Report: More Americans playing golf than ever before
4 Min Read
Written by Michael LoRé
“Let’s go golfing” is more than DJ Khaled’s new favorite catchphrase.
Whether it’s traditional on-course golf or via increasingly popular and more accessible off-course opportunities such as Topgolf, more Americans are playing golf than ever before.
Roughly one in seven Americans played golf in 2022, resulting in $101.7 billion in direct economic impact, an increase of 20% from the $84.1 billion in economic impact in 2016, according to a new study released by the American Golf Industry Coalition to celebrate the 15th annual National Golf Day on May 9.
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“The new economic impact study is proof that golf – the sport and the industry – is thriving,” said Greg McLaughlin, CEO of World Golf Foundation. “It is truly contributing more to the U.S. economy than ever before and continues to grow and evolve, welcoming more people to the sport each day.
“Recent research highlights the game’s role in helping people to escape everyday stress, and many are playing it to recharge their mental battery. There are many benefits – economic, charitable and human – that our industry provides in communities.”
As a safe and socially distant activity during the height of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, golf became the go-to sport and outdoor respite for millions, giving the game and industry a boost it hadn’t seen since a young man named Eldrick “Tiger” Woods burst onto the PGA TOUR in 1996.
According to the latest economic impact report conducted by the National Golf Foundation, golf’s overall participation base in the U.S. is 41.1 million, up from 32 million in 2016.
While the pandemic reignited Americans’ passion for golf, a confluence of other factors has continued to keep the flame roaring since.
The popularity of off-course golf-entertainment venues such as Topgolf, Drive Shack, and Popstroke have made the game more accessible and appealing, especially to younger, diverse demographics. Last year, almost half (48%) of all golf participants (on- and off-course) were between the ages of 6 and 34, out-sizing their share of the United States’ 6-plus billion population (41%), per the new study.
At the professional level, the PGA TOUR continues to evolve, whether it is through its new schedule highlighted by a series of high-stakes designated events with the game’s best players competing for larger purses, or by embracing technology and sports betting.
Pulling back the curtain for more behind-the-scenes content such as Netflix’s “Full Swing” and TOUR broadcast partners introducing new features including on-course interviews from CBS, new camera angles such as NBC’s BagCam, and AR/VR make the world’s best players more accessible and relatable to viewers and patrons.
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Organizations such as the APGA Tour, Underrated Golf Tour, and First Tee are providing more opportunities for young men and women to continue on the pathway to the game’s highest levels.
“The reality is we’re seeing a rapid evolution of a centuries-old game, with changes that were happening well before the pandemic-driven surges in participation and play,” said National Golf Foundation CEO Joe Beditz. “These changes are shaping the future of golf in a lot of positive ways. Golf’s participant base isn’t only increasing, it’s getting more diverse – younger, more females, more people of color. More like the U.S. population overall.
“In 2021, we saw more rounds of golf played in the U.S. than any year in history. And last year wasn’t far off that record total.”
Not only is golf driving its largest economic impact ever, but the game also continues to prove to be a tremendous vehicle for fundraising.
In 2022, the total amount of money raised for charitable causes was approximately $4.6 billion, a 16% increase compared to the $3.9 billion raised in 2016. More than 90% of last year’s giving was driven by events on local courses, with four out of five facilities holding at least one charitable golf tournament or outing in 2022.
Along with providing valuable physical, mental, and emotional benefits for participants coupled with providing green spaces to benefit the planet, golf isn’t just more popular than ever, but it’s arguably more important than ever.
The onus falls on organizations, policymakers, corporate partners, and quite frankly, everyone involved in the golf industry to continue to make the sport more accessible with an unmatched customer experience that not only retains current participants, but appeals to new ones.
“The industry has to continue to do the good work it’s doing,” McLaughlin said. “That includes continuing to evolve to meet the changing needs of Americans – whether they are working, doing business, or participating in the game.
“Ensuring that we remain a sport that is accessible to all is critical.”