The modern game of golf originated in Scotland, eventually
migrating to the United States where it has become the No. 1 outdoor
pay-for-play, individual participation sport. Almost one in nine Americans play
some form of golf — more than participate in sports such as basketball, tennis,
baseball and skiing.
U.S. golf participation peaked at about 30 million
golfers in 2005 — not coincidentally when Tiger Woods was at the height of his game
— and dropped to about 24 million, a number that’s held steady since 2014.
New Ways to Play the
According to the latest
industry report from the National Golf
Foundation (NGF), an estimated 2.6 million Americans played on a golf
course for the first time in 2018. The NGF refers to this as a historical
measured high. It was also the fifth year in a row the game has attracted more
than 2 million newcomers. This pushed the number of people ages 6 and up who
played at least one round of golf on a golf course from 23.8 million in 2017 to
24.2 million in 2018.
The total golf participation numbers from NGF from this year
illustrate that golfers play, watch, engage and consume the game in different
ways than in past years. When factoring in off-course forms of the game —
golf-entertainment venues such as Topgolf, indoor simulators, stand-alone
driving ranges, and off-course school or youth programs — U.S. participation
climbed to 33.5 million in 2018, an increase of 1.4 million participants from
“More and more people are getting a taste of the game
by taking swings with a golf club,” writes
Forbes contributor Erik Matuszewski.
Whether this off-course participation will lead to course
play depends on the industry’s approach to converting those who play for
entertainment to committed course players.
The Future of the
The NGF reports that non-golfers are expressing an interest
in the game at record levels, with 14.7 million people saying they would like
to play golf on a course. Some of these are players with some experience who
haven’t played on a course within the past year, whereas the rest are people
who have never played on a course.
Making the game easier and more approachable could be the key to winning over new players and getting them interested in playing on course. Garmin offers a range of GPS golf devices that give you precise distances and other features for thousands of preloaded courses so experienced players can refine their game, and beginners can discover their love of being out on the course.