Golf equipment, the largest sports equipment category, grew sales by nearly 40 percent in 2020, according to The NPD Group, while racquet sports equipment grew by more than a third and basketball hoop systems and balls improved by nearly 25 percent.

The update was provided in a blog entry from Matt Powell, vice president, senior industry advisor, sports, The NPD Group.

Powell wrote, “There is one common theme across sports equipment sales under COVID-19: the strongest categories have been those that allow participants to stay active and fit yet remain socially distant. Golf and racquet sports clearly fall into that bucket.”

Golf balls and full golf sets were the largest dollar share gainers, suggesting new entrants to the sport. NPD also saw robust growth in drivers, iron sets, gloves, wedges, putters, and bags. All the major golf brands had strong performances as well, with Callaway leading the pack.

Racquet sports saw strength in tennis while pickleball continued to show major gains.

The strength in basketball hoop systems and balls was attributed to schools initially shifting to virtual learning and kids staying at home. Powell wrote, “I think this represented ‘home school recess’ as parents sought an activity to get their kids moving while remaining socially distant. Late in the year basketball equipment sales growth slowed, with no scholastic season to support it.”

Among other sports equipment categories, punching bag sales soared under the pandemic.  Training aids ranging from hockey nets to putting mats was another positive category in 2020.

On the downside, scholastic sports including baseball/softball, soccer, football, and lacrosse were challenged as many states canceled or modified their seasons. Powell said, “Hopefully, schools will reopen and return to more normalcy soon, and we can have a spring sports season. If so, sales will be robust.

Powell concluded, “I believe the social changes we’ve seen under COVID-19 will endure for the longer term; consumers will want to get fit and stay socially distant to some degree, both of which bodes well for many of these sports equipment categories.”