Skip Navigation Links and Jump to Page Content  The Library of Congress >> Researchers
Business Reference Services (Science, Technology, and Business Division)
  Home >> Guides >> BERA >> Issue 3/4, Summer 2005
Tom Armour, winner of U.S. golf title [1927]

The Business of Golf

Overview          PGA          LPGA
         Electronic Resources          
Print Resources          LC Catalog Searches
BERA - Business & Economics Research Advisor - A Quarterly Guide to Business & Economics Topics

Issue 3/4: Summer 2005
Updated December 2016

The Sports Industry

Table of Contents

General Guides and E-Resources
Sports Marketing   New section
Building & Managing Sports Venues    New section

Caption (left):
Tom Armour, winner of U.S. golf title [1927] from the
National Photo Company Collection
(Library of Congress)
Reproduction number: LC-USZ62-108418


When looking at the business of many sports there are many different indicators and many different areas to look at. For golf there is a professional component which make their living and occupy the sports pages and an amateur component which is pretty much anyone who wants to play. For the pros ticket sales, event attendance, sponsorship, and prize money with less emphasis on equipment sales and the like are the big business while participation in the sport itself, sales of equipment and apparel, as well as dues for clubs and the like are the big indicators for the armature area.

Golf is a growing sport and a growing business for professionals as well as amateurs. Participation rates and attendance figures that continue to rise but there is also an increase in purse size and overall revenue. And then there is Tiger Woods. Not only did his entrance into the sport bring in fans and new participants, he has an impact on attendance and interest on the individual events he plays in. Television fees, sponsorship deals and product endorsement figures bring in big money for sport, the various tournaments, and individual golfers for both the PGA and LPGA.

For the amateurs, participation in golf has been increasing since 1985. In 1985 there were approximately 17 million golfers in the U.S. at over 12,000 facilities.1 By 2009 there were over 22 million golfers, at almost 16,000 facilities.2 It is most popular for those ages of 25 to 54 and is more popular with men, with almost four times the number of men playing as women in 2002.

On a professional level, the most obvious sources of money are gate revenue and sponsorship. In 1999 annual gate revenue for the PGA was $147.6 million and $30.5 million for the LPGA. Sponsorship is also a big money maker for the sport. Good sponsors are necessary. The sponsor money pays to put on an event as well as contributes to the overall purse. Title sponsors are the most prominent sponsors and the sponsor who contributes the most. Most sponsorship contracts last a few years and some like the PGA's Honda and Buick have sponsored their respective tournaments for many years.

On a professional level, the most obvious sources of money are gate revenue and sponsorship. Sponsorship is also a big money maker for the sport. Good sponsors are necessary. The sponsor money pays to put on an event as well as contributes to the overall purse. Title sponsors are the most prominent sponsors and the sponsor who contributes the most. Most sponsorship contracts last a few years and some like the PGA's Honda and Buick have sponsored their respective tournaments for many years.

Revenues generated from the retail sale of golf related equipment - clubs, bags, balls etc. is huge. The total for all equipment purchased in 1990 was $2.5 billion and climbed to over $3 billion in 2002 though a bad economy since 2007 has mean sales dipped to under $3 billion in 2010.3 The purchases come from the many online only and online/bricks and mortars retailers. Online only sites can be very specific like to the very general like Golf Superstore and Many traditional retailers that operated brick and mortar stores have also moved onto the Internet including Golf Shack, PGA Tour Shops, The Ladies Pro Shop, and more.

Television is an important part of the business of gold as well as being a big money maker. On top of televised events available on ESPN and the other large networks, it now has its own cable channel which was launched in January of 1995 and has live events as well as instructional and other related programming. But trouble has arrived for the sport. First, the looming end of Tiger Wood’s career has been foreshadowed in the industry in recent years when he has been out due to injury or otherwise out of play. This has a major impact on attendance, interest, and ultimately revenues. Second, In April 2014 a survey conducted by the National Golf Foundation indicated that the interest in golf – playing and watching - was on a big decline. This was particularly true for people under the age of 35 who indicated that it took too long to play the game, it was hard to learn, and had too many rules. According to their figures over the last decade golf has lost over 5 million players with significant declines coming over the next few years. The National Golf Federation and TaylorMade-Adidas Golf CEO Mark King, launched a 'Hack Golf' at the 2014 PGA Merchandise Show which aimed stemming participation declines in the sport.

Golf courses and the money associated with them are also large. Obviously there are the big names like Pebble Beach and Augusta National both of which draw large PGA events. However, there are also the many smaller courses all over the country, many of which are managed by large corporations like American Golf Corporation and ClubCorp USA, Inc.

Professional Golfers Association of America (PGA)

Founded in 1916, the PGA is the most well known and oldest of the Tours. The tour's popularity exploded in the 1950's and 1960's and by the mid 1960's the tour was over 40 events and the total purse was over $2 million. Some of their signature events are the PGA Championship, The Master, The U.S. Open, The Ryder Cup, and the Open Championship.

The PGA Tour was formed in 1968 (then known as the Tournament Players Division until 1975) with Joseph C. Day its first commissioner. From 1969 to February 1974 the total purse went from $5.4 million to over $8 million.4. By 1993 the purse size was $53.2 and by 1999 the purse size was $135 million.5

Sponsorship is very important to the success of a tournament and most PGA events are co-cosponsored. Most of the sponsor fees go toward the overall purse with the rest going toward other expenses. Most contracts are for 3 to 5 years though some, like Honda and Buick, go on much longer. To give an idea of sponsorship, in the year 2000 tournaments had an estimated average title sponsorship fee of $3.6 million per year totaling $152.7 million.6

There is also the Senior PGA Tour which is relatively new. Begun in the 1980's it has steadily increased from the original 2 events in 1980. The have the Senior Skins Game, the U.S. Seniors Open and the PGA Seniors Championship among others. There has been a steady increase in annual attendance, average event attendance, and estimated gate revenue, though not been as fast as that of the PGA.

Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA)

The LPGA was established in 1950 and has been steadily growing. Originally there were thirteen founding members - in 2000 there were 408. The LPGA has a few signature events such as the Nabisco Dinah Shore, the LPGA Championship, the U.S. Women's Open Championship, the