Slowly but surely, industry opinion appears to be shifting on whether golf’s pandemic popularity is a short term blip on the radar screen or more of a long term trend.
There are still plenty of people on either side of the fence, but a couple of GNN Polls this year show more people choosing long term.
Back in early July, the poll asked readers if the increased rounds this year are a short term or long term trend.
At that time, 57 per cent of respondents said it was a short term trend, while another 37 per cent said the increased business golf was enjoying at the time was a long term trend. Six per cent said business had not increased to that point.
We updated that poll a couple of weeks ago with the same question. This time, 51 per cent of respondents said long term, 46 per cent said short term and three per cent said business hadn’t increased where they work.
That represents a 14 per cent rise in people who believe it to be long term and an 11 per cent drop in the short term camp.
It’s understandable that some would think it’s short term, considering the perception of golf as a safe sport in which you can keep your distance from others. From reports I’ve heard, skiing will enjoy the same popularity this winter because it offers the same ability to distance from others.
In golf’s case, its pandemic popularity comes after years of headlnes such as “Why Canadian golf is dying” on this 2014 story in Maclean’s.
While the story touches on legitimate issues such as the overbuilding of golf courses during the game’s heyday 20 to 25 years ago and people’s limited time that makes finding four to five hours to pay 18 holes difficult, the use of the word “dying” was over the top.
It was among several stories with similar themes that have predicted the demise of golf over the years, but this year, the number of articles from across the country and around the world that tell a story of dramatic turnaround in the game’s fortunes would be too numerous to list here. Anecdotal evidence was every bit as plentiful.
There’s little doubt that golf is enjoying a surge in popularity, but like the pandemic itself, we have no idea how long it will continue. When the pandemic does end, will the success that the game has enjoyed this year end as well, with other recreational activities and entertainment venues returning?
There are indications that golf’s popularity will continue into 2021 and perhaps beyond.
Golf PEI, for example, says in this story that its bookings for next year “are the highest they’ve ever been.”
That may change depending on the pandemic and what travel restrictions are in place when the golf season gets going next year, but there are other indicators, as well.
Golf Datatech revealed last week that U.S. retail golf equipment sales in the third quarter went over $1 billion for the first time ever for July, August and September. Q3 sales are up 42 per cent compared to the same period last year. Golf Digest has more here.
Granted, those are American sales and that $1 billion figure far exceeds Canadian sales due to population and size of the U.S. market by comparison, but sales in this country were reportedly brisk this year, as well.
If people are willing to invest in new equipment, chances are good that they see the game as more than a temporary fix for recreation during a pandemic, with its consequences on jobs and the economy.
None of this is a sure thing, but what we do know is that golf has flourished this year and has welcomed newcomers to the game and seemingly, they are willing to give the game a chance going forward.
There is reason to be optimistic and with the off season upon us, the focus should not only be on filling the fairways with golfers and luring new people to the game, but keeping them there.
What happened this year has been a pleasant surprise for the industry, but now is the time to take matters into our own hands and come up with creative ways to keep young people, families, women and various demographics coming back for more,
The future is long term and there’s no time like the present to set the foundation.