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We Did It… We Will Beat Last Year’s Rounds

Last year was a banner year for rounds-played, despite virus-related spring shutdowns that affected half the nation’s courses. This year will be even better.

While ‘official’ year-end data won’t be available until late January, we can confidently say that 2021 total rounds will exceed last year’s, most likely by 4% to 5%. (See Figure 1) This amounts to somewhere between 20-25 million additional rounds nationwide. That’s a lot of green fees and golf balls.

Coming into the year, only the most optimistic among us thought we could beat 2020 rounds. After all, the golf weather was great last year, lots of golfers were working from home, and golf was ‘green-lighted’ by public health officials, making it one of the few activities that could continue during the worst of the pandemic.

So how do we explain rounds being up over last year? A few thoughts:

  1. Lots of golfers continue to have more schedule flexibility than prior to the pandemic, and so afternoon tee sheets are still being filled
  2. While the weather this year hasn’t been quite as ‘golf friendly’ as last year, it wasn’t too bad
  3. We’ve hung on to many of the new and returning golfers (public and private) from last year

But the main reason rounds are going to finish up: March and April crushed it relative to the previous year. Because half of all courses were closed during those months in 2020, and others had restrictions on play, this year’s comparable rounds were bound to be way, way higher … and they were.

Figure 2 clearly shows the big month-over-month gains we had during the first half of the year. In the second half we haven’t quite kept up. Last year’s second-half surge was unprecedented, and most people we talked to were going to be happy if the industry could retain most of those rounds. We did. Consider that while we expect to finish 4-5% better than last year, we’ll be up 18-19% over the three-year, pre-pandemic average of 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Looking ahead, let’s strive to lock in the gains we’ve enjoyed over the past two years, and at the same time realize that long-term growth, as always, depends on more golfers, not a virus or more rounds from current golfers, which is what has driven our recent growth.

Joseph Beditz
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