Amid a boom in activity, South Carolina has taken a closer look at golf’s economic impact on the state.
A new study of the SC Golf Course Owners Association — its first since 2019 — showed golf generated an estimated $3.3 billion in sales in the state in 2021. The sport also employed nearly 38,000 workers and generated $1.5 billion in salaries and income, according to the report.
Golf generates more revenue for South Carolina than any other recreational or entertainment activity, and a significant portion comes from vacationers playing while on vacation.
Golf is considered by tourism officials as one of the state’s fundamental and identifying assets, along with its beaches and gastronomy. Unlike much of the visitor sector, it still performed well during the height of the pandemic in 2020, with people confined to their homes seeking outdoor activities. This momentum continued in 2021 and key metrics soared. Rounds played in the state increased nearly 14% and golf admission taxes increased 48%.
Many of the state’s nearly 300 golf courses reported being booked at capacity.
“Golf has seen a recent resurgence,” Terry Sedalikthe association’s executive director, wrote in a letter about the report sent to the General assembly Last week. He added that gambling has been instrumental in the state’s economic recovery from the pandemic.
Tourists who played golf on trips to Palmetto State last year spent an estimated $1.1 billion off the course at hotels, restaurants, retailers and other venues, the association estimates — without count their expenses in the accommodations they frequent.
The state’s number one golf destination is Myrtle Beach, which draws about half of that crowd, followed by Hilton Head Island, then Charleston.
The top three states, in order, where foreign golfers come from are North Carolina, Ohio and Georgia.
Travelers who come to golf in South Carolina have a median age of 51 and a median household income of between $100,000 and $125,000, according to the report. Their stays average around four nights.
For more than a quarter of these visitors, outdoor recreation was the reason for their trip.
The new report also noted the big boost South Carolina golf got by hosting three major events in the spring of 2021.
The long duration RBC Legacy on Hilton Head and the PGA Championship on Kiawah Island, both of which had attendance restrictions due to COVID-19, drew approximately 27,000 and 40,000 in-person spectators, respectively. Last June, just under 30,000 fans attended the Palmetto Championship to convoyed in Ridgeland.
All major metrics in the report showed significant growth over the association’s last study, which included data from 2018. Golf-related sales increased approximately 27% over this three-year period, up from $2.59 billion in 2018, and golf employs 6,525 more people than three years ago.
The sport has also seen growth nationally. Since around 2000, rounds played in the United States have steadily dropped. Then, when the pandemic hit, things turned around. In the past two years alone, rounds played have returned to what they were two decades ago, according to the figures followed by Golf Datatech.