Not since 1997, the year Tiger Woods won his first title and launched the “Tiger Effect,” have we seen this many people flocking to the game of golf. Whether it’s cabin fever, lack of a commute, or the need to get outdoors and reconnect, golf has experienced a resurgence of popularity, and the Fairfax County Park Authority’s seven courses and five ranges have been along for the drive, exceeding national averages while we were at it.
Amid National Golf Month and fresh off two American Olympic gold medal wins, golf interest is at a 20-year high. In 2020, a half-million more Americans played compared to 2019, the first significant increase in golfers since 2003. Our Golf Fairfax facilities have seen the surge, coming off a record year for both rounds and range and class participants. We weren’t just welcoming back returning golfers. A wave of diverse, new and beginner golfers led the charge.
Nationally, the pool of junior golfers increased by 630,000 in 2020, raising the number of junior golfers to 3.1 million. Programs like Starting New at Golf and The First Tee Life Skills Experience incorporate life skills along with golf to encourage juniors to pause the screens and hit the greens. The number of African American, Asian, and Hispanic golfers climbed more than 300,000 to 5.1 million. Rounds played by ethnically diverse golfers increased 30%.
An additional 450,000 women and girls were added to the U.S. golf participant base, pushing the total number of female golfers to six million for the first time since 2007. Rounds played by females were up 25%. Tiger isn’t the only household name in the game anymore. Role models like Olympic Gold Medalist Nelly Korda and national LPGA campaigns such as #InviteHer and #LittleGirlsBigDreams spread the message that golf isn’t just for Dad.
Golf Fairfax has created an inclusive environment to accommodate and welcome all walks of life and levels of play to foster a love of the game. We aim to dispel myths that golf is for a certain age, gender, or income level. We offer programs for all and are dedicated to growing the game through affordable options.
So why is everyone headed to the greens? People are discovering and revisiting the reasons people play golf. It’s fun, it’s social and it’s a way to escape and unwind — a way to disconnect from the world and reconnect with friends and family. It’s a time to get outside with nature and work on your health both physically and mentally.
All it takes is one great shot. Research shows that “shot euphoria” is analogous to “runner’s high,” and it’s the main thing that keeps people coming back. Our Get Golf Ready classes and private lessons taught by PGA, LPGA and USGTF professionals at six locations help with that.
Off-course golfers (driving ranges, indoor options) are also growing and on pace to outnumber on-course players in the next few years. If you build it, they will come. We’ve invested time and resources into the nationally ranked practice, lighted, covered ranges at Burke Lake and Oak Marr Golf Centers. Pinecrest also offers an indoor golf simulator.
Whether you are returning to the life-long sport you love or curious about the buzz, Golf Fairfax focuses on traditional aspects of the game coupled with inclusive, innovative, and entertaining offerings. You can play whether you own custom clubs or own no clubs at all. See you on the greens!
Sources: National Golf Foundation and https://www.pellucidcorp.com.
Author Roberta Korzen is the Golf Marketing Specialist for the Fairfax County Park Authority.