The Pandemic Seems To Be Driving The Golf Business

Dick’s golf specialty chain is growing its business as the entire golf sector is on a roll. (Photo … [+] by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)

LightRocket via Getty Images

It was supposed to be a bad time for the golf business. The millennial generation didn’t like playing the game and wanted more socially oriented experiential activities. Pro legend Tiger Woods was winding down his career and the tour had not been able to come up with a new face for the game. And with a more urban lifestyle and decreased automobile ownership access to courses and clubs in the suburbs was going to be a problem for potential newcomers to the sport. Everyone said golfing was a declining industry.

Everyone was wrong.

In one of the more unexpected consequences of the pandemic, golf is staging an impressive resurgence, fueled by its socially distanced outdoor format and increasing numbers of people giving up city living and moving to the ‘burbs. Retailers like Dick’s Sporting Goods are jumping on the golfing comeback, expanding their activities in the field.

To state the obvious golfing cliché, the return of the sport is anything but par for the course.

The golf industry should grow by a 3% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) through 2025 says a report, “Golf Products Market – Global Outlook and Forecast 2020-2025” available from market research seller It cites several factors, in play even before the pandemic, driving the business: “Transition in viewership enabling fan engagement, facilitation of new product development, surge in golf tourism and growth spurred by increasing golfing events.”

The pandemic, which has hindered athletic activities like basketball, tennis and other sports often played indoors, has created ideal conditions for people looking for something to do but trying to stay socially distanced and in the great outdoors. No doubt this is an important factor in golf’s recent growth.

That surge was confirmed by Dick’s, which owns the Golf Galaxy chain of 98 stores. It recently announced it was debuting nine newly remodeled locations this month with plans for additional updated stores later in the year. They feature what is being called “an immersive golf experience” with hitting bays, on-site lessons from professional golfers and expanded merchandise offerings of equipment and apparel.

“We are incredibly bullish on the golf business,” said president and CEO Lauren Hobart on Dick’s recent earnings call. “It has remained strong through the pandemic in the warm weather markets and still strong nationally across the board. We are very well positioned to capitalize on increased participation and other favorable trends.”

The golfing research report estimated that e-commerce represented just 7% of total industry sales in 2019 and said given the in-person characteristics of the purchasing process it would not grow as quickly as other consumer products. Albeit this was before Covid so it’s as yet unclear if more business migrated online under stay-at-home conditions.

But wherever golfers are spending their money on gear, it looks like they will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. It looks like it’s going to be a long, long drive.