Buckets of golf balls on the driving vary on the 2021 TOUR Championship on September 03, 2021 on the East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia.
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Golf surged in recognition in 2020 by almost each metric, as folks sought out the socially distanced out of doors exercise amid the pandemic.
More than 24.8 million folks performed golf within the U.S. in 2020, up greater than 2% year-over-year and the biggest internet enhance in 17 years, in line with the National Golf Foundation. The sport additionally noticed the biggest share enhance in newbie golfers and youth golfers since 1997 — the yr a then-21-year-old Tiger Woods gained his first main championship on the Masters.
Now virtually two years for the reason that pandemic first hit the U.S., and at the same time as different actions have opened again up, golf has continued to develop in 2021, offering long-standing golf manufacturers like Callaway and Titleist a lift. It has additionally elevated firms trying to capitalize on the altering demographics and developments throughout the sport.
Golfers proceed to flock to programs
For many within the golf trade, it was unclear if the growth seen in 2020 was a operate of the pandemic or a brand new inflection level for the game.
Through the tip of July — the height of golf season within the U.S. — the quantity of rounds performed in 2021 was up 16.1% in comparison with 2020, in line with knowledge from the NGF. While the July-specific figures had been down 3.1% in comparison with 2020, a month during which almost all golf programs had been reopened following pandemic closures in sure states, the 2021 numbers are considerably larger than earlier yr averages.
While these will increase are being primarily pushed by older, already passionate golfers — the typical quantity of rounds performed by golfers grew to twenty.2 in 2020, an all-time excessive since NGF began monitoring that statistic in 1998 — youthful golfers, and particularly feminine gamers, noticed important upticks.
“New participants are increasingly younger; they’re hooked on the game and they want to get better,” David Maher, CEO of golf conglomerate Acushnet Holdings, mentioned on the corporate’s second-quarter earnings name with analysts in August. “A lot of the energy is coming from avid dedicated players who are simply playing more and consistently; more juniors, more women, more younger [players], and more families.”
The quantity of feminine golfers grew 8% in 2020, the biggest uptick in 5 years, in line with NGF knowledge. Forty-four p.c of individuals who performed a spherical of golf on a course in 2020 had been beneath the age of 40, and almost the identical quantity of folks of their 30s performed golf as these of their 60s, in line with NGF knowledge.
That enhance in new golfers has been a boon for Acushnet, which owns golf manufacturers like Titleist and FootJoy.
Acushnet’s second-quarter internet gross sales within the U.S. grew 117.1%, fueled by a 98.1% enhance in Titleist golf ball gross sales and a 111% enhance in Titleist golf membership gross sales. Over the primary half of its fiscal 2021, gross sales within the U.S. have been up 75.2%.
Callaway, which owns a number of golf gear and attire manufacturers together with its eponymous line of balls, golf equipment, and different gear, has additionally seen growth.
Earlier this month, the corporate raised its monetary outlook for its third quarter in addition to for the whole lot of 2021, citing overperformance of its manufacturers in addition to mitigation of some provide chain disruptions.
“More people are joining golf courses, [there are] more entrants into the game, more consumers and we think the long-term trends are going to be quite attractive,” Callaway CEO Chip Brewer mentioned on CNBC in June. “The market is going to be larger coming out the pandemic than coming in.”
“We’ve continued to see consistent growth in the golf business,” Dick’s Sporting Goods CFO Lee Belitsky mentioned on the corporate’s 2022 second-quarter earnings name with analysts on August 25. “The golf business has remained very strong for us.”
While the corporate doesn’t get away the efficiency of Golf Galaxy shops in its earnings report, CEO Lauren Hobart mentioned that the “golf business has been tremendous at both Dick’s and Golf Galaxy.”
The firm has “invested in talent and elevated the in-store service model to become trusted advisers for golf enthusiasts of all levels,” Hobart mentioned, and it not too long ago opened its first next-generation Golf Galaxy prototype retailer outdoors of Boston. At that location, the Golf Galaxy Performance Center, golfers can’t solely purchase golf merchandise, however take classes, observe in hitting bays, and have customized membership fittings.
In May, South Korean personal fairness agency Centroid Investment Partners acquired TaylorMade Golf for $1.7 billion, the biggest acquisition within the golf items trade to this point. TaylorMade, which produces golf equipment, balls, and attire, was bought to KPS Capital Partners by Adidas in 2017 for $425 million.
