In the largest single increase since 2000, the number of golf rounds played in 2012 rose by 5.7% according to a report released by the National Golf Foundation. The increase of approximately 26 million rounds raised the total rounds played to 490 million for the year.
Previously rounds played had declined approximately 11% or 55 million during the past 10 years so that the 2012 increase was a significant recovery.
The northern half of the U.S., essentially from the Dakotas to Vermont where 44% of all courses are located, averaged 9.5% growth while the balance of the country averaged 3.8%.
Improved weather was the biggest single factor. PGA PerformanceTrak reported a 6.5% increase in playable days nationwide in 2012 and weather was particularly helpful in the northern states where playable days rose 13.6%
Rounds played and U.S. consumer confidence roughly track each other so as the mood of the country has improved as the economic recover slowly continues more golf is played. PerformanceTrak also showed median golf fee revenues were up 6.6% at member facilities through December 2012. However, given that “all golf is local,” individual facility performance is driven largely by the nature of local competition, weather and economic/socio-demographic factors.
Competition remains fierce with the national average for rounds-per-18 holes – approximately 32,000 – more than 20% lower than it was prior to the start of the building boom in the late 1980s. As the NGF concluded, despite positive trends, golf remains a “buyer’s market.”