Over the next 10-15 years, about 76 million baby boomers will enter their retirement years. While hopes are high for a boom in the golf industry, golf courses and golf businesses should curb their expectations because this generation of retirees may not be golfing as much as their predecessors.
According to NGF’s latest participation data, almost 10% of Boomers (roughly between ages 50-65) play golf. This group will completely replace, and about double, the golfers currently in their retirement years (age 65+). The good news is that historically, the older the golfer (with the exception of the elderly), the higher their number of rounds played. This trend hasn’t changed much over the last 20 years. Throughout the early 2010’s, golfers ages 65 and up played over 80% more rounds than their 50-64 year old counterparts. So, as Boomers move into retirement age, they will almost certainly play more golf, but how much?
Boomers lack confidence in their ability to live comfortably through their retirement years. Most Boomers won’t benefit from company sponsored pension plans like their parents did, and the Great Recession crushed home values and hit retirement portfolios hard. A recent NGF survey of Boomer golfers shows that only about one out of five or six feel ‘very confident’ that they have enough money to live comfortably during retirement. One-third feel less than confident, and only one-half are somewhat confident. More than 60% believe they will have to work longer and live more frugally in retirement than they planned.
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While the Boomers will certainly lift golf over the next 15 years, their impact is expected to be less than we hoped for. NGF estimates that Boomers will most likely contribute to a 5% to 15% increase in rounds. This boost in golf course activity should result in better fortunes for most other golf businesses as well, and is a move in a positive direction.
However, Boomers comprise less than one-third of current golfers, and golf participation among individuals aged 49 years or younger is down significantly, particularly in the critical 18-34 age range. In order for the industry to sustain success and enjoy future growth, it is vital for golf businesses to focus on increasing frequency of play by current golfers and getting new golfers to play the game.