Hole #8
July 2019 Industry Report

According to the National Golf Foundation, on-course participation climbed for the first time in 14 years and off-course participation jumped almost 10%, indicating how we play the game continues to evolve. In 2018, 24.2 golfers played on-course compared to 23.8 million golfers in 2017…or an incremental increase of 1.7%. For the traditional game, perhaps the most critical metric is the stable pool of roughly 20 million dedicated golfers. This group, estimated at 19.5 million Americans in 2018, accounts for 95% of all rounds-played and spending, and therefore is vital to golf businesses and those who make a living in the industry. Dedicated golfers represent 81% of those who play. While the total on-course participation count rose slightly, rounds-played declined 4.8% year-over-year to an estimated 434 million rounds in 2018. This drop was attributable in part to weather conditions unfavorable for golf.

More recently, rounds played were up 6.8% in April compared to a year earlier thanks to warmer temperatures in many northern parts of the country. In 2018, April rounds had been down 13.5% nationally because cooler temperatures delayed the start of spring.

Changing tastes

According to Golf Datatech, serious golfers (averaging 60+ rounds per year with household incomes exceeding $156K per year) still have tremendous sway in our sport. Although they represent less than a third of golfers, embracing their “pyramid of influence” is a key marketing initiative targeted by just about every major golf brand. The essence of the pyramid is that golfers of every skill level aspire to improve and be better at the game – regardless of their playing ability.

With changing tastes of how we view media (with less reliance on print and traditional television), the survey did reveal fundamental changes in how higher handicappers behave when purchasing golf equipment. However, it’s unlikely to see Titleist downplay (its ball count) or TaylorMade (its driver count) anytime soon.

Tropical paradise the size of a city

The Dominican Republic, about 900 miles southeast of Miami, has long been a vacation haven known for its year-round tropical weather and nearly 1,000 miles of sandy beach. A geographically diverse nation, it’s home to both the Caribbean’s tallest mountain peak (Pico Duarte) and largest lake (Lake Enriquillo). The country’s first tourist was Christopher Columbus in 1492. Today, with 6.5 million visitors arriving each year, tourism is the economic engine that drives the economy.

Located on the eastern tip of the Dominican Republic, about a 10-minute drive from the Punta Cana Airport (PUJ), Cap Cana is an exclusive address known for its ambitious dimensions. The resort destination, at 46 square miles in size, is equal to the footprint of Walt Disney World or San Francisco. Among its marinas, resorts, adventure park, three-mile white sandy beach, and residential enclaves peppering Cap Cana is Punta Espada Golf Club, a Jack Nicklaus Signature oceanfront course with eight holes that hug along the craggy edges of the Caribbean’s blue waters. Golfweek has rated Punta Espada the No. 1 golf course in the Caribbean and Mexico for eight consecutive years and Golf Digest rates it No. 63 in the world. More: www.PuntaEspadaGolf.com.

A lawsuit with major ramifications

According to Golf Dispute Resolution, the California Attorney General has ClubCorp squarely in its sights, courtesy of a lawsuit filed last week. ClubCorp – who describes itself as “the largest owner and operator of private clubs” – is charged with wrongfully withholding $178 million in initiation deposits nationwide, including $10 million with respect to California club members. The complaint alleges that ClubCorp’s membership agreements “all provide that the deposit will be unconditionally refunded to the member after thirty years,” but that “despite this contractual repayment term, for decades ClubCorp has retained initiation deposits long past the dates they come due for repayment.” The Attorney General asserts that “keeping members’ deposit money instead of returning it as required by contract is ClubCorp’ s business practice not just in California but nationwide.” The complaint goes so far as to quote the autobiography of ClubCorp’s founder, Robert Dedman, Sr – “A dollar borrowed is a dollar earned. A dollar refinanced is a dollar saved. And a dollar paid back is a dollar lost forever.” I will continue to follow the court’s actions in future monthly reports.

A sure bet just outside Las Vegas

This year, Las Vegas will attract more than 42 million visitors from around the world. Sandwiched between every imaginable diversion known to man, approximately 900,000 vacationers will opt for a round of golf during their trip. Reflection Bay, a Jack Nicklaus Signature course at Lake Las Vegas Resort, located 30 minutes from The Strip, is a smartly designed layout that plays around the largest man-made lake in Nevada (holding three billion gallons of fresh water). More: www.ReflectionBayGolf.com.

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