The National Golf Foundation has confirmed what most Connecticut golf businesses already knew. The weather beat us up in 2018.
But the big news, and the good news, is that the number of golfers nationwide increased last year from 23.8 to 24.2 million players, a positive sign that recovery from the Great Recession is continuing.
It’s a bright message that the We Are Golf national coalition will deliver to Washington on National Golf Day, Wednesday May 1.
A new NGF report acknowledges that rounds were off 4.8 per cent nationally to about 434 million, “a decline driven by heavier precipitation levels than normal across the country during the busiest months for golf.” The Northeast was particularly pummeled. In Connecticut rounds posted for handicap purposes were off about 10 per cent, depending on the area.
“Of 218 available days for play last season, we had 88 with some amount of rain and 22 were complete washouts,” said Oxford Greens Superintendent Bryan Barrington. “That’s a new record for us, and 20 more days of precipitation than in 2017. We even had the second-wettest November on record.”
The silver lining was dramatic decrease in water usage for Oxford Greens and many courses. From July 20 to Labor Day, Barrington told the NGF, his water usage dropped from an average of 6 million gallons to about 350,000. Water usage was down about a third for the year at Oxford Greens.
Besides the uptick in players the NGF report included other good news: Total golf participation, combining on-course players and those visiting driving ranges and facilities such as TopGolf, or Connecticut facilities like Mike’s Golf Outlet in Hartford and Tee it Up Bristol, climbed to 33.5 million players from 32.1 in 2017. That includes an increase of a million off-course players, now totaling 9.3 million. More good news: A third of the off-course players want to try the on-course game.
In 2018 there were an estimated 2.6 million beginners, close to a record. According to the NGF, it was the fifth straight year when more than two million people tried the game.
The percentage of female golfers held steady at 6 million or about a quarter of golfers. Females account for 31 per cent of newcomers, 36 per cent of off-course participants and 44 per cent of off-course participants. Eighty percent of play takes place on public courses.
The message that lobbyists and golf executives will deliver Wednesday is that golf is an $84 billion industry that delivers some 1.9 million jobs to the economy. Connecticut represents just over one per cent of that total, an industry of about $1.1 billion when last measured, comprising almost 12,000 jobs.
National Golf Day gives the superintendents of the country a chance to demonstrate their expertise as well. Members of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America will lead 17 teams of representatives of the We Are Golf Coalition during the third annual Community Service Project on the National Mall, the day before National Golf Day. Representing Connecticut will be Scott Ramsey of Yale and Marc Weston of Indian Hill.