Statistics Canada reported, in The Daily, on Thursday, February 7, 2008 that, based on participation, golf is the number one recreational activity in Canada, played by more Canadians than hockey. With over 2,500 golf courses and practice ranges that occupy 200,000 hectares of land, an estimated 6 million golfers and an expected growth rate of 14 percent between 2009 and 2011, the Canadian golf market presents many opportunities for U.S. companies manufacturing golf products. This report provides an overview of the market and outlines the opportunities for U.S. businesses.
Golf is a popular game not only in the United States, but all over the world. The popularity of this sport has been growing in recent years in countries such as Japan, China, Germany, and Canada. In fact, golf participation rates in Canada are among the highest rates in the world. Currently, at 17.7 percent, this represents a national golfing population of 6 million people, an increase of 22.6 percent from 2001, when it was measured at 4.89 million people. The increase in overall golf participation rate is largely driven by a rise in the population of 'core golfers' (those that play at least eight rounds of golf/year or more). This population grew by nearly half from 2001 to 2006, from 1.85 million to 2.73 million. It is estimated that the core golfer plays 28 rounds of golf per year. The 'occasional golfer' segment also increased modestly from 2.6 million in 2001 to 2.83 million in 2006, an increase of 8 percent overall.
The growth of the Canadian golf industry is also in part a reflection of the changing Canadian demographics. The most significant change is the aging of the Canadian population, specifically those who are part of the baby boomer generation. Today, the baby boomer generation is in transition from the labor force to retirement. When retired, this generation tends to have more free time and fewer general expenses. As a result, golf has become an attractive hobby and recreational activity. Golf has also been favored by this age group over other activities because it requires low levels of physical exertion.
Junior golfer participation rates, aged 12-17, are down slightly from 17.6 percent or 432,000 in 2001 to 14.6 percent or 379,000 in 2006. This is a decrease of 12.3 percent in the total junior golfer population. The decrease is largely the result of drop-off among boys. Meanwhile, golf participation rates among junior-aged girls have risen slightly, from 5 percent to 8.1 percent in the same time. In July 2009, the Canadian Government announced an initiative to increase participation levels among youth in an effort to build the sport of golf in Canada. The department of Canadian Heritage is providing funding of $715,000 to the Royal Canadian Golf Association through its Sport Support Program which is aimed at developing athletes and coaches. This funding will help to ensure the growth and the success of this sport in Canada.
The traditional long Canadian winters and short-lived summers have given way to more moderate transitions between seasons. These weather pattern changes have allowed golf courses to start fertilizing and preparing their greens earlier in the year in order to accommodate an earlier start to the season such as in late March or early April instead of the traditional tee-off time in late April or early May.
Additionally, the longer summers have also helped accommodate those who enjoy golfing late into the fall. In the past, Canadians may have chosen not to golf because renting equipment was expensive. Canadians may also have been hesitant to make a large investment in purchasing their own golf equipment because the length of the golfing season was never certain. This extended season and the relatively stable and consistent summer weather in the past couple of years has made Canadians more likely to make an investment in golf equipment and to participate in the sport.
In summary, due to more moderate temperatures and longer summers, the changing demographics of Canadian golfers (now including more retired people and women), and the support from the federal government to increase participation in golf the golf industry in Canada has seen significant growth in recent years and experts expect this trend to continue.
By Tracey Ford Moe Makkawi