These States Drove the Biggest Summer Rounds Rebound
Lackluster weather translated to a slow start to the 2022 golf season in many golf-rich states, particularly in parts of the Midwest where April saw major year-over-year play declines in Ohio (-35%), Illinois (-48%) and Wisconsin (-52%). The bumpy start, which extended to the Northeast U.S., left some golf operators wondering what they might be in store for after an unprecedented 2021 golf season.
“We were down significantly in April and not exactly sure what to expect, although outing bookings and everything we could use to try to predict activity was still strong,” said Troy Newport, General Manager of Cog Hill Golf & Country Club, which has four public courses about 30 miles southwest of downtown Chicago. “And then it came roaring back.”
On a national level, play during the summer months helped the industry start to climb out of an early-season hole that Mother Nature dug, as NGF details in this “Fortnight” industry communication. Rounds-played totals in June, July and August all surpassed the play during those months from a year ago, momentum that’s especially notable given that more golf was played at U.S. courses in 2021 than at any point in the game’s history.
And it was the peak-season surges in a number of well-supplied states – like Illinois, with its nearly 650 courses – that really helped pull the national numbers closer to matching last year’s record pace. Rounds in Illinois were down almost 27% year-over-year through the end of May, but at the end of the summer play levels were just 6.8% behind 2021.
Summer Impact on YOY Rounds
|State||Natl. Rank in Course Supply||YOY Change in Rounds - Through May||YOY Change in Rounds - Through August|
(The first 10 states in the above chart had a noteworthy combination of strong supply and summer rounds rebound. Florida and California, located entirely or primarily in the Sunbelt and ranking 1-2 in the number of golf courses, are included for context and comparison)
Play has been robust at a facility like Cog Hill Golf & Country Club (NGF member #1029669), which benefits from not only continued strong demand in a market with the third-most golfers of any metro area in the country, but the slow reduction in broader supply that has had a notable local impact. At the end of July, neighboring Gleneagles Country Club, the host of the PGA Tour’s Chicago Open in 1958 and 1959, was closed for good, with its two courses giving way to upscale homes in the Chicago suburbs.
“It was a lower-priced competitor, lower than any of our golf courses, but it was 36 holes so demand in our local area is going to continue to be strong,” Newport added. “It leaves us with the double whammy – there’s less supply and, at some point, there will be 400 more homes in our very close area built on where that golf course used to be. It remains to be seen what happens with the economy, but that’s always true. We were up significantly from May through August this year. And it looks like September is going to be an equally good month and last September was unbelievable. If we could match that, it would surpass all my expectations.”
The summer swing was similar in Ohio, which ranks just ahead of Illinois with its 650+ courses. The state’s rounds were 25.5% off last year’s pace through May and now have pulled within -9.6% of the 2021 totals.
“The spring is usually hit-or-miss with us due to the weather patterns and this year it was most definitely it was a miss. One of the rainiest springs we had in years,” said Jen Irwin, the Senior Golf Course Manager at Pine Ridge Country Club, a municipal course just under 20 miles northeast of Cleveland. Pine Ridge is one of two courses operated by Lake Metroparks (NGF member #1513256). “It started to pick up in May and June, July and August were absolutely incredible months for us.
“Last year, Pine Ridge had one of its best years in over a decade (almost 36,000 rounds played),” added Irwin. “I never thought I would see those same numbers this year rise, especially with the way our economy is, but we have. Playing a major role are repeat customers along with 28 weekly leagues and being able to accommodate more outings.”
The rounds-played numbers at Wisconsin’s almost 530 golf courses spurred the nation’s most significant summer rebound, going from 24% off last year’s pace at the end of May to just -2% through August.
“Between ’21 and ’22, we got a later start because the weather didn’t cooperate, but that’s just part of being in a northern climate, especially in Wisconsin. You don’t know when your season is going to begin and end,” said Theran Steindl, Golf Operations Supervisor for the City of Madison’s four facilities, among them Odana Hills (NGF member #103817). “That played a role, but the numbers aren’t too worrisome. We’re only down in total about 8,000 rounds from the year prior and only about 0.2% in revenue. If we had that earlier start, we’d be on par with last year.
“This year, there were a lot more (competing activities). All the sporting events were back, concerts were everywhere and tons of festivals,” Steindl added. “So, quite honestly, if we were to look at our numbers and know that we had a later start than ’21 and a lot more competition in the way of things for people to do, we’re really happy.”
Michigan, which has the third-most golf courses in the nation behind only Florida and California, didn’t feel the early-season weather impacts quite as much as some of its neighbors – at 6.4% down YOY in rounds through May. (Although Michigan was -16% at the end of April) However, the summer months were exceptionally good, pushing the state to +6.8% at the end of August and making it one of the most impactful in terms of the national boost given overall supply.
“In terms of pure playable days, we probably didn’t lose a single day in June, July and August. Obviously, that makes a huge difference when you’re looking at the total number of rounds,” said Adam Bailey, General Manager at Rackham Golf Course, one of the City of Detroit’s municipal facilities and NGF member #1032012.
“We’re definitely still seeing the golfers who came out during Covid, but we can attribute a lot of this to good weather. There’s a lot of optimism coming out of the 2022 summer.”
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