The number of golfers fell slightly in 2010 to 26.1 million, down 3.6% from the 27.1 million recorded in 2009, according to the National Golf Foundation (NGF) annual golf participation study. That marks the third consecutive year of declines in both measures, not surprising, considering the severity of the economic recession that has affected consumer behavior during the period.
For research purposes, a golfer is defined as a person age 6 or above who plays at least one round of golf in a given year. The NGF results are derived from a multi-sport study of 40,000 Americans, executed in conjunction with the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association and fielded by Synovate, a global market research firm in Chicago, Ill.
Similar decreases were seen in both the Core and Occasional golfer categories. Core golfers (age 6+, eight or more rounds a year) fell 3.6%, from 15.3 million to 14.8 million. Occasional golfers (age 6+, one to seven rounds a year) dropped 3.7%, from 11.8 million to 11.3 million.
As is the case every year, the sport gained some golfers and lost some – 3.6 million golfers were either first-time beginners (1.5 million) or returning former golfers (2.1 million). These were offset by 4.6 million “lost golfers” who played in 2009 but not in 2010.
It was encouraging news that the number of golfers gained in 2010 held steady vs. previous years while the number of lost golfers dropped significantly.
The number of rounds of golf also fell 2.3% during the past year, from 486 million in 2009 to 475 million in 2010, corroborating the decline in the number of golfers.
“Considering the severity of the recession and its effects on both discretionary income and time, golf has held up rather well. Multiple NGF studies of golfers since 2008 would attribute the gradual decline in golfers and rounds primarily to the impact of lower job security and concern over personal finances, not waning appeal for the game,” says Joe Beditz, NGF president and CEO. “An uptick in NGF’s golf consumer confidence measure in March 2011, along with increased equipment sales reported by manufacturers in the first three months of the year, may indicate that we are beginning to pull out of the slump.”
National Golf Foundation www.ngf.org