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The Emergency Nine

Twilight tee times and the discounted green fees that go along are evidently in high demand. We’ve been hearing from operators that afternoon slots are selling like hotcakes. Seems many work-from-home golfers have shifted their hours to begin earlier in the morning (we hope) so that they can tee off later in the afternoon. I wonder if Zoom traffic data supports this hypothesis?

Sorting through our monthly golf participation and engagement research we spotted a couple of interesting emerging trends. First, more golfers are playing alone. Last year 31 percent of core golfers indicated they had hit the course solo at least once. This year, that proportion is up to 43 percent. Appears golf is fulfilling some other needs right now (mental respite vs. social interaction).

Second, there’s been a significant increase in nine-hole play. The number of short loops (as a percentage of total loops) is up over 15 percent in 2020. This will be seen as good news by many, especially the USGA given their PLAY9 initiative, and would indicate that the “time barrier” to golf is being overcome by more golfers. The pie will grow if more people see nine holes as an option.

Two weeks ago, we talked about the increase in beginners and youth golfers, so clearly the late-day tee times aren’t just for the work-at-home crowd. Those nine-hole twilight rounds are an opportunity for families to get to the course after an early dinner, or for newbies to get comfortable during off-peak times.

Did you know?

Up until 1974, there were more nine-hole golf facilities in the U.S. than those with 18 or more holes — which the chart below illustrates. We had to look this up for a golf writer recently and even we were surprised that this was the case. Like many of you, perhaps, we thought that 18 holes had always been the preferred layout. But that wasn’t always the case, and many of today’s 18-hole courses were built in two stages … nine holes at a time.

Today, there are 3,777 nine-hole golf facilities in the U.S. that account for about 26% of the total supply. Only seven states have more 9-hole golf facilities than 18+. Can you guess which ones? Click here to see the answers.

For everyone who has Bandon Dunes on their bucket list, enjoy the broadcast of the U.S. Amateur from there over the next few evenings. I know I will.

P.S. – Lastly, for our friends in facility operations, we need your help to bolster the complimentary Monthly Rounds Played Report we assist Golf Datatech with. It’s anonymous (all data is aggregated) and it takes less than a minute to share the total rounds played in July at your facility. Leaders in golf, like yourself, rely on this report to help stay informed about the trajectory and health of our game. Please click here to share… and a sincere thanks in advance.     

I’ll be back in a fortnight.

Joseph Beditz
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