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The Emergency Nine

Did you get out to play nine holes at some point in 2020? If so, you weren’t alone.

During the summer months in particular, when there were extra hours of sunlight, golf course operators reported that afternoon and evening tee times were exceptionally popular, which seems right given that Covid-19 changed the contours of the work day for many. Sorting through our golf participation and engagement research, the number of short loops (as a percentage of total loops) was up over 15% in 2020.

Core golfers report that 33% of their rounds were of the nine-hole variety, while occasional golfers told us that more than 40% of the rounds they played were nine holes. This will be seen as good news by many and would indicate that the “time barrier” to golf is being overcome by more golfers.

We’ve talked about the increase in beginners and youth golfers, so clearly the late-day tee times weren’t just for the work-at-home crowd. Those nine-hole twilight rounds on late summer days presented the perfect opportunity for families to get to the course after an early dinner, or newcomers to get more comfortable with the game.

The USGA, which has a PLAY9 initiative, said that 9-hole scores accounted for about 13% of scores posted to the new World Handicap System in 2020. In total, almost 66 million 18-hole scores were posted in the U.S. to just over 10 million 9-hole scores. This engagement is among the more committed golfer base, too, as golfers with an official USGA handicap posted an average of 38 rounds, almost double the average played by all golfers last year.

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