“The industry is currently experiencing high demand, increased participation with strong long-term opportunities around the world,” Jinhyeok Jeong, founder and CEO of Centroid Investment Partners, mentioned in a press launch on the time of the transaction. South Korea is the third-largest marketplace for golf on the planet behind the U.S. and Japan.
Overall, golf gear gross sales have slowed in current months, in line with NPD knowledge — gross sales throughout June, July and August 2021 are down 2% in comparison with 2020 after the primary half of 2021 doubled what was seen in 2020. However, the June, July and August 2021 gross sales numbers are up 50% in comparison with these months in 2019.
NPD Group senior trade advisor Matt Powell mentioned extra shoppers are anticipated to embrace more healthy residing post-pandemic, and that can embrace a rise in out of doors and sporting actions, which ought to profit golf.
However, it’s nonetheless unclear how the availability chain points plaguing different industries will influence golf gear, which may restrict growth.
Executives from each Acushnet and Callaway cited the continuing provide chain points in Vietnam as potential highway bumps forward. Acushnet and Callaway each declined to remark for this text.
“There are inventory issues but when we look at most of the categories that we track we’ve seen business start to plateau,” Powell mentioned. “But, [golf sales] are resetting at a new higher level and while we’re not getting massive growth, it’s a much bigger business than it was two years ago.”
The rise of interactive golf experiences that transcend the everyday 18-hole course has additionally helped golf develop, particularly to new audiences.
The rising recognition of HighGolf, which now has 70 areas throughout six international locations after launching in China earlier this month, has been one of the primary drivers. While the precise golf expertise mirrors what may be discovered at a driving spherical, HighGolf goals for a extra social and gamified expertise alongside with drinks and meals.
Callaway, which beforehand owned 14% of HighGolf, merged with the corporate in March, paying $2.66 billion to accumulate the remaining portion.
HighGolf reported that it had $1.1 billion in income in 2019 and that it had a 30% growth charge since 2017. Callaway mentioned that HighGolf generated $325 million in income within the second quarter, whereas similar venue gross sales had been within the ninetieth percentiles in comparison with 2019 ranges.
Virtual trainers, each used for leisure functions in addition to high-level golf coaching, have grown as properly.
Full Swing, which produces golf simulators for business, residential, and leisure venues, was acquired by funding firm Bruin Capital for a reported $160 million in July. While the simulators can be utilized for different sports activities as properly, the golf performance is utilized by PGA Tour professionals like Woods and Jon Rahm, who’s presently ranked No. 2 on the planet and is starring for the European crew within the Ryder Cup.
“In the early advent of the off-course gamification of golf, I think there was a misinterpretation of what the impact would be on the actual game of golf and participation,” mentioned David Abrutyn, a associate at Bruin Capital. “It’s been proven that it’s an entry point for golf and the more people you get swinging a golf club or experiencing the sport at an entertainment venue, the greater ability it has to drive participation in the sport.”
In addition to the 24.8 million individuals who performed a spherical of golf on a course in 2020, one other 12.1 million participated in an “off-course golf activity,” which incorporates driving ranges, venues like HighGolf, or indoor simulators like those Full Swing produces.
The rising mix of the standard sport of golf with expertise and different varieties of leisure is an effective harbinger for the game transferring ahead, Abrutyn mentioned.
Golf’s largest occasions have had extra viewers tune on this yr. In April, the ultimate spherical of The Masters averaged 9.45 million viewers on CBS, up 69% from 2020. In May, the final day of the PGA Championship averaged 6.58 million viewers, a 29% year-over-year enhance. And in June, the ultimate spherical of the U.S. Open averaged 5.7 million viewers on NBC, up 76% from 2020.
The sport can be seeing protection develop in new methods. The PGA Tour is working with Netflix to create an episodic documentary collection, which is able to possible be modeled on “Drive to Survive,” the favored Formula 1-focused collection that has pushed new followers to the motorsport. NBA star and passionate golfer Stephen Curry not too long ago signed a deal with Comcast NBCUniversal to work on a bunch of initiatives, one aspect of which is able to embrace creating content material across the Ryder Cup for NBC Sports’ Golf Channel.
“A lot of people have tried golf and realize it’s perhaps not as hard as they maybe thought, and that’s creating an entirely new generation of golf fans, especially in the younger demographics, that will now be fans and engaged in the sport,” he mentioned. “That’s particularly exciting for anyone involved in the business of golf.”
Disclaimer: CNBC dad or mum firm NBCUniversal is the published associate of the Ryder Cup.