While we’re not exactly sure what the State of the Union might be, in golf we have some firm numbers that suggest the state of the game from both a national and global standpoint is good.
That’s the conclusion of the 2019 World Golf Report, an annual review of the current economic health and impact of the golf retail business. Conducted since 2014, the report is the result of a collaboration between U.S. golf research firm Golf Datatech and Japan’s Yano Research Institute, which studies the game’s economic reach in Asian countries.
According to the 2019 report, the golf equipment business grew by 4.1 percent in 2018 compared to 2017, reaching $8.41 billion. While that number is a significant boost over 2017’s down numbers, it remains behind the research firms’ first numbers from 2014. Those showed a total equipment sales decline of 3.5 percent compared to 2014’s $8.72 billion.
“We have good news that the golf industry had a good year in 2018,” said John Krzynowek, partner at Golf Datatech. “It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to say, ‘Hey, we’ve had a good year.’ You had all the world’s largest markets having very good years in 2018.”
Krzynowek noted that while the economic conditions in much of the world began 2018 in very positive circumstances, based on a number of political and international trade difficulties, the second half of the year slowed considerably. He also pointed to the trend of decreased unit sales combined with significant increases in average selling prices. As an example, average selling prices for drivers in the U.S. market have increased almost $100 compared to 2014, to nearly $300 in 2018.
The U.S. market was up by 5.4 percent over 2017 and was among the fastest growing golf economies, trailing only Germany, which was up nearly 6 percent year over year.
The study showed the top five golf markets in the world all grew in 2018, compared to 2017. In addition to the U.S.’s growth, Japan (+5.1 percent), Korea (4.3 percent) and the United Kingdom (+4.5 percent) had some of the largest improvements versus last year.
The report, which is available through Golf Datatech starting Feb. 1 and in Japan through Yano Research at the end of February, also studied golf apparel numbers and saw a sales gain, as well. Golf apparel sales reached $5.031 billion in 2018, a 6.4 percent increase since 2014.
Altogether, the golf market totaled almost exactly the same sales in 2018 as in 2014 at around $13.4 billion.
“To paraphrase Mark Twain,” Krzynowek said, “the rumor of golf retail’s death have been greatly exaggerated. It’s not a disaster out there. We’d all like to be growing 10 percent a year, but we’re not going down the drain.”
When asked about the prospects for 2019, Krzynowek was cautious, however.
“Coming out of 2018, all of our consumer data was relatively positive,” he said. “But our research was conducted in October, and since then we’ve had a huge stock-market correction, and from day to day that swings wildly. That really does impact what people buy.
“But I do think from a purely economic standpoint, people’s minds are in a better place than they were in 2014.”