More Americans into Golf, increases Golf Sneaker Demand

Golf Sneaker

With the intensification of the 2024 PGA Tour season, the golf shoe industry is also experiencing a surge in demand. This increase is due to a growing number of Americans taking interest in the sport, following its increased popularity during the pandemic era.

Truly, while top dogs such as Adidas, FootJoy, and Callaway continue to command a significant share of the golf shoe industry, there has been a consistent rise of new brands making their foray into this market recently.

One of the most significant brand introductions was in February with the unveiling of Tiger Woods' new golf brand, Sun Day Red. This launch was facilitated through a collaboration with TaylorMade Golf, following Woods' departure from Nike in January, after being with the company for nearly three decades.

Just a few days post this announcement, Woods provided a glimpse of the upcoming collection. He sported shoes and clothing from his newly launched label during his appearance at the Genesis Invitational.

Brand debuts akin to Woods' are merely the beginning, as a rising number of labels explore the depths of this market in a stark contrast to rumors suggesting Nike's possible complete retreat from the sport.

An overview of these launches includes Puma's latest golf shoe collection, introduced this month ahead of the Arnold Palmer Invitational tournament, in addition to its special edition for the 50th annual Sawgrass Tournament led by the Phantomcat Nitro Gator golf shoe. In March, Ecco brought out its new LT1 golf shoe, while the golf clothing brand TravisMathew also marked its entry into the footwear segment with the Daily Pro Hybrid shoe.

Fashion labels are also leaping on the bandwagon. A prime example is the Swedish fashion brand J.Lindeberg. Following its collaboration with Ecco the previous year, the brand took the leap to introduce its own golf shoe collection for spring 2024. The standout models in this collection include the Vent 500 and the Range Finder.

Golf Sneaker

"The collaboration with Ecco was a wonderful venture," said Neil Lewty, the head designer at J.Lindeberg, in an interview with FN. "It sparked our interest in golf footwear, prompting us to create our own designs. We're keen on crafting shoes that mimic the aesthetic and comfort of running sneakers. Our latest collection doubles as everyday footwear and performance golf shoes," he emphasized.

An Increasing Number of Americans are Gravitating Toward Golf

The surge in brands engaging in the golf market is expected when you consider the growing golf participation rates over the past few years. Indeed, due to the COVID-induced lockdowns and gym shutdowns, many were compelled to explore new means of staying active.

As outdoor sports became more accommodating during the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021, golf experienced an influx of new and old fans embracing the sport. Golf courses and driving ranges transformed into sanctuaries that allowed social distancing.

Related: What are Differences between Treadmill Running and Outdoor Running?

In relation, golf, which was once losing its popularity, witnessed a staggering 45 million Americans take up the sport in 2023. This denotes a 9.6 percent rise from the 41.1 million players in 2022, as per the latest numbers from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA). To put things into perspective, the total participation in golf was 34.2 million individuals before the pandemic in 2019.

Fascinatingly, the SFIA reported that the growth witnessed last year was powered by a substantial 18.8 percent rise in off-course play from the previous year, encompassing driving ranges and entertainment spots such as Top Golf and Five Iron Golf, attracting 18.5 million individuals. Furthermore, the on-course player count saw an increase, too in 2023, with a 3.9 percent growth to 26.6 million players from the year before.

Retail Sales Hit Unprecedented Heights

This surge in participation has led to a significant boost in golf shoe sales as well. As per Circana's retail tracking information, the sales for golf footwear amounted to $407.8 million in 2023. Although there was a slight decline in dollar sales by 1 percent compared to 2022, the market remains 48 percent bigger in comparison to the pre-pandemic era of 2019, which reported sales worth $275.8 million in this category.

Golf Sneaker

"When we look at the 2023 sales results by brand for golf footwear, the top sales gainers are a mix of golf-centric brands like Callaway and G/Fore, and big-name sneaker brands like New Balance and Jordan. And, according to our Consumer Tracking Service, while Gen Z (ages 16-27) accounts for only 16 percent of golf footwear sales, this age group has seen the largest increase in share of sales (up 6 points versus 2019).  So, it makes sense that brands are innovating and launching products that may appeal to a younger audience."

- Beth Goldstein, footwear and accessories industry analyst at Circana

Merchants such as Dick's Sporting Goods and its branch Golf Galaxy are among those profiting in this sector. During the conference call for the fourth quarter on Thursday, Lauren Hobart, the president and CEO of Dick's, informed analysts that golf represents a significantly promising long-term growth prospect.

"This spring, we’re investing in marketing to drive market share and elevate the Golf Galaxy brand perception in a memorable and relatable way for golfers."

- Hobart

The plans also involve an increase in the number of stores. Hobart mentions that Golf Galaxy is an "essential component" of the company's growth narrative. As of February 3, 2024, there are 104 Golf Galaxy branches, which marks an increase from 98 stores as of January 28, 2023.

"This year we plan to further grow our footprint through Golf Galaxy performance centers, which offer an immersive experience for golf enthusiasts of all levels. With 14 performance centers now open, we’re excited to open another 10 locations throughout 2024."

- Hobart
Golf Sneaker