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More beginners, bigger base: Insights from the NGF’s Industry Report

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A record number of first-time players took up the game in 2017, according to the National Golf Foundation’s Industry Report. 2.6 million beginners swung a club for the first time last year. Additionally, first-timers making their maiden trips to a golf course increased for the fourth straight year.

The NGF took a different route with its report this year, saying,

“To more accurately reflect the evolution of golf’s overall consumer base…[the organization] expanded definition of participation looks beyond traditional on-course golf and also factors in off-course engagement, which tracks those who swing a golf club at facilities like Topgolf, indoor simulators and driving ranges.”

Per the NGF, the on-course participant base held steady at 23.8 million golfers in 2017. 8.3 million people played exclusively off course, interestingly, at Topgolf and similar facilities, driving ranges, and simulators. Thus, the total number of “golfers” in the U.S. is nearly 32 million.

“Golf participation is evolving,” said NGF President Joe Beditz. “On-course, green-grass participation is holding its own and off-course is continuing to grow. There’s no denying that we’re down from our pre-recession highs, but it appears to us that traditional participation is stabilizing and there may be a new support level between 23 million and 24 million.”

The game’s most ardent players continue to account for 95 percent of all rounds-played and spending in an $84 billion industry.

With respect to translating off-course participation into on-course play, the number of non-golfers who said that they’re “very interested” in playing golf increased to 14.9 million from 12.8 million in 2016.

Rounds played were down 2.7 percent to 456 million in 2017. As has been the case every year since 2006, there were more facility closures than openings, with just over 200 facilities shutting their doors. The U.S. still has just under 15,000 facilities: 45% of the global supply.

Openings such as Streamsong Black in Florida, Shepherd’s Rock in Pennsylvania and Bayou Oaks in Louisiana got plenty of attention, but renovation projects remain the major industry investment. The NGF tracked 1,100 major course renovations in 2017.

The average price of an 18-hole round of golf at a public course in 2017: $34. 75 percent of U.S. courses are open to the public. The NGF says this is the highest public-to-private ration in the country’s history.

Looking ahead to 2018, the NGF sees “a further balancing of supply and demand.” 15 to 25 new course openings, 75 to 100 major renovation projects.

NGF members can access the full report here for free ($199 for non-members)

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GolfWRX Morning 9: U.S. RC team flying high | Tour Champ ratings skyrocket | DIY Ryder Cup pools

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By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com)

