The recently released NGF 2016 participation report reveals that, as golf evolves, so do the methods by which we now measure it. No longer is 18 holes on a traditional golf course our only barometer. Overall involvement in golf actually is up from 2015 to 2016, but this is being attributed to an 11% increase in off-course golf participation – from driving ranges and TopGolf facilities to indoor golf simulators. This means – more and more – people are engaging with golf in different ways. The study also states the number of non-golfers expressing the highest level of interest in playing golf in 2016 increased by 7.6% to 12.8 million; and the total number of beginning golfers (those playing on a golf course for the first time ever in 2016) rose to a record-high 2.5 million, surpassing the previous record set in 2000, when Tiger Woods was at his prime.
All good news. But the study also states that golf participation the traditional way – playing 18 holes on a golf course – declined slightly (1.2%). The number of courses that participated in “Let’s Play Golf” may have showed us that operators are realizing that – in such a competitive marketplace for consumers’ recreational time – they need to continue to innovate to find new ways to attract new golfers and keep the golfers they already have.