host of brands under their umbrella to new-age tech companies seeking to make the traditional game more engaging and approachable among new audiences. The industry also runs the gamut in terms of goods and services. The biggest and most successful equipment manufacturers might be instantly-recognizable, thanks to hefty marketing budgets and clubs found in millions of golf bags across the country, while massive turf care companies and distributors that provide course products critical to superintendents and their teams might remain relatively unknown to the most hardcore golf fan.
The NGF GOLF 100 is a list – not a numerical ranking – and highlights businesses of fundamental importance to consumers and facilities across the commercial golf industry while sharing stories of innovation, leadership, success and growth. In some respects, it is the business equivalent of rankings that identify the top 100 golf courses in the U.S., although we’re not nitpicking between the ranking of companies like Golf Pride, GOLFTEC and Golf Genius; they’re simply all on the list.
This objective and holistic view of the golf industry is an extension of NGF’s core belief to help create smarter and more successful golf businesses through the game’s most accurate and objective research, data and insights.
The NGF GOLF 100 includes various sectors throughout the golf industry, from apparel and equipment companies to turf equipment and supply companies, course builders, management and technology companies, and more.
It’s why you’ll find Top 100 representatives that range from a portfolio company (Acushnet) of well-known brands like Titleist and Footjoy, to apparel and accessory companies (adidas and AHEAD), retail company Academy Sports, a cutting-edge tech company in Arccos, and one of the game’s fastest-growing management companies in Arcis.
So, who’s not included?
That’s one of the changes for the 2023 edition.
While professional golf tours and major associations are unquestionably big businesses in their own right – from the PGA TOUR and LPGA to PGA of America and USGA – associations and organizations are recognized separately from the GOLF 100 this time around to provide greater focus on businesses and brands that sell products or services. Similarly, business and broadcast partners of the professional tours, as well as major agencies heavily involved in events, activations, promotions, representation and management within the golf space are also recognized independently.
Newcomers to the 2023 list range from the aforementioned Academy Sports + Outdoors, one of the nation’s largest sporting goods retailers with more than 250 stores, to X-Golf, one of the biggest commercial simulator businesses in the game. Other consumer-centric additions include FlightScope, one of the game’s leading launch monitor companies; MyGolfSpy, an independent data-fovcused testing company (the Consumer Reports of Golf); and golf lifestyle company Linksoul, which has embraced grow-the-game efforts beyond its apparel brand.
Several of the game’s biggest distributors – for chemicals and course products – are new to the list, such as Harrell’s, Helena and Heritage. Agriscience companies like FMC and NuFarm are among the other newcomers, along with management companies Escalante, Hampton and a different Heritage: Heritage Golf Group.
Times have changed considerably since the NGF’s founding in 1936, when the nation was still reeling from the Great Depression and many golf-related companies were on the brink of bankruptcy.
As noted in this Fortnight story, six of the biggest ball and equipment manufacturers from the time were persuaded to kick in funds to get the NGF started: Wilson Sporting Goods, Spalding, Hillerich & Bradsby, U.S. Rubber, Worthington Ball Co. and MacGregor Golf. How many would you have guessed correctly?
Today, the NGF is still supported by myriad golf-related businesses that represent every segment of the market. These companies – and NGF member courses, clubs, associations, management groups, and media – rely on NGF research, resources and consulting to support and influence their strategic planning and decision-making. It’s why the majority of the Top 100 has NGF membership affiliation to some extent; 79% to be exact. While some companies on the list aren’t golf-specific, particularly when it comes to chemical distributors or agriscience companies, their inclusion in the NGF GOLF 100 is attributable to a sizeable and dedicated golf division.
Seven distinct weighted criteria were taken into consideration when assessing individual companies or organizations. Financial success is a key component of the selection process, with companies and organizations evaluated by annual revenue figures and overall growth rate and trajectory. Other more subjective criteria factored in include assessments on influence throughout the golf industry, innovation, prominence and leadership (both within the sport and a particular category), and contributions to the growth, exposure and vitality of the game.
The NGF GOLF 100 is targeted at the U.S. market, which is home to almost half of all the world’s golf courses. As a result, the list includes companies that are headquartered or do the majority of their business within the U.S.
The forthcoming NGF International 25 is an extension of the GOLF 100 that recognizes industry leaders based outside the U.S., such as South Korea-based GOLFZON or Canadian-based retailer Golf Town, but there is also some crossover. Companies with international headquarters such as Syngenta, Trackman, Jonas and ECCO that have a significant U.S. presence appear on both lists.
While golf fans might only see clubs, ball and apparel companies on TV, the NGF GOLF 100 is designed to celebrate the various different business segments that contribute to the operations, success and continued growth of the game played by millions.
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