September 25, 2018

Good Tuesday morning, golf fans.
1. A strong sendoff
PGATour.com’s Mike McAllister with a look at how the U.S. Ryder Cup team was flying high (before flying high).
  • “The U.S. team room at the Renaissance hotel near the Atlanta airport was buzzing Sunday night while anticipating the arrival of its latest winner. Finally, the moment came.”
  • “A giant roar when Steve Stricker walked in the room after his victory last night,” captain Jim Furyk said Monday, doing his best to suppress a smile.
  • “No offense to Stricker, whose wire-to-wire win at the inaugural Sanford International was his third in just seven starts on the current PGA TOUR Champions season. A most impressive performance, to be sure, but even vice-captain Stricker would admit the biggest buzz for the Americans on Sunday was generated by Tiger Woods, who ended his five-year drought on the PGA TOUR by claiming the TOUR Championship.”
  • “Several of the U.S. players had stayed at East Lake late Sunday to congratulate Woods. Then they gathered at the hotel for a team dinner before jumping on a plane that landed in France at approximately 12:45 p.m. locally Monday afternoon.”
2. Setting up Le Golf National
TMOF with a look at how Captain Bjorn will attempt to advantage his team with the setup in France.
  • “After a quick walk around Le Golf National, The Man Out Front can say the 2018 Ryder Cup venue is in sensational condition but is noticeably cruel to tee shots missing the landing areas by more than 10 yards. The course features a lush cool season mix of grasses throughout, with a 3-yard wide transitional cut between fairway and 3-inch maintained rough in length, give or take a few strains of grass.”
  • “After the 10-yard wide transitional area of maintained rough – no picnic for even the strongest players- the rough turns downright nasty. Clearly cultivated to severely punish tee shots, expect to see some lost ball searches and hack-out shots at the many holes where water fronts the green complexes.”
  • “Accuracy and conservative play will be at a premium at the 2018 Ryder Cup. Couple the extra pressure on driving with European team’s experience, and Team USA has a lot of preparation ahead over three days of practice.”
3. Wager this way
Shane Ryan with some solid thoughts on hopefully getting in your friends’ pockets a little during the Ryder Cup.
  • “In golf, the majors don’t really lend themselves to fun, interactive, dynamic pools. Sure, you can do the thing where you pick a player or two from various world ranking categories, but for a sports pool nut like myself, it feels a little empty, a little dull. The Ryder Cup, on the other hand, is that rare event whose format is so unique that it practically begs you to devise sophisticated games of chance. Along with being one of the best sports exhibitions on the world, it’s also a bed of fertile soil for pool-minded zealots like myself.”
  • “1. The Pod Pool…This pool, invented by yours truly for the 2016 incarnation, is tried and true and very fun. I’m leading with it because if you partake in just one pool, it should be this one. It would take more space than we have to explain the rules, so I’m going to refer you tothis post from the Hazeltine Ryder Cup that details everything. The pod pool is a true joy, and it works best with at least 10 people (we had around 35 last time). The new pods for 2018 are below…feel free to tweak if you disagree:”
  • “Pod 1: Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy Pod 2: Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Ian Poulter, Jon Rahm Pod 3: Jordan Spieth, Tiger Woods, Tommy Fleetwood, Henrik Stenson Pod 4: Bryson DeChambeau, Rickie Fowler, Francesco Molinari, Alex Noren Pod 5: Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Paul Casey, Tyrrell Hatton Pod 6: Webb Simpson, Tony Finau, Sergio Garcia, Thorbjorn Olesen”

4 more suggestions in the full article

.
4. Tiger Woods Effect: Tour Championship edition
Perhaps not surprisingly, with a 5.21 overnight rating, the final round of the Tour Championship was the highest-rated (non-major) PGA Tour telecast of 2018.
  • Tiger Woods’ 80th PGA Tour win was the highest-rated broadcast in FedEx Cup history, with viewership was up 206 percent compared to 2017.
  • Golf’s big Sunday followed an impressive Saturday. As Golfweek’s Martin Kaufmann noted
  • “In the TV-ratings world, a mediocre football game typically drubs even some of the PGA Tour’s biggest events. Yet during Saturday’s third round, with Woods in the final group, NBC’s coverage of The Tour Championship drew more viewers than every college football game except the Alabama-Texas A&M game. Because, as we all know, nobody beats Alabama – not even Tiger Woods.”
  • Across NBC Sports Digital’s platforms, Sunday’s final found saw 18.4 million minutes streamed (up 561 percent year-over-year).
5. Meanwhile at the Mid-Am…
Golfweek’s Brentley Romine writes…”Stewart Hagestad made three birdies and an eagle to easily advance Monday at the U.S. Mid-Amateur…Hagestad, the 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion from Newport Beach, Calif., defeated Minnesota’s Bradley Wohlers, 8 and 6, in the Round of 64 at Charlotte (N.C.) Country Club.”
  • “Top seed Stephen Behr, a former Clemson golfer who is playing in his first U.S. Mid-Amateur, beat Jeffrey Osberg of Bryn Mawr, Pa., 3 and 2. He will play Belgium’s Samuel Echikson in the Round of 32. Echikson is one of just four non-Americans left in the field.”
  • “On other notable matches: Sam O’Dell def. Todd Mitchell, 4 and 2; Jordan Sease def. Kyle Downey, 8 and 6; Grant Schroeder def. Marc Dull, 3 and 1; Matthew Mattare def. Bradford Tilley, 2 and 1; and Andres Schonbaum def. defending champion Matt Parziale, 3 and 2.”
6. And the nominees are…
PGA Tour Player of the year nominees...(AKA Brooks Koepka and the other guys who won’t win)
Bryson DeChambeau
Dustin Johnson
Brooks Koepka
Francesco Molinari
Justin Rose
Justin Thomas
Rookie of the Year nominees
Austin Cook
Satoshi Kodaira
Keith Mitchell
Joaquin Niemann
Aaron Wise
7. Cross-handed DJ cometh
After switching to a cross-handed putting grip during the Tour Championship, Dustin Johnson plans to do the same at Le Golf National.
  • Our Gianni Magliocco writes, “Dustin Johnson made a weekend charge at the Tour Championship, and it was almost good enough for him to capture the FedEx Cup title (and with it the $10 million jackpot). Although he fell short, the revival gave him a third-place finish at the season finale, after he fired back to back rounds of 67 at East Lake. The most interesting part about his weekend performance? Well, during the sixth hole on Saturday, Johnson decided to putt for the rest of the event cross-handed.”
  • “So how did Johnson perform with the cross-handed technique? Well, the American gained strokes over the field on the greens on both days over the weekend. For the two days of action, Johnson gained 0.63 strokes over the field with the flatstick, which incidentally was more than he managed over the opening two days in Atlanta. However, a missed birdie chance from inside six feet on the 18th hole on Sunday evening doomed his chances of taking home the FedEx Cup.”
8. Chamblee: Europe should be favored
Brandel Chamblee, appearing on the Golf Channel podcast, said (beyond home continent advantage), the reason the European Ryder Cup squad ought to be favored is Le Golf National will place a premium on driving accuracy, something the American squad struggles with.
9. No social media shutdown
Geoff Shackelford reports on Captains Furyk and Bjorn’s cool daddery…”During these events, I don’t see a lot of our players on their phones and on social media – they are such busy weeks,” Furyk said. “I don’t really have any policies, per se, other than you obviously want to keep everything straight and narrow, and I think social media is great when it’s fun. But past that, you know, I don’t really see any issues or concerns.”
  • “European captain Thomas Bjorn has no plans for a blackout, either. He sees social media now as part of an athlete’s life and image, especially the younger players….”I think if you put restrictions on what they can do and how they live their lives, it changes them a bit,” Bjorn said. “I have no problems with social media. But as Jim says, it’s so busy; a high-pressure week and a sensitive week, and I’m sure they on both sides will respect that.”

