Golf Was Doomed, But The Pandemic and Topgolf Ended the Industry’s Gloom – The Average Joe
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    Golf Was Doomed, But The Pandemic and Topgolf Ended the Industry’s Gloom

    Noah Weidner

    April 15, 2024

    This weekend, golf fans across America flocked to Augusta, Georgia, to witness legends like Tiger Woods, John Rahm, and Rory McIlroy compete in the Masters Tournament. While Scottie Scheffler secured his second Masters Tournament win in three years by claiming the coveted green jacket, the real winner was the golf industry.

    On the upswing: Golf, once considered a costly and time-consuming sport for older white men, is once again booming — with the pandemic helping reverse a decades-long decline in active players and industry revenue. And although golf courses booked a record 531M rounds last year, surpassing levels not seen since 2000, analysts are crediting off-course driving ranges like Topgolf ($MODG) for converting young people and skeptics into golfers.

    • Last year, 32.9M people visited off-course golf experiences, marking a 41% increase since 2019 and surpassing on-course visits.
    • Topgolf, the largest of the off-course golf driving range, reported over $1.76B in revenue in 2023 — a 14% increase from 2022.

    Aiming for the green

    Golf’s resurgence raises questions. Its newfound popularity owes a lot to the pandemic, which revitalized golf courses and clubs. The sport’s sustainability without COVID remains uncertain. Additionally, TV viewership for major tournaments is declining — with PGA Tour ratings down ~20% last year, according to Rory McIlroy. To remain relevant, golf must continue to evolve.

    • New apps are helping golfers improve their swing — and with tournaments, whether on the course or watching from home.
    • Plus, lifestyle-oriented gear, including watches, electric bikes, and clothing, is increasing golf’s touchpoints with popular culture.

    Scoping the course: Even if America’s appetite for golf wanes slightly, global sales are taking off — with golf equipment sales up 40% and apparel sales up 21%, according to Golf Datatech. This suggests that the next destination for the fast-rebounding sport could be overseas, particularly in countries like Korea, Japan, and the UK.

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