GOLF 20/20, the US initiative focused on the growth of the game, has published its annual industry report, available at www.golf2020.com.
The Report looks at the state of the game at the conclusion of 2003 by gathering information on Facility Development, Rounds Played, Interest, and Participation. The information comes from a variety of sources, and the objective of the report is to look at the information collectively in an effort to determine areas of opportunity and concern.
“All of these issues are interrelated, and this process helps us determine logical courses of action for the growth of the game,” said GOLF 20/20 executive director Ruffin Beckwith. “It’s the third year we‘ve done this, and it’s provided an enlightening perspective.”
Highlights from the Report include the following:
- Interest in golf remains very strong. “Over the past seven years no other sport has experienced as big an increase in the number of people claiming to be fans than has professional golf, and in fact only one other sport has shown an increase at all.”
- The decrease in rounds played from 2002 to 2003 was 1.5%, just half the decrease from 2001 to 2002, indicating that as the economy rebounds, rounds played can be expected to rebound also.
- There were 37.9 million participants in 2003, and 27.4 million golfers, both all- time high numbers. (“Participants” also includes junior golfers ages 5-17, and those participants who utilize only short courses or golf ranges.)
- The pace of golf course development has slowed in reaction to the marketplace. Fewer golf courses are being planned and opened than at any time in the past 16 years.
- The three golfer segments — occasional (1-7 rounds annually), core (8-24 rounds) and avid (25+) — all increased in 2003, but core and avid totals remain short of all-time high levels, again illustrating the importance of addressing frequency.
- Both research and recent trends indicate that women represent the most significant opportunity for future growth, and that golf must focus on reaching ethnic minorities, where interest has grown tremendously over the past seven years.
The current report also confirms the industry’s need to focus on frequency. There are more participants and more golfers than at any time in the past, yet over the past three years there have been declines in rounds played. As the report states, “Golfers have been playing less. Yes, the weather has been especially bad the past two years. Yes, rounds played tend to track the economy. But it would be a huge mistake to sit back and wait for the weather and the economy to improve. The point is not just to approach the levels of the past, but to grow, to achieve new levels of participation, and that will only happen if there are concerted, strategic efforts to increase the levels of play among those who already do so.”
“In 2003 we begin to see some positive signs that have continued through the first quarter of 2004, so we are optimistic that golf is trending in the right direction,” said Ruffin Beckwith. “Interest remains high, as does the number of participants, and rounds are beginning to come back a bit.
“But as we continue to work together as an industry to insure golf’s long-term vitality, we have to do a better job in two primary areas,” he concluded. “We have to meet the needs of our current players in ways that encourage them to play more. And we have to reach out to previously underserved demographic segments of our society, which remain our most abundant source of new players.”
Golf 20/20 www.golf2020.com.