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There is a piece of good news for all Golf lovers. According to NGF’s (National Golf Foundation) 2019 Participation Report, participation in traditional green-grass golf courses increased slightly in 2018 to mark its first measured increase in 14 years.
Participation in green-grass golf has held steady in recent years to reach a new support level of approximately 24 million. In 2018, however, the number people ages 6-and-up who played at least one round of golf on a golf course increased incrementally to 24.2 million, the first gain since 2004.
Off-course participation increased by almost 10 percent in 2018, with an estimated 23 million people hitting golf balls with clubs at golf-entertainment venues like Topgolf and Drive Shack, at stand-alone ranges, and using indoor simulators. Despite the increasing popularity of golf entertainment facilities, the majority of off-course participation (12 million) still occurs at golf ranges, whether its on-course golfers honing their skills or beginners learning the game.
Combining those who played on a golf course with the 9.3 million others who played exclusively off-course, golf’s overall participant base climbed to 33.5 million, a gain of 1.4 million, or 4 percent, year over year and driven by off-course gains.
For the traditional game, an estimated 19.5 million Americans were seen as dedicated golfers, representing 81 percent of those who play and 95 percent of all rounds-played and spending. An estimated 2.6 million beginners played on a golf course for the first time in 2018, a figure at or near historical highs. There were also 14.7 million non-golfers who say they’re “very” interested in playing golf. Almost half of this latent demand pool is comprised of former golfers with some experience, but who haven’t played on a course within the past year. The rest are people who have never played before on a course.
The growth in green-grass participation came despite rounds-played declining 4.8 percent year-over-year to an estimated 434 million rounds in 2018. This drop was attributable in part to weather conditions. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, 2018 was the third-wettest year nationally dating back to 1895.