Golf Datatech LLC released its 2021 Mid-Year U.S. Golf Retail Performance & Rounds Played Report, analyzing retail sales of golf equipment, golf apparel and rounds played over the first six months of 2021.

Due to the impacts of the pandemic on normal economic activity, making comparisons to 2020 did not tell the whole story, so Golf Datatech said its analysis also compared the performance of the first six months of 2021 with the same period in 2019, which was the last “normal” year prior to the worldwide impact from COVID-19.

Highlighting the report, Golf Datatech analysis indicated rounds played thru June 2021 were up nearly 23 percent versus 2020 and high-single-digits versus 2019. During the same period, golf equipment sales (balls, clubs, shoes, bags, gloves, distance devices) were up 78 percent compared to 2020 and 41 percent versus 2019, while golf apparel is rebounding after a challenging 2020, up 68 percent versus  2020 and 10 percent versus 2019, reversing the negative trend it followed during the height of the pandemic.

“The question everyone was asking coming into 2021 was whether golf could continue to sustain its upward trajectory as the U.S. economy heated up and golfers had access to alternative activities,” said John Krzynowek, partner, Golf Datatech. “However, through the first six months of 2021, the results are very encouraging as all segments of the golf economy continue to prosper, even in the face of supply issues, particularly for products made abroad. While manufacturers of golf balls, clubs, shoes, and bags, have struggled to meet demand and replenish drained product pipelines, much of the industry still remains in a hand-to-mouth struggle to ship product in a timely manner.”

Krzynowek added, “Golf equipment sales had never reached $400 million in any single month prior to April of 2021 when retail sell-through totaled over $425 million and, now, in June we had the third consecutive month with sales above $400 million, so significant momentum continues in the equipment sector.”

With regard to apparel, Golf Datatech said COVID-19 was hard on golf clothing manufacturers in 2020, as many Green Grass golf shops closed for extended periods of time and, once opened to the public, they urged golfers not to linger, while dressing rooms were frequently closed, return policies were tightened (or not allowed at all), and people were encouraged not to touch/feel the merchandise. Also, many large resorts lost significant traffic from European and Asian visitors, and these customers would typically spend significantly on apparel.

As a result, coming off that difficult period, the bounce back in golf apparel sales through the first six months of the year was welcome news to hard-hit apparel brands, according to Golf Datatech. After being mired in a negative position, the golf apparel category turned the corner during the first half of 2021, and the $552 million first half is the largest since Golf Datatech started tracking golf apparel sales, beating the previous high of $536 million from 2015.

Added Krzynowek, “Combining equipment and apparel sales thru the on and off-course channels, total consumer demand in dollars for golf products were 66 percent higher than last year for the first six months of 2021 and compared to 2019 sales were up 23 percent. At some point consumer demand for new products will slow down; however, thus far, it has held up very well to the pressures of the pandemic.”

2021 Mid-Year Rounds Played Analysis
In 1998, Golf Datatech undertook the task of creating the golf industry’s first monthly projections of rounds played by states and regions around the country. The company’s objective was to provide accurate estimates of the health of golf by tracking rounds, which are the engine that drives almost every other aspect of the business. The company also receives support from the NGF (delivering course data) and WeatherTrends (weather data) to provide the industry with granular detail at the market level.

According to its data compiled directly from golf course owners and operators, rounds of golf played through the first six months of 2021, at public, private and resort courses nationwide, were up 23 percent, and compared to 2019, they remain up in the high-single-digits; however, June 2021 data showed a small improvement (+0.4 percent) in rounds played versus the same month last year, suggesting the tsunami in rounds might finally be slowing and comparisons to 2020 would become increasingly hard to beat.  Tee time capacity at golf courses has not increased significantly, if at all, from a year ago, and 2020 was a summer of excellent weather with minimal precipitation and relatively mild temperatures across much of the nation, making for difficult comps.

“It will prove difficult for rounds to stay on pace with last year over the last six months of the year, but if we can stay within a few percentage points of the 2020 levels, it would be a big win for the industry,” said Krzynowek.

Photo courtesy Golf Datatech