But when everything came to a standstill because of the pandemic, things changed.
In May, the number of reported rounds of golf in the US — defined by Golf Datatech as a single authorized “start” at a self-reporting club or facility — rebounded from a 42.2% decline during lockdowns to a 6.2% increase over last year.
In fact, the NGF reports there’s only been one other year that saw a bigger rise in interest in the sport: 1997, the year Tiger Woods became a massive sensation.
Equipment sales are surging
Mike Jakob, CEO of Swing King, a tech company that sets up automatic hole-in-one contests at golf courses, said his company saw sales increases of 20% to 50% for some regions and an overall market growth of 50% to 300%.
July and August saw the two best months for golf sales since Golf Datatech started recording equipment data in 1997.
“The August sales record, which followed an all-time record month in July, is great news for the industry moving forward. It indicates how popular golf is today, especially as an ideal social distancing activity. Newcomers are coming into the game, existing golfers are playing much more, and those who once played but left for a while are returning, which is the perfect combination to drive rounds played and spike equipment sales at retail.”
Viewership is some of the best in years
In addition to actual play, 2020 also saw a big boost in golf viewing.
The first round of the tournament averaged 1,246,000 viewers, making it the event’s most viewed first round telecast since 2015, and the second best opening round in the last 10 years. The second day of broadcast, viewership rose another 42%.
If one had to pinpoint the moment the current golf renaissance truly began, they might look to early May, when golf greats Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson teamed up with NFL greats Peyton Manning and Tom Brady for “The Match II,” a special charity golf event at at Shadow Creek Golf Course in Las Vegas. (The original “Match,” between Woods and Mickelson, was held in 2018.)
For many people, it was the first live sports event they had seen in months, and it showed. “The Match II” automatically became a major topic of discussion online and in living rooms across the country. Content related to the event trended on Twitter all day as people bonded over a moment of familiarity in an increasingly unfamiliar and tragic age.