Simulator Golf Sees Real Surge
( Click to listen to the audio version)
Don’t look now, but it’s possible millions of people could play Pebble Beach this year.
While traditional golf participation has continued to climb in recent years, engagement has been even more pronounced away from the course – and that includes screen golf with simulated versions of bucket list destinations like Pebble Beach Golf Links.
An estimated 6.2 million Americans hit golf balls with a club in a golf simulator within the past year, a total that’s surged 73% compared to pre-pandemic levels. In 2019 and years prior, simulator participation had hovered just under 4 million.
The growth in simulator supply has been dramatic as well.
There are over 1,600 businesses with a simulator in our database, a rapidly expanding collection of commercial venues that ranges from aboutGolf to ZSTRICT, not to mention traditional green grass golf facilities that have added a simulator component. This total doesn’t include golf retailers, instruction providers (like GOLFTEC), or specialty club-fitters such as Club Champion and True Spec that have simulator bays for club testing and fittings. In 2016, we identified approximately 200 simulator businesses.
There’s no question there’s been a definitive rise in supply in recent years, with the proliferation of successful franchises such as Topgolf Swing Suite, X Golf, Five Iron Golf, and Golfzon Social, but it’s also because of a more focused effort from our database team in identifying existing locations in a growing sector.
At this point, we don’t have an estimate on the size of the home simulator space, although feedback from suppliers such as The Indoor Golf Shop, Full Swing Golf, SkyTrak, Foresight Sports, Rapsodo, Trackman and others indicates steady growth as technology improves and average costs come down. In a consumer survey of usage, one-third of golf simulator participants said they have used a private simulator within someone’s home.
So, who is the simulator customer?
We touch on that more in this Spotlight sidebar story, but the majority (53% non-golfers) don’t play traditional golf. Like other forms of off-course golf, this type of engagement speaks to opportunity.
As for the 3 million+ green grass golfers who use or have used simulators, it seems to strengthen ties to the traditional game. Only 2% of simulator golf users said they play less on an actual course compared to 29% who indicated they play more, having used simulators in large part to improve their game and inform their equipment choices.
Golf’s continued evolution includes many new forms of the game and simulated golf is a part of it.
Just look at what’s coming in a couple months with the debut of the new, primetime TGL league that will be played, in large part, on simulated courses. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy are among those leading teams of PGA Tour professionals who will be rocketing real balls into a screen almost as big as that in an IMAX theater. We can already count them in the 6.2-million participant pool.
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