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.

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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.