Total Rounds Played Down in 2014, but Utilization on Playable Days Trends Higher
Poor weather bunkered golfers during the early and latter portion of 2014, but total rounds played finished the year with a sunnier-than-expected disposition due in good measure to increased demand when Mother Nature decided to cooperate.
According to the rounds played “coalition” (comprised of Golf Datatech, NGF, PGA of America and the NGCOA) total rounds played finished 1.7% shy of 2013 numbers. Much of the drop can be attributed to poor weather that affected nearly half of the country during multiple stretches of the year. That was especially true in the first quarter where rounds played lagged 4.5% behind the same period in 2013. Likewise, playable days dipped 12% through March, according to PGA PerformanceTrak.
Improved weather during the late spring and much of summer helped rounds played rebound, but a dip in the latter part of the year—once again largely due to weather—erased a portion of those gains. Days open were down in both October and November, which alone saw more than a 10% drop in playable days (PGA PerformanceTrak).
Ultimately, this poor weather bookend caused 2014 to finish at a nine-year low in playable days. It also marked the second consecutive year that days open were down following an incredible weather year in 2012 that delivered a boost in total rounds played.
Golfers, however, remained resilient in their commitment to playing the game. Despite the unfavorable weather, rounds played per day open were up 1% over 2013, representing the second consecutive year of growth in utilization.
Equally encouraging to operators, the average rounds played per golfer in 2014 will likely be similar to 2013 (18.8), and has been rising slowly for much of the past decade (see chart). While this doesn’t represent a rise in total rounds played, it indicates that the majority of golfers lost since participation peaked were infrequent and less committed than those that have stayed with the game.