Many industries have experienced the effects of Covid-19 but how has the golf industry fared?
When each of the Australian states experienced lockdowns back in March, golf was one of the few sports that was legally allowed to be played. With the exception of Victoria, where golf was banned at this time, golf in Australia experienced a mini boom.
Golf clubs, manufacturers, retail and service providers all reported strong sales and demand. Golf clubs found that membership enquiries were rising, and, in some cases, clubs had to implement a club membership waitlist system. Clubs also experienced back to back tee time lists and golf gear sales were higher than ever.
While the golf industry nationally seems to have prospered, how were specific businesses impacted?
Scott Wagstaff, General Manager of Carbrook Golf Club said their club did really well during the lockdown. He said in general Covid-19 had been good for golf in Queensland with demand for the sport being at an all-time high. With golf being played, green fees, cart hire, and memberships were not affected. Of course, restrictions on the hospitality industry meant that clubhouses could not operate. While the clubhouse at Carbrook contributes substantially to a club’s earnings, it didn’t have a huge impact.
Luke Stephenson, General Manager of Yamba Golf and Country Club and Gavin Lawrence, General Manager of Keperra Country Golf Club agree with Scott Wagstaff when it comes to the benefits of the lockdown for golf in Queensland, citing increased participation rates and merchandise sales.
The Burleigh Golf Club experienced an increase in membership and the high demand for a round of golf meant they had to implement a ‘members only’ policy to ensure that club members could get a round of golf.
But while these are positives there was a downside. Tracey-Lea Tiley, General Manager of Hope Island Resort said their event business took a big hit and they lost many months of group bookings.
Victoria lived through some of the toughest restrictions back in March which meant there was no golf at all. Now with metropolitan Melbourne under stage 4 lockdown, golf is once again off the table.
Jodie McDonald, Sales and Marketing Manager at Sandhurst Club in Melbourne said the shut down in March was an opportunity to get ahead on course maintenance and complete course works ahead of schedule. Once they re-opened, they experienced an influx of players and an increase in memberships.
Barbara Kelly, GM of Chirnside Park / Gardiners Run Golf Club and Jenny Brook, Marketing Manager of Clifton Spring Golf Club agree with Jodie MacDonald. They too experienced increases in membership numbers and back to back golf bookings.
Andrew Kirkman, General Manager of The Lakes found Covid-19 had an interesting effect on how golf was played at his club. When they started playing in groups of two in April, they found each round of 18 holes was taking on average 3 hours to play which meant they could get more players through the course in a day. It seems that even now with groups of four permitted, golfers are continuing to play a quick game. These quick games have meant that there is a possibility that this member only club may be able to offer tee times to visitors on Mondays and Thursdays.
Monash Country Club, Castle Cove Country Club and Roseville Golf Club have all experienced an increase in golfers coming through the door and memberships sky rocketing. But while, participation was up, there were some challenges with ensuring players abided by the new rules set in place by the government.
Retail and Manufacturing
There’s more to golf than just the golf course. Everyone wants to look sharp on the course and have the latest equipment and it’s been no different during the pandemic. Retailer Drummond Golf and manufacturer Callaway Golf South Pacific traded really well through that period recognising that play has increased over this time.
They have attributed this upward trend to the restrictions in other pastimes, flexible working arrangements with a lot of people required to work from home and in some cases reduced work hours. The fact that golf is also a naturally socially distanced game helps.
Covid-19 has bought many challenges to the Australian lifestyle, the health of Australians and the Australian economy. The fact that golf has managed to thrive during this time is a great feat for the sport. Hopefully, the increased membership numbers cited in the latest Golf Club Participation Report of Australia will increase once again when it’s time for the next report to be released.