After a historic surge in play, what might golf’s future look like?

At first the season was in question, but pretty soon the only question Canadian golfers had was whether they could get a tee time. Golf’s popularity has soared, club sales are at record highs, and the future looks brighter than ever.

Greenkeepers got the green light early in the pandemic, with golf courses across the country opening their gates for play in May. As one of the first recreational activities permitted by public health officials, golf experienced a tsunami of fresh interest from folks who were new, or didn’t consider themselves “golfers.” The result was 30% more rounds played countrywide in 2020 than the previous year, despite having the first three weeks of the season lopped off by COVID.

With so many new golfers picking up the game, how will their welcomed participation in the sport change the future of golf? It’s an interesting question, and one that many observers of the sport have speculated on. Here are a few musings on what might happen as more and more individuals get involved with our great game.

Private Memberships Will Boost

If you’re a public player, like most of us are, you’ll know firsthand just how challenging it was to get a tee time this season. With tee sheets filling up in a matter of minutes, people were undoubtedly tempted by the idea of joining a private course. That’s not to say private courses weren’t slammed, they were, with lottery systems often put in place to accommodate surging demand, but private courses, by their very nature, aren’t as difficult to secure a spot to play. So, after a year that saw 25-30 percent increase in rounds played across the country, the private club market, which has become increasingly competitive in recent years, may get a nice boost.

Fresh Thinking

Golf  is a game of traditions, many of which no one wants to do away with, but maybe new golfers will bring some different insights and fresh thinking. Golf as a more casual, more recreational part of the summer definitely shone through this year, and maybe that’s just what the sport needs—some loosening. Of course we need to respect the game, but perhaps COVID has made us focus on the important things in life, and no, that doesn’t include whether or not a cotton polo stays tucked in… “Focus on the fun,” that’s a motto we can all agree on.

Golf Superstardom

 Tiger Woods is a household name, but when it comes to golfers, the list mostly ends there. Golf fans may know 100 tour players by name and birthplace, but the average person simply doesn’t recognize Rickie Fowler or wouldn’t look twice if Henrik Stenson walked past. With golf going through its renaissance, this may all change. Not only are people playing more golf this year, they’re also watching tons of it, meaning golfers could very well move from the peripheral of athletic stardom and onto the mainstage.

Rob Carr/Getty Images

New Ways to Play

 If this summer proved anything, it’s that there isn’t a day or way people won’t play golf. Whether it’s a quick nine after dinner, or an early morning tee time on the weekend, golfers, new and veteran, flocked to courses. What will that mean for next year? With the advent of short courses and nine hole tracks, golf may deviate from the standard 18-hole round and, just like the dress code, loosen up a bit. Want to play 6 holes after 6 pm? No problem. Courses will have to adapt to these changes and maybe introduce some flexible green fee packages, but they’ll be happy to if it means more revenue.

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4 thoughts on “After a historic surge in play, what might golf’s future look like?”

  1. Here’s another thought. As manufacturers jack up the price of golf equipment, similar to the “Tiger” boom and courses jack up both the price of membership and green fees, which I’m seeing for next year already, people will leave golf in record numbers in 2022 after the pandemic is over.

  2. Too bad that Golf Courses are a developer sport. Few courses are planting trees after winters of ice storms, wind storms, beech tree beetles. Why plant, when that space is a future house. Perhaps all will be links style in the future.

    IF they get allowances from Conservation Authorities, those allowances should be permanent, with no development allowed. Too bad this is all about money and not a sport. Come on Developers/Owners try to have some reverence for the sport.
    Traditionally after the “season – late October, early November the price goes down (less service), not this year, everywhere is a money grab

    1. I noticed this too. It’s ok to charge full price on a beautiful day when the course is crowded but why do the same on a cold and windy day in mid November when the tee sheet is wide open. It seems like poor business practice to me.

  3. One of the challenges of a regular golfer besides trying to get a tee time, is the relaxed allowance of music on the course played through external speakers.
    One of the ways a golfer can learn how to hit the ball properly is by listening to the strike.
    Music from three holes away is a nuisance as well as a distraction. Not to mention that one of the reasons for playing golf should be the sound of nature.
    I am not sure why I would have to listen to somebody’s musical preference. That is why headphones were invented. If we want to continue to respect the game, it should be given to other players on the course.