With the second wave sweeping through nations across the world, there is a great sense of anxiety and uncertainty. For some reason, people are more anxious about a return of lockdown and restrictions than they are about getting the virus. However, with lockdowns come restrictions on sports and games. But one sport that seems to check much of the boxes of safe distancing and limited contacts is golfing. And as records show, there are more people playing golf right now than there have been for many years.
In the United States, golf courses had to shut down in March and April at the peak of the pandemic. As courses reopened, Americans sought refuge in a game that is both physical, mental, and special. New routines had to be developed as people sought new ways to spend quality time with friends and family. Many took up golf as a new hobby to cope with the anxiety. Others just needed something to enable them to breathe. After all, it is important to stay fit and healthy while we “work from home”.
Social distancing seems to be built in as far as golf is concerned. For stir-crazy Americans with very few outdoor options, getting on a golf course and teeing it up seems like an easy choice. The numbers are staggering though. In the US alone, the $85 Billion industry has been up consistently since May when courses reopened. Rounds increased by almost 14% in June and about 19.7% in July, according to data from Golf Datatech.
A research carried out by the National Golf Foundation also showed a record set in 2019 at 441 million golf rounds. That report indicates that the figure will be surpassed in 2020 by around 6%, which is the current growth rate compared to last year. When we asked a few golfers what they think about the game’s growing popularity and patronage, the responses were similar- people just want to get out, and golfing seems like a safe way to do so.
In an interview sometime in May, an Edgehill Golf Advisors principal, Stuart Lindsay corroborated this view. He said that the inability of people (itching to go out) to go to bars, restaurants or even playing softball makes golfing an easy choice. Stuart said golfing is a variation of walking the dog or riding a bike. It was easier to binge on Netflix for the first few weeks. Even establishing new workout routines seemed like a good way to cope with the lockdown. But after a month or two, you need something more sustainable.
Golf is certainly an easy escape and has been for the last seven months. The large expanse of land, natural scenery, and the activity itself are not simply great for your physical wellbeing, but highly therapeutic too. But it is mostly about the safety of the game. Americans and, indeed, most people around the world see golf as naturally COVID-compliant in some way.
The natural expanses of social distancing coupled with advance booking are factors that keep people safe and control crowds as well (by controlling the flow of people). A University of Maryland poll published in the Washington Post revealed that at least 41 percent of Americans wanted their states to reopen golf courses. No other business or activity polled better as far as reopening was concerned. But more people going to the golf courses means even more safety measures by operators. As the cost of safety protocols continue to affect course revenues, there may be a need to raise prices per tee. But naturally too, the higher the demand, with little or no new courses opening, there is highly likely to be an increase in price soon.