The State of Golf – Perception is Reality

The poor state of golf is an easy target for most writers. By gathering stats about the golf industry, it is easy to paint a picture of despair or economic boom. It is an industry that influences most areas of across Canada and has an economic impact that most people do not realize or understand.

Here are some stats about the Canadian 2014 golfing industry from the National Allied Golf Association:

The total direct economic activity (total direct sales, golf related travel, capital spending) resulting from the Canadian Golf Industry is estimated at $19.7 billion.

These facts come from Based on direct, indirect and induced impacts, Canada’s 2013 golf cluster economic impact accounts for about $14.3 billion of Canada’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), up from $12.2 billion in 2008.

  • 300,100  jobs;
  • $8.3 billion in household income;
  • $1.4 billion in property and other indirect taxes; and,
  • $2.2 billion in federal and provincial income taxes.

  Additional key benefits and impact of golf in Canada include:

  • Environmental BenefitsOver 175,000 hectares of green space managed by approximately 2,308 golf course operators, including 30,000 hectares of unmanaged wildlife habitat under golf course stewardship.
  • Golf Participation SNG estimates, based on starts reported by operators and rounds played reported by Canadian golfers, that approximately 60 million rounds of golf were played in 2013.
  • According to a recent NAVICOM study – there are close to 5.7 million golfers in Canada.
  • Employment Opportunities The Canadian Golf Industry provides an excellent employment opportunity, with as many as 37% of those working at Canadian golf courses being students.
  • Charitable Activity In 2013 there were nearly 37,000 charitable events hosted at Canadian courses (25,000 in 2008). Using conservative estimates, these events raise more than $533 million for charitable causes across Canada.
  • Golf Tourism Canadian travelers make more than 1 million trips involving golf, spending $2.5 billion annually on golf-related travel within Canada (including on-course spending at courses visited). Foreign visiting golfers spent $1.6 billion on golf related travel and on-course spending.

What does all these stats mean? The layman’s perception is that the golf industry is fantastic shape and that it continues to grow each year. However, paints a different picture:

“The numbers are stunning. There are an estimated 2,400 golf courses across the country, while Statistics Canada pegs the number of golfers in Canada at about 1.5 million. That’s one course for every 625 players, or 14,500 Canadians—among the highest number per capita in the world. Moreover, Canadians appear to be playing less golf than they used to. A recent study by the National Allied Golf Associations, or NAGA, found that the number of rounds played on the average Canadian course has dropped 10 per cent over the past five years, with the blame falling on everything from waning interest to the time commitment required.”

So, who do we believe? What is the state of the golf industry in Canada? From an amateurs point of view, the only real metric about the state of the golf industry is how it affects my ability to find a reasonable course to play, at a reasonable price. Unfortunately, it is difficult to comprehend the impact of having a golf course in my local area, but from my point of view, here is what I perceive as important from the golf industry:

  • Cost. Depending on the course between $30-60 per player is a reasonable cost. However, depending on where a person lives, what they do for a living, and their passion for golf, that cost may change dramatically.
  • Accessibility. As a member, I like to the convenience of playing golf with unrestricted access to a course. As a nonmember, access may not be that simple. I have tried to get access to some courses that were it is impossible to play and others where I could walk on without any trouble; my perception is that the convenience of an accessible course is a good course to go play.
  • All Inclusive Price. I like value for my money. I like to know the cost of a round of golf (with a cart) up front. There are certain expectations built by the price of a round of golf, however the extra costs should not be disproportionate to that cost. My perception is that if the extras are to pricey, the course does not really value my patronage.
  • Customer Service. Golf is a service industry. I have an expectation my experience will be positive. If it is, I will tell 100 people. If it is not, I will tell 1000! Customer service can change the perception of a golf experience.
  • Be Involved in the Local Community. I realize golf courses are a business and have a bottom-line. I also believe that the bottom-line for any business is higher if they are engaged with the local community. Many courses do not offer junior programs, but I think if the industry wants to grow or at least maintain what they already have, reaching out to the juniors is an underdeveloped venue to grow the game.

The golfing industry will ebb and flow with the economy. In good times, the golf industry grows. During decline, the golf industry suffers because of the lack of disposable income of players. Regardless, the perception of the players is what drives the golf industry. Influencing that perception is the key to growing the game!

I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!

4 thoughts on “The State of Golf – Perception is Reality

  1. Jim,

    Interesting post! At least here in Calgary, golf seems to be going strong. There are a lot of golf courses here yet if you try and get a tee time last minute on a weekend, good luck getting something! Sometimes I find it hard to believe when I see statistics showing that golf is suffering since I am typically in places where it seems to be booming. I appreciate you sharing these statistics!


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jim this is a very interesting take. So I gather from your view from the forest, the state is good? I cannot comment on Canadian golf because I’m not that familiar, but I share the view in the U.S. I know the industry is contracting though. There are fewer players, cost of greens fees are coming down, it’s easier to get a tee time, travel packages can be found for very reasonable prices. So what may be a good thing for me, the consumer, may not be that good at the macro level. I think enthusiasm has waned a bit as the Tiger bubble popped and that had a rippling effect across the board. We will still be feeling the effects for years.

    Interesting topic, thanks!


    Liked by 1 person

    • Brian,

      I think that the golf industry in Canada is good. It waxes and wanes with the economy and will cause challenges, but that is what a market economy is all about. I know there are deals to be had for the smart shopping consumer and at the micro level, this is good.

      I think Tiger is being replaced by some of the young guns and he will soon be replace for star power. I think the media will make this happen the more Tiger is on the sidelines. As always, thanks for sharing your views!


      Liked by 1 person

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