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May 2021 OtR, Rounds surge in '20 wasn't "new faces"

Volume 20 Issue 05

2020 Rounds Surge:
Majority Likely From Committeds vs. Curious

Who propelled the double-digit increase in rounds in '20 vs. '19?  The answer to that question began to come into focus in the past month as we compiled and reported on the '20 consumer survey results and changes to the golfer population (see last month's issue for the "storyline").  In this issue we're going to look at the rounds contribution and changes by the golfer involvement groups (Committeds, Involveds, Casuals and Singles) to try and tease out what portion of the incremental rounds came from existing golfers vs. the sizeable number of "new faces" who were the industry media darlings of the COVID-altered season.  As often happens in this industry, we may have rushed to the "convenient headline" that these new faces drove the surge in rounds and revenue in '20 without bothering (or, in our case, waiting for) to get the facts to support that presumption.

With the '20 consumer survey results now in hand and a reasonable amount of time to digest the multiple data dimensions, along with having the NGF's perspective (spin?) and a few other small sample size consumer surveys tossed in for good measure, I think I have pretty good picture of what did (and didn't) happen in the golfer base and the rounds attached to those golfers by their types.  In this issue I'll provide a quick tour of the facts:

  • Grounded in Pellucid's analysis of the annual National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA) survey (same survey questions, fielding method etc. since 1985), we'll review the figures on the net change in bodies and break that down into the subgroups of new, returning and continuing golfers that fueled the increase in size of the golfer base in '20 vs. '19. I'll also compare/contrast that to the NGF consumer franchise report which adds some helpful (I'm being serious, not facetious, for a change) additional facts on new vs. returning faces and how the '20 results compare to the historical "stocks & flows" of golf's leaky bucket
  • I'll then do a deeper dive on the rounds associated with the various involvement groups that we track in the NSGA annual survey to show which group(s) drove the bulk of incremental rounds with the small logic leap that new faces are historically under-represented in the higher involvement groups (i.e. people don't generally enter our sport at 20+ rds/yr frequency in Year 1). This analysis suggests that the existing golfer base propelled the rounds increase significantly more than our "new faces"
  • I'll then take it down to facility level and present a case study of one of our clients and their Customer Franchise Analysis (CFA) results. I'll walk you through what those results tell us about the size, shape and changes in their customer profile for their facility and we'll see if it's similar or different to the national picture (by comparing their '20 figures to '19)

While there are certain golf industry stakeholders that would prefer higher rounds from new faces vs. existing golfers (i.e. equipment manufacturers, media companies (that would include some of the PoS providers), state golf associations, the USGA etc.), the industry "revenue core" stakeholder group of owner/operators, both public courses and private clubs, in the short-term would say "A dollar is a dollar, no matter whose wallet/purse" but their longer-term interests are also better served through strength in the existing golfer base vs. an equal amount of rounds coming from new faces.  I'll explain why in the If I Were King closing section of this issue.

Our subscribers can read on for this month's missive while our Executive Summary recipients can get the rest of the story one of three ways:

  1. Subscribe to the Pellucid Publications Membership for $495/yr. Annual subscribers get access to all Pellucid publications (Outside the Ropes monthly digital newsletter, annual State of the Industry report portfolio (PowerPoint presentation, PDF commentary report, access to 75 minute video presentation), monthly Geographic Weather Impact Tracking (US, 45 regions, 61 markets), Top 25 US Golf Markets Ranking Scorecard (25+ dimensions and ranking for largest 25 markets) and the National Consumer Franchise Health Scorecard (expanded data and tables underlying the annual participation and golfers figures)
  2. Subscribe to OtR, 12 monthly issues for $130/yr with a money-back guarantee if you're not satisfied at any time during your subscription. Subscribers also get access to the historical archive of past issues (last 24) via the members-only section of the Pellucid website
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