January appears poised to test the strength of consumer demand as we played into a significant weather headwind nationally with Golf Playable Hours (GPH) declining 17% compared to the same month Year-Ago (YA). YtD regional GPH breadth was also widely negative (meaning many shared the "pain") at 1:4 with 5 favorable regions yielding to 21 unfavorables, none in the neutral zone (+/- 2%) and the remaining 19 regions being out-of-season. Subscribers to either the Pellucid Publications Membership or the Geographic Weather Impact report get the 45 regional breakdowns, the 61 markets figures, the day-of-week weather impact and the Year-End National GPH forecast figure as well as our full commentary on the results every month
Played Rounds for December published by Golf Datatech posted a 7th consecutive month of double-digit gains (the month-to-month acceleration rate streak was broken though) powering an amazing +14% gain for the full year vs. '19. Private outpaced Public (+20% vs. +12%) but that was primarily driven by Private not suffering quite as much in the early months of the lockdowns with Public fully participating in the latter half of the year. That continued December rounds demand strength juxtaposed to the 6% GPH decline to post a 6 point Utilization gain for the month and topping off a near-60% Utilization achievement for the full year.
Jim Koppenhaver comments, "December provided another datapoint that the increased demand for golf in our "restricted recreation" world doesn't even pause for unfavorable weather although the 37% rounds increase likely would have been higher had it not been for that headwind. January will prove another interesting test case for demand strength as we'll need at least a 17% increase to offset the unfavorable weather and keep our monthly Utilization winning streak alive. The average monthly gain for the past 3 months has been >25% so, right now, it seems like a better-than-even odds bet that January could rise to the occasion. The '20 State of the Industry (SoI) has more details on the market breakdowns, the long-range trends and the '21 GPH forecast at the national level and 45 regions which can be purchased here. In the first half of '21 we'll be watching the weather to likely see how much of the anticipated positive "comps" in rounds will be due to Mother Nature (vs. pure golfer demand) and, in the 2nd half I anticipate that we'll be watching weather to see how much of pretty big negative "comps" can be explained to weather vs. the return of other recreational activities and the likely-unbeatable rounds figures we posted in '20 (due to COVID restrictions, not favorable weather). As Stuart has always asserted, "you cannot have an intelligent conversation about golf industry performance without incorporating weather"!"
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