 

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Tiger Woods’ Tour Championship win delivered a big ratings boost

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Perhaps not surprisingly, with a 5.21 overnight rating, the final round of the Tour Championship was the highest-rated (non-major) PGA Tour telecast of 2018.

Tiger Woods’ 80th PGA Tour win was the highest-rated broadcast in FedEx Cup history, with viewership was up 206 percent compared to 2017.

Golf’s big Sunday followed an impressive Saturday. As Golfweek’s Martin Kaufmann noted

“In the TV-ratings world, a mediocre football game typically drubs even some of the PGA Tour’s biggest events. Yet during Saturday’s third round, with Woods in the final group, NBC’s coverage of The Tour Championship drew more viewers than every college football game except the Alabama-Texas A&M game. Because, as we all know, nobody beats Alabama – not even Tiger Woods.”

Across NBC Sports Digital’s platforms, Sunday’s final found saw 18.4 million minutes streamed (up 561 percent year-over-year).

“Tiger Woods’ win at the TOUR Championship was an unforgettable event in golf,” said Mike McCarley, President, Golf, NBC Sports Group. “The massive gallery following Tiger up the 18th fairway was matched by record viewership across NBC Sports’ platforms. Golf is experiencing a surge in momentum with Tiger and the young stars of the Tiger-inspired generation atop leaderboards. We look forward to this momentum continuing this week at the Ryder Cup.”

Woods has boosted ratings every time he’s teed it up this season. At the British Open, where Woods tied for sixth, ratings were the highest in 18 years. Similarly, PGA Championship ratings were the highest since 2009.

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Tour Rundown: Tiger wins the Tour Championship, a 59, and Stricker is back

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Imagine the headline Rose wins FedEx Cup and no one is aware. Essentially, the golf world found out about the Englishman’s championship in the aftermath of the comeback of Tiger Woods. Is it a complete comeback? Who knows what a complete comeback is? We know that Tiger won for the first time since 2013, and we see how people care. It’s akin to Jack is back from 1980, with all the drama of the internet age thrown in. For now, as golf gives way to football (with the exception of the Ryder Cup,) the Woods victory will sate us all through the winter months, and give time and space to discussions about Tiger’s at Augusta and Pebble Beach, sites of the first two major championships of 2019.

The PGA Tour’s Tour Championship lies safely in Tiger’s paws

Tiger Woods won this tournament by leading after 18 and 36, then establishing a margin of five strokes, heading into Sunday. He wasn’t completely dominant, say, as he was in 2000 at Pebble’s millenial U.S. Open. He was very, very good, and the golf world did more than pause and notice. Justin Rose didn’t have enough to chase him down. Rory McIlroy buckled in his presence on Sunday. Guys like Horschel, Johnson and Matsuyama move up 4, 6 and 12 spots, respectively, to claim 2nd through 4th positions. One-over par was good enough for a 2-shot victory, number 80 on the career list, for the only candidate to challenge Jack Nicklaus for greatest male golfer of all time. Do you think we missed him? Have a look.

Tiger’s Winning WITB

Web.Com Tour Championship is McCarthy’s first

Denny McCarthy has a flair for the dramatic. Why else make your first Web.Com tour win (and potentially, your last) anything but the Tour Championship? With his 4-shot margin of victory over Lucas Glover, McCarthy further sealed his trip to the big leagues in October, serving notice of the arrival of yet another young talent. The University of Virginia alum surged past 3rd-round leader Sepp Straka with 4 birdies in 5 holes, to close his outward nine. He had 4 more birdies on the inward half, to go with a bogey per side, for a round of 65 at the Atlantic Beach country club in Florida. Glover birdied the 2nd hole, but fell into a malaise. He moved through the turn with bogey at 8 and double at 10, which served to awaken his birdie engine. Four birdies over the final 7 holes closed his round and guaranteed 2nd place money. As for Straka, he wasn’t bad until the 16th hole. He was 3-under on the day with three to play, within reach of McCarthy, until he tripled the antipenultimate hole. He tied for 3rd spot with three others. For the rest of the field, it was a dramatic day of heartbreak and joy. Have a look.

European Tour sees first 59 in Portugal

Oliver Fisher secured his place in European Tour history, signing for the first round of 59 in the long history of the circuit. Nicolas Colsaerts holed out for an Albatross on a par five. And yet the week belonged to the guy who shot 61. Tom Lewis claimed thefirst-place baubles in Portugal, despite opening with a mundane 72 in round 1. He followed it with 63-61 to find himself in the thick of matters. On Sunday, with golfers around him faltering, especially 3rd-round leader Lucas Herbert, Lewis seized the advantage and rode a 3-shot win over loquacious Eddie Pepperell. It had been 7 years since young Tom Lewis won his first European Tour event, also along the Iberian coast in Portugal. Nearly a decade later, a wizened, older Tom Lewis brought home a well-deserved bookend.

Stricker takes inaugural Sanford International on Champions Tour

Steve Stricker and Brandt Jobe began the final round of the Sanford International in a tie at 130. Given Stricker’s margin of experience in the wins and the international-competition column, it might have been expected that the Wisconsonite would make short work of Jobe. He did. And the rest of the field took notice, too. Stricker closed with 67 to secure a 4-shot win over surging Tim Petrovic. Jobe’s 2-over par 72 dropped him into a tie for 4th with Kevin Sutherland. The victory catapulted Stricker into the top 10 in the season-long Schwab Cup race.

PGA Tour Latinoamerica has “two strokes lower” winner in Rozo

Marcelo Rozo did something rarely seen, on any tour: he fired 69-67-65-63 to win the 65 IHSF Brazil Open by one stroke over Australia’s Harrison Endycott. Despite the glamour of the “two strokes lower” sequence, the Colombian needed every shot to hold off his challenger. Endycott eagled the par-five 18th hole, but Rozo was up to the task. He birdied 16 and 17, and made a clutch par at the last for his 1st win of the season. The victory launched Rozo all the way to the top of the season-long Order of Merit, guaranteeing him membership on the Web.Com tour next season.

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