The National Golf Foundation recently came out with what we might call the State of the Golf Union for golf in the USA. I would imagine that it might be the same in Canada other than the fact that we do not yet have the pleasure of Topgolf in Canada. Pitter patter Canada, let’s get atter!
The report compiles many of the game’s key data points to provide the most holistic view of the business of golf and the health of the game. This includes the latest NGF data on golf participation, engagement, rounds-played, golf course supply and development, retail supply, golf equipment sales, and golf’s reach.
The claim is that Golf’s participation base remains stable, with an estimated 23.8 million people who played golf on a course in 2017 — the same as a year earlier. I’m not sure that I am buying that but give them the benefit of the doubt. We have certainly gotten rid of most of the “corporate only” golfers.
Here is where I see some merit in what the NGF suggests, especially since they are recognizing the fact that another 8.3 million played exclusively off-course at facilities like Topgolf, driving ranges or in indoor simulators, putting the game’s overall participant pool at more than 32 million. A great majority of those are Topgolfers!
The number of U.S. non-golfers who said they are now “very interested” in playing at a golf course hit a new measured high, at 14.9 million. This represents a 16% jump over 2016 and the continued increase in latent demand helped boost the number of golf newcomers (2.6 million) for the fourth year in a row.
The future of golf is not on the green grass fairways that we are accustomed to but at the high tech wifi accessible fully serviced establishments where there are very few rules, all the balls have technology and most of the patrons have drinks and munchies in front of them. It is where “Bowling meets Golf!” as stated by Blake Malicot, Platinum Sales Manager of the Indianapolis, Indiana location.
Indy is North America’s 36th Topgolf which opened in October of 2017. There are now 43 and they are making money hand over fist. I arrived at about 1:30 PM on a Saturday afternoon and put my name in for one of the 343 hitting bays and had a 90 minute wait. “We are at a bit of a soft spot in the day, usually on weekends the waits are 4-6 hours.” said Malicot. At $35.00 per hour that is making it hand over fist! Add food and drinks …cha ching! When I left at about 4PM the wait was up to 3 hours.
But let’s give credit where credit is deserved. Someone had a brilliant idea and kudos! It was my first of two recent visits to Topgolf, the second in Charlotte was much the same situation. Tuesday night 8PM arrival and again a 90 minute wait for a bay.
Although entertaining enough, it is not nearly as demanding as the real thing! The atmosphere is much like bowling, especially at night, with loud music and disco like lights on the targets. For the non-golfers, it’s similar to throwing darts. But Topgolf will bring new people into the game, some will catch on, want to give the real thing a try and we know what will happen after that – we are thankful for that.
Malicot estimates that 60% of the players are non-golfers and that he personally knows of a good number that have looked into and have gone out onto the green grass. One of the player assistants that I also spoke with, an older gentlemen who I asked about age breakdown estimates that 80% of the Topgolfers are under 50 years of age. The reversal of green grass players.
Growing the game, Topgolf has a Saturday morning program that in order to participate, you must have at least one junior golfer in your group or you just don’t play!
Traditional golf talks about growing the game, they are working on turtle time.
The fact is that the older golfers who have had it by the tail for so long feel that kids on the course are in there way. Topgolf has them by leaps and bounds!
Cheers to Topgolf!