The avenues in which people are playing the game of golf are continuing to evolve, allowing more individuals to experience the game both on and off the golf course. The sports total reach, which includes people who play, watch, or read about golf is 107.2 million Americans. With only 24.2 million actual golfers in the United States, this offers an opportunity to grow and expose new individuals to golf.
The participation in traditional green grass golf has held steady in recent years, with 2018 data showing that 24.2 million people have played at least one round. This is a rise from 23.8 million in 2017, which is the first measured increase in 14 years. Off-course participation, which includes entertainment venues like Top Golf and Drive Shack, stand-alone ranges and indoor simulators have seen an increase of participation in 10%, with an estimation of 23 million people. When you combine the 9.3 million people who are exclusively in off-course participation, the overall base climbs to 33.5 million. This is a total gain of 1.4 million participants from 2017, a 4% increase mostly driven from these off-course gains.
The golf industry is also seen encouraging signs concerning newcomers to the game and interest among non-golfers. An estimated 2.6 million beginners played on a golf course for the first time, which is a figure that is near historic highs. There are a total of 14.7 million non-golfers that say they are “very” interested in playing golf. Half of this group is made up of former golfers who have past experience with the game, with the other never playing on the course before.
The highlight from the 2019 Golf Participation Report is the increase in off-course golf participation. Data from 2014 shows there were 5.4 million people who participated in off-course golf. Each year, there has been a steady increase to 9.3 million in 2018. This is the sector of the golf industry that is seeing the most growth, articulating the shifts that are taking place within the industry. Off-Course Golf locations provide places of entertainment and stress-free places that bring golf to people who likely would never step on a course.
One of the exciting parts of OnCore Buffalo, our sports complex and fully-integrated hotel coming to Buffalo in 2021, is its ability to bring new people to the game. The facility in Buffalo will feature a unique three-tiered golf driving range with state-of-the-art radar and camera systems used in each hitting bay to deliver incredible gaming and learning possibilities for golfers and non-golfers alike. The team at OnCore understands that there is a growing population of people who engage in the game of golf differently than the traditional golfer, and OnCore Buffalo will provide that outlet to the new generation of golfers.