Chicago, September 28, 2021 — As an outdoor sport that enables players to socially distance themselves from one another, golf has proven to be the perfect pandemic sport. Golf equipment dollar sales grew by +37% from January through August 2021 compared to the same period a year ago, reports The NPD Group. Often indicative of new players, year-over-year sales of golf club sets and balls grew by +37% and +27%, respectively. In addition to golf equipment manufacturers, foodservice operators at country clubs and golf courses have also benefitted. According to NPD, cases and dollars shipped by broadline foodservice distributors to clubs and courses increased by +32% and 51%, respectively in June, July, and August compared to last year.

“The golf industry was in a good place before the pandemic, but the interest in being outdoors and the ability to properly socially distance has contributed to the sport’s popularity,” says Matt Powell, NPD’s sports industry advisor. “Although golf equipment sales had slowed dramatically in recent months compared to last summer—when courses were fresh in reopening after lockdowns—looking at the broader picture, golf has garnered new interest since the start of the pandemic.”

The Pacific states of California, Oregon, and Washington have had the highest percentage gains in cases shipped to country clubs and golf courses from broadline distributors compared to a year ago. Case shipments to the Pacific states increased by +50%, and dollars rose by +71% this summer compared to last summer.

The reward for playing a round of golf is typically food. Among the top beverages and foods shipped to country clubs and golf courses this summer were bottled water, energy/sports drinks, juice drinks, chicken wings, hot dogs, and French fries, according to SupplyTrack®, NPD’s continual tracking of shipments and dollars from broadline foodservice distributors to commercial and non-commercial foodservice outlets.

In addition to country clubs and golf courses, golf entertainment venues, like Top Golf, Big Shots Golf, and Drive Shack, attract golfers and non-golfers alike. According to the National Golf Foundation, 24 million people participate in golf by playing on the 15,000 plus courses in the U.S., but 21 million people participate in the sport by playing in entertainment venues. NPD’s restaurant census, ReCount®, finds that one golf entertainment chain increased its locations by +14% based on the Spring 2021 census compared to last year’s same period.   

“Where there is fun, there is food,” says Tim Fires, president of NPD’s SupplyTrack® service. “Winning in the foodservice market today means finding the pockets of opportunity, like country clubs and golf courses.”

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