Impressions from the PGA Show 2023
A glance at the golf industry worldwide and in the US
The now 70th edition of the PGA Show in Orlando is almost back to its old strength in 2022. Even as some aisles in the Orange County Convention Center were still a bit broader than pre-pandemic: the major golf club manufacturers were back on board and the trade show was reminiscent of earlier dimensions. The positive mood was striking: after three years of the pandemic, the industry was not only happy to meet again live on site, but was also not threatened by the currently challenging economic conditions such as high inflation and supply bottlenecks. On the contrary: numerous new exhibitors wooed customers with more or less innovative products.
And so, from January 24 to 27, Orlando once again became the Mecca of golf. In addition to the trade show, the range of events has been supplemented for years by numerous continuing education programs. As in the previous year, NGCOA (National Golf Course Owners Assocciation) hosted the Golf Business Conference from January 23 to 25 and discussed numerous aspects of golf development and its impact on golf facilities. Of course, there were also many continuing education opportunities for PGA professionals, covering not only golf training but also pro shop marketing and golf club management. Traditionally, industry organizations and exhibitors also use the show to honor the best of their guild. The AGM (Association of Golf Merchandisers), for example, honored the best golf stores in the industry with the coveted Platinum Awards.
Results of the World Golf Report 2023
As part of the PGA Show, Golf Datatech and Yano Research Institute presented the first results of the World Golf Report 2023, according to which global sales of golf equipment in 2022 declined slightly by 3.58% compared to the previous year, but still remain well above pre-pandemic levels at a total of USD 11.082 billion. There was also a slight decline in the apparel segment, where global sales fell by 0.88% to USD 8.879 billion. This means that a total of just under USD 20 billion was spent once again on golf equipment and apparel worldwide in 2022 - around five billion more than in the pre-Corona year of 2019. It should be borne in mind that many manufacturers were affected by supply bottlenecks and, by the fourth quarter of 2022 at the latest, economic conditions became more challenging, not least due to high inflation. The impact of Covid restrictions on working conditions and shipping - especially from China - will also not be without effect. Without these disruptive influences, last year would probably have surpassed the previous record year of 2021 once again. The strongest market growth in the equipment segment since 2019 was achieved by the USA (+43%) and Korea (+93%). Overall: nowhere else in the world do golfers spend more money per capita on golf equipment and apparel than in Korea! According to the study, the five largest markets in the golf business are the USA, Japan, South Korea, the UK and Canada.
Digitalisation picks up speed worldwide
The walk through the exhibition halls showed that the global golf scene is much more concerned with the effects of the changes that have occurred among golfers as a result of the pandemic than is often perceived in Germany. In the process, some trends are becoming visible that - possibly with some delay - will also reach the European and not least the German golf market. This became particularly clear in digitalization and gamification. Not only the new generation of golfers in the young adult segment, but also millennials are increasingly relying on digital systems when playing golf. This is evident not only in the area of training, but in the entire process surrounding the game of golf.
Tee time booking and self-service check-in before the round are standard features of software offerings - and form the basis for precise analyses of the number of rounds played and customer behavior. The strong trend in training and play is striking. The trend of analyzing one's own game with exact measurements, supported by range systems such as TopTracer, Trackman Range and Inrange, is increasingly finding its way into classic training and one's own round of golf. The prerequisite for this is that more and more systems, which were previously reserved exclusively for high-priced professional applications, can now be offered in significantly less expensive consumer versions - of course with a somewhat reduced scope of performance and lower data accuracy in some cases, but still sufficient for regular training. Especially among younger golfers, the trend towards data collection and self-optimization seems to be reaching golf. Two trends are emerging: on the one hand, systems that primarily provide the data exclusively to the golfer and leave the interpretation to him, and on the other hand, concepts that provide integration of a golf instructor who can work on the swing with his students from a distance on the basis of exact data. It will be interesting to see which trend will gain the upper hand here - at present, it looks more as if modern, AI-controlled analysis systems are striving, at least in part, to provide golfers with tips for optimization even without the involvement of a pro. This goes hand in hand with the general trend toward gamification, which does not stop at golf. The experience of range systems, but also the success of e-sports in other sports, show that there is a market. It will be exciting to discuss to what extent these digitalized versions of golf should be added to classic golf or whether they should be seen as a side development. However, the gamification of the sport has long begun its triumphant march, especially in the area of indoor golf: very few golfers only want to train indoors and analyze their swings on the basis of measurement results for club head speed, angle of impact or lateral deviation. Playing on a simulator has long since become an equal part of indoor golf.
Trends and developments in global golf
Launch monitors and simulators were perhaps the most visible innovations in Orlando. Trackman, which is valued as the gold standard by golf instructors worldwide and offers extremely accurate measurements, both indoors and outdoors, seems a bit unattractive in terms of price for most amateur golfers. Even the classic simulators have so far mostly required investments beyond 50,000 euros to enjoy the hunt for the little white ball indoors. The PGA Show 2023 clearly showed that on the one hand the border between pure launch monitors and simulators is becoming increasingly blurred, and on the other hand the price level of indoor simulators in particular has experienced a significant jolt in the direction of the consumer market. This year in Orlando, for example, there were more simulator exhibitors than ever before, and in addition to high-priced professional versions, many also had high-performance products on offer that are aiming at home installations as well. Nevertheless, considering permanently installed simulators, golf clubs can install powerful systems, which can be implemented with an investment volume of sometimes less than 10,000 euros, but in any case between 10,000 and 15,000 euros (including projector and projection screen). This makes it possible to realize an indoor offer for members and guest players at comparatively low cost, especially for golf courses in regions with seasonal operations. Consumer products, which are also designed to be mobile, are even more cost-effective. New products (see the individual presentations below) make it possible not only to obtain extensive data per stroke for less than 1,000 euros, but also to choose from a huge selection of digitized golf courses - those who have already set up a home theater can use the existing projector for this purpose, otherwise tablets and PCs can also be used as monitors.
As the figures from the World Golf Report show, apparel plays an important role in the economic interplay of the industry. It is therefore hardly surprising that in this area in particular, new suppliers - not least from the SME sector - are constantly trying to get their products into the pro shops of golf courses. The wide range of products for female golfers is striking. According to figures from the National Golf Foundation NGF, the proportion of female golfers in the USA since Covid has been around 25 percent, which is significantly lower than the figure for Germany. However, the proportion in the U.S. corresponds to more than 6 million female golfers and is thus in absolute terms more than nine times that of all German golfers. Nevertheless, when measured against the ratio of male golfers, the large number of clothing suppliers for women in golf is striking - it has obviously long been recognized in the USA that when it comes to clothing on and off the course, women not only have different demands on the products, but (unlike their male fellow players) put more value on clothing rather than the latest club model. 2023 showed that some apparel manufacturers, who have tended to act as producers for well-known brands, are now striving to enter the market with their own offerings and brands. And especially for the ladies, the designs were often much bolder than for the men, where the current collections speak for a strong dominance of pastel shades on the courts of this world. The strong influence of technology is amazing: new suppliers in particular are increasingly relying on high-tech fibers for their clothing, which present themselves as particularly stretchy and thus offer sufficient freedom of movement on the round despite fashionable design cuts.
Customer experience is key
As in previous years, the range of exhibits for golf facilities in 2023 again underlined the importance of customer experience. From software products and apps for communication between golf facility, member and guest player, to the handling of drinks and food orders on the round, to newsletter concepts and other communication solutions: for a long time now, golf is not only offering customers a round of golf on an appropriately prepared golf course.
Monitoring systems the duration of rounds, such as market leader TagMarshal, have long had their place, especially at high-priced facilities. Here it is noticeable that in the USA, customer experience and economic optimization are not perceived as opposites. A slightly faster buggy shortens the time per round and makes it possible to sell additional tee times, also adhering to and shortening the playing time combines the profit aspect with an optimized customer experience. The round is also about positive experiences: Music on the course has long been established, either directly via integrated systems of the cart providers or via separate Bluetooth speaker. Unlike in Germany, cigars are also part of the standard offering at many golf facilities, either on or after the round.
Developments in golf tourism
Golf tourism also has its permanent place at the show - and is dominated by the two large joint stands of Scotland and Ireland. Italy was also represented this year, as was the Andalusia region with an eye on the Solheim Cup this year. Other European suppliers - even France, which hosted the 2018 Ryder Cup - did not have their own booths. Another difference between U.S. golf and Europe: the vast educational offerings of universities. A separate exhibition area was dedicated to the various university golf education programs; here, the PGA, golf industry and universities work closely together, often in the form of dual degree programs. The fact that the slogan "Big is beautiful" applies in the USA until today became clear during the presentation of the new headquarters of the PGA of America, Omni PGA Frisco. From the beginning of May, PGA of America will move into its new headquarters there - combined with a resort in a class of its own.
The two golf course architects Gil Hanse and Beau Welling explained the concept of their golf courses. The resort, which is located north of Dallas and has an investment volume of more than half a billion US dollars, is a real lighthouse project. Fields Ranch East course, designed by Hanse, will be very close to nature in design, similar to its New Course at Les Bordes. The course will host numerous international tournaments, including the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship. Twenty-six events have already been scheduled between now and 2034 - and there seems to be a lot of optimism about a Ryder Cup in the future, too. Fields Ranch West, penned by Beau Welling, is designed to appeal primarily to resort golfers and focus on the golf experience. Together, Hanse and Welling also designed "The Swing," a 10-hole, par-3 course, and "The Dance Floor," a nearly 7,000-square-foot putting course. The golf facilities are complemented by a lounge in cooperation with Topgolf, a driving range and, of course, a PGA Coaching Center. Managed by Omni, the resort offers about 500 rooms and suites, plus 10 private ranch houses. 13 restaurants, a spa and four swimming pools provide variety away from the golf courses. One can already look forward to the opening in early May!
The 2023 PGA Show has once again shown that the U.S. continues to be the leading and dominant market when it comes to golf business. Certainly not all of it will find its way to Europe, but especially the trends in the areas of digitalization, gamification and customer experience will have an impact in this continent as well. The 2023 show showed that golf is entering the new year with a broad chest - there were hardly any worries in view of the rather difficult overall economic conditions. Instead, especially in the U.S., there is a willingness to maintain the growth gained and to meet the different expectations of previous and new golfers equally via the corresponding golf-related products. After the purely virtual trade show edition in 2021 and the first restart last year, the PGA Show has consolidated its top position among the worldwide golf trade shows – one more reason to already think about participating next year.
Author: Michael Althoff | golfmanager 1/2023
As in previous years, golfmanager has selected a few products and presents them briefly below (in alphabetical order):