Golf’s popularity continues to soar

Updated: February 29, 2024

Perhaps the most pressing question facing the golf industry over the past several years is whether the “pandemic dividend” would last.

There were further encouraging signs in 2023, with increases in participation and play, a healthier balance between the number of golfers and courses, and an evolution of a traditional game that’s positively affecting golf demand… and golf’s brand.

An estimated 26.6 million Americans played golf on a course in 2023, a net increase of approximately one million golfers. It’s the biggest single-year jump in on-course participants since 2001, the year Tiger Woods held all four major titles simultaneously – aka “The Tiger Slam” — which helped spur recreational golf engagement levels to new heights.

In the “Covid era,” the game has experienced momentum not seen since that “Tiger Boom,” with record or near-record levels of play and high-water marks for beginners and interest among non-golfers. The number of rounds of golf played in 2023 will check in just shy of the all-time high (in 2021) when the December data is released at the end of this month.

It’s not just a post-pandemic carryover either. The popularity and increasing availability of off-course forms of golf are introducing more people to the game in different ways, helping not only increase interest in golf but driving record on-course trials and creating a consumer base that’s more diverse than ever. Total participation – counting both green-grass and off-course play (like that at Topgolf or in indoor simulators) – climbed to 45 million in 2023, a 9% year-over-year gain and a jump of over 50% in the past decade.

When looking at the nearly 14,000 golf facilities nationwide, rounds per course over the past few years are at their highest levels since the early 1990s, an indication of the better balance between supply and demand.

Golf course closures in 2023 dipped to their lowest levels since prior to the Great Recession. And there were more new course openings last year than any time since 2010.