Look for new golfers
The newest report from the National Golf Foundation sows continued growth in key growth areas. You are getting these golfers now probably because of the coronavirus, but what are you doing to keep them coming back after the virus is gone?
Since golf courses reached fully-operational status two months ago, one of the most common questions is whether there's been an increase in the number of juniors, beginners and returners playing?
The short answer is yes.
A deeper look into NGF's national participation data revealed evidence of a lift in all three groups during the second quarter. The number of kids ages 6-17 who teed it up on a golf course in April, May and June was up considerably versus the average number who played during the same periods in 2018 and 2019. Early indications are that the trajectory was similarly positive during July.
With approximately 2.5 million kids having teed it up on a golf course last year, that's a potential Covid-related bump of half a million junior golfers (+20% over 2019) by year's end.
If we had used the first quarter of 2020 (January, February and March) as any indication, we'd have seen no real change in the junior ranks, as the numbers were relatively normal. But in Q2, the rise was significant from a directional standpoint. It makes sense, with golf celebrated as a safe and healthy outdoor activity for all ages as the coronavirus rages on. With many youth sports on hold or slowly coming back, and families seeking activities they can do together, especially as schools were out, golf has emerged as a terrific alternative.
NGF mid-year data also suggests that these players may actually be a little bit younger than usual, with an increase in the number of girls and about the same racial/ethnic diversity (~25% non-Caucasian) that we're now accustomed to seeing among the junior set.
Looking more broadly, the number of overall beginning and returning golfers during the Q2 stretch appears equally significant – both about 20% higher than in recent years.
The question, as always, is whether golf operators will be able to convert these fresh faces into committed customers. And that will depend on the experience they have at the golf course, which can no doubt be managed in a way that enhances satisfaction, fosters loyalty and improves retention.
Bear in mind, the inflow of new golfers will be offset, to some extent, by a natural churn that occurs every year. This may end up even more pronounced in 2020 due to Covid, as some golfers will elect not to play because of financial hardship or health and safety concerns. There is early indication of a slight decline in participation among the oldest age groups – who of course are at greater risk.