Tiger Woods. Whether you recall his rise to golf superstardom yourself or are reminded of it thanks to the recent documentary that premiered on HBO Max, Tiger transformed the game like nobody before ever had when he emerged onto the scene some 25 years ago. Tiger’s rise inspired a new generation of golfers to learn the game, making the sport just as popular – if not even more popular – than the four major sports in America. And while golf’s popularity has ebbed and flowed in the years since Tiger’s scandal and subsequent resurgence, the sport is arguably just as popular now as it was when Tiger was taking it over.
Why? Because it’s a sport that lends itself well to social distant playing.
In the early days of the pandemic, golf courses throughout the United States hit a rough patch, with rounds played falling 8.5 percent in March and 42 percent in April compared to the previous year. But as courses reopened and Americans yearned to get out of the house amid nicer weather, the game bounced back – and in a big way. In fact, rounds played were up nearly 40 percent in 2020 over the previous year and less than 10 percent of all public golf courses reported poor financial standing, a number that’s down from about 25 percent just five years ago. Golf’s enhanced popularity these days also means that there are new opportunities to invest in the stock market, largely as it pertains to golf apparel and equipment sporting goods manufacturers.
Though there’s not much of an opportunity for consumers to invest in golf courses, there is an opportunity to invest in sporting goods manufacturers that have a significant presence in the sport. Acushnet Holdings, for instance, is the parent company of popular golf brands such as FootJoy and Titleist – and its stock has increased by nearly 15 percentage points in the past year. Dick’s Sporting Goods has seen its once struggling stock rise by more than 30 percentage points. Callaway Golf, a company that saw its stock tank in the early days of the pandemic, has rebounded as well. Sales continue to grow with all of these companies, making them attractive stocks to pursue.
Though golf’s resurgence as a sport became truly evident as the pandemic hit, it has been a long time coming. The number of players dipped after the 2008 Great Recession as it became financially difficult for many to play, but some 2.5 million first-time players took up the game in 2019. Now with remote working conditions and people itching to get outside and do something, heading out to the course for a four-hour round doesn’t seem as tough to fit in as it did in pre-COVID times.
It looks to be another positive spring and summer for the sport as the country progresses in emerging from the pandemic.