With the death of Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods's absence from competition, and a series of embarrassing rules controversies at the sport's highest levels, the last year hasn't been completely smooth sailing for the golf industry. But last week, a spot of bright news emerged in the National Golf Foundation's annual report on participation. The report showed that the number of beginner golfers in 2016 reached a record high of 2.5 million (this is defined as people who played on a golf course for the first time).
There were other positive signs, too. Thanks to innovative ways to participate in the game that may not include a traditional golf course, like Topgolf, overall participation in the game is up. Off-course participation increased 11%.
This is the first year that the NGF has included off-course participation in its reporting; it made the change to better reflect the realities of the sport on the ground.
“NGF has been planning the reporting of off-course participation for some time," said NGF President and CEO Joe Beditz. "There are a couple of good reasons for doing so: first, to make our golf participation numbers better reflect overall golf activity and play; and, second, to make our measure more comparable to other sports."
There was good news for fans of the LPGA and diversity in golf, as well. The report found that 33% of junior golfers (age 6-17) are girls, a dramatic increase from the 17% they made up in 1995. Young golfers today are also more diverse than in the past. Twenty-seven percent of junior golfers are non-white, up from 6% in 1995.