Do We Need More Golf Courses?

golfers wait on the tee
Photo from Gene Gallin via Unsplash

While we waited on the second hole at a municipal golf course this summer, one of the guys in our foursome stated, “I’m done playing public golf courses. Next week, I’m joining a private country club.”

The response resonated with me as it was something I personally had thought about – albeit in passing. But a country club membership in my city would not be cheap.

Since COVID-19, golf courses everywhere have been inundated with golfers new and old flocking to their grounds. It seems everyone wants to get outside. And golf courses offer one of the best ways to do that.

The National Golf Foundation found that 500,000 new golfers started playing in 2020 – a 2% increase from 2019. That’s the largest increase in participation for over 17 years.

New golfers numbered 6.2 million. That’s the highest number since a guy named Tiger made his triumphal entry into golf history in 1997.

where will all these new golfers play?

If you’ve been to a public course over this past year or so, you’ve seen this increase firsthand. Full tee-sheets and more time waiting on the group in front of you are just some of the side effects. There’s also been an increase in purchases of golf equipment. Callaway and Acushnet (Makers of Titleist golf balls and Footjoy shoes), reported profitable quarters and there doesn’t seem to be any signs of slowing.

So, where will all these new golfers (and ones coming out of the closets) go?

Well, in 2019, NPR published an article entitled, “There Aren’t Enough Golfers to Keep All The U.S. Courses in Business“. They stated that over the last decade there has been over 800 golf courses closures and still – not enough golfers to fill the tee sheets.

Fast forward to the spring of 2020, and courses everywhere are over-run by golfers to escape lockdown fever.

But is this just a passing fad and will all the 6 million new golfers continue to play?

Granted many of the new golfers are going to places like driving ranges, par-3 courses and TopGolf. But one would think many of these beginners will eventually “graduate” to larger 18-hole courses down the road.

With tee sheets full at public courses, where will they play?

thoughts on golf course construction

My personal thoughts are I’d love to see more golf course construction happening to alleviate the jump in participation and wait times. Especially in areas where golf is growing and that are underserved. Golf continues to hold an elitist air about it. It’s rare to see someone from humble beginnings make it on the Tour – or even succeed at the high school, collegiate or mini-tour level. In fact, when they do, it’s headlines in the sport.

We’d also like to see more driving ranges, and shorter courses coming into fruition that will attract time-sensitive players and younger golfers.

What are your thoughts? 

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