It’s been almost a decade since the golf industry took a hard hit with the global economic crisis. Golf play was down as baby boomers focused on surviving the down cycle. Real estate sales slowed as membership and HOA fees were considered a burden for homebuyers, and Generations X & Y were interested in families, travel, and focused on other sports. My how times have changed, and 2021 is setting up to be a banner year for the golf industry for many reasons.
Since the quarantine started back in March 2020, COVID prevented many forms of entertainment. Fortunately, for sports enthusiasts’ golf was not one of them. People found themselves with time on their hands, a need to get outside and a desire to reconnect with friends. Now, homes in residential golf club communities across the country, and especially in the Florida are seeing a surge in demand. The pandemic had a profound impact on homebuyers who recognized the myriad of recreational options available to Members in country club communities and as a result real estate sales in golf communities have been the beneficiary.
A Naturally Socially Distant Sport
At the beginning of 2020, golf courses were seeing just slight increases in golf interest and seeing business as usual. According to data from Golf DataTech, there wasn’t a big nationwide increase in the number of rounds of golf played; and there was no indication of what the future would bring. But when everything came to a standstill because of the pandemic, things changed quickly.
Following the spring shutdown and the onset of summer weather, sprawling, socially distanced golf courses were one of the first “safe” spaces that were able to get back to business. Interest in golf quickly followed for avid golfers and many first-time participants in the sport. Health experts affirmed that outdoor activities played in wide-open spaces carried relatively little risk of spreading COVID-19. As a result, an abundance of golfers hit the links.
More Time to Enjoy the Sport
The prior perception that golf is slow and takes a lot of time was now a benefit in a “slowed down” world. With the opportunity to work remotely becoming the norm, golfers had more time for enjoyable outdoor recreation. No longer were individuals giving up a lot of their free time commuting back and forth to the office. It has once again become an ideal way to enhance business relationship providing a way to “meet” outside of Zoom meetings. With more flexible work hours golfers and their families, especially those still in the work force, were able to take full advantage of the many benefits a private golf club membership affords.
Influx of New Golfers Entering the Mix
There is a sea of new demographics who want “in” on the game of golf. The demographics are skewing remarkably younger, more female, more diverse and more average in income, as compared to the universe of previous golfers.
The game, the products, and the apparel are all looking forward and being well received by younger consumers. The marketing campaigns are being driven by millennials, speaking to younger audiences with messaging that aligns with their interests. Private golf community clubs are following suit, marketing to younger audiences with families. With golf programming, clinics, and lessons for every generation including the kids, club living that allows the entire family to break away from their homes and enjoy fresh air while being active only enhances the importance of joining a club.
Opinions of the Sport are Changing
With major professional sports cancelled, golf was the first to return to the airwaves. New viewers were introduced to the next generation of professional golfers. Players that are younger, more fashionable and perceived as “cool” created celebrities like Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Ricky Fowler. At the same time, Mariah Stackhouse stepped into the spotlight as the only full-time black woman on the LPGA, brining an incredible amount of attention to the game of golf.
Family golf attractions are not what they used to be. One of the most popular go-to family activities during quarantine, that combine the elements of food, drink and a fun way to socialize are popping up all over Florida and beyond. Facilities like Topgolf, Popstroke and Drive Shack are under development all over the country. Even Tiger Woods is partnering with PopStroke in Ft. Myers to feature contactless payment and ordering.
These fun attractions are a leeway to the golf game. They provide a taste of the game and from there, individuals are changing their perceptions and taking more interest in learning how to master their golf games with lessons and even memberships to golf clubs.
Private Golf Community Interest is Surging
Clubs offer a unique ability to limit access to their facilities making residents feel insulated from the virus. That same surge in demand in golf is also being reflected in home sales within golf communities. A November 2020 Golf Life Navigators survey of people looking to join golf clubs found that 63% of respondents said they wanted to live inside a gated golf community versus outside it, up from 51% pre-pandemic. By the end of 2020, GLN reported nearly 80% of its clients combined their search for a new residence and new golf club.
The trends of surging golf interest and golf community sales go hand-in-hand and show no signs of slowing down in 2021. Near Vero Beach Florida, Orchid Island Golf and Beach Club saw an immediate surge in home sales, leaving very little inventory remaining. “Club leadership did an amazing job at taking every precaution to prevent the spread of the virus, while providing a safe environment for Member activities, health and wellness and social connectivity,” says Laurie Andrews, CMO for Cotton & Company, the Club’s marketing firm. “With inventory of move-in ready homes at record lows, we’re now seeing interest from homebuyers seeking to build their dream home on the remaining single family homesites within the community.
Throughout 2020, sales have continued to climb at Boca West Country Club in South Florida. A new luxury condominium community within the gates of Boca West, Akoya, has recorded more than 20 sales during the pandemic, averaging close to $2 million per home. With four championship golf courses, Boca West is attracting golfers from across the country, and they are purchasing a wide variety of homes throughout the community’s 55 neighborhoods. Through Boca West Realty, a new Renovator Program was introduced to supply the market with fully renovated homes, golf villas and mid-rise condominiums. These residences provide a maintenance-free lifestyle that satisfies the needs of both year-round and seasonal residents looking for a Winter escape. Renovated homes at Boca West including full golf membership are available for less than $300,000.
On the east coast of Florida, just north of Palm Beach, the private golf community of Harbour Ridge offers a low-density, picturesque community on the banks of the St. Lucie River. The golf facilities include two championship courses, a waterfront clubhouse and a lakeside tennis, fitness, and spa center that provides a wealth of services to the Members without ever having to leave the community.
“Many private club communities have limited outsiders from accessing the Club during the pandemic. This in itself is very attractive to baby boomers who are cognizant of limiting contact during this difficult time,” Stephann Cotton says, “There is a sense of security and enjoyment that comes from the innovative programs Club leadership is providing for homebuyers and current residents.” In combination, homebuyers recognize that residents in these communities have enjoyed a sense of normalcy that has escaped other areas of the country. Cotton adds, “Unlike elsewhere they are still participating in activities they enjoy, staying active and healthy, while socializing safely without fear.”
Cotton & Company’s experienced marketing professionals are assisting many private clubs to generate awareness and appreciation for the unique attributes of each Club lifestyle. With real estate values directly tied to the demand for club membership, Cotton & Company, a leading sales and marketing real estate agency, is helping these communities take advantage of the current cycle to increase home values.