Topgolf, Tiger help golf grow again

Topgolf, Tiger help golf grow again
Tiger Woods celebrates after making his putt on the 18th green to win the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 14, 2019 in Augusta, Georgia. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

There’s hope yet for one of the world’s oldest pastimes.

The number of people in the U.S. who played at least one round of golf increased slightly in 2018 from the year earlier, the first year-over-year increase in 14 years, according to a new report from the National Golf Foundation. Off-course participation, like that of the popular Topgolf format, also saw a boost.

That’s good news for a state like Alabama, which has a number of public and private golf courses along with the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, one of the top tourism draws in the state.

The latest data from the foundation is “encouraging,” Compass Point’s Casey Alexander told clients in a note. The statistic may bode well for golf stocks, including Callaway Golf Co. and Acushnet Holdings Corp., both of which have outperformed the broader market since Tiger Woods’ historic Masters win back in April. Alexander has a buy rating on Callaway and a neutral rating on Acushnet.

Last year, the number of “people ages 6-and-up who played at least one round of golf on a golf course increased incrementally to 24.2 million,” the National Golf Foundation said. In addition, off-course participation, those hitting golf balls at golf-entertainment venues like Topgolf and Drive Shack, at stand-alone ranges, and using indoor simulators, rose by nearly 10% last year to 23 million.

While the total on-course participation count rose slightly, rounds-played declined 4.8% year-over-year to an estimated 434 million rounds in 2018, due in part to unfavorable weather. 2018 was the third-wettest year nationally dating back to 1895, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.

Birmingham’s Topgolf has become a popular entertainment venue and has attracted newcomers to the game of golf. (Michael Baxter, Baxter Imaging LLC)

(Contact the reporter at [email protected].)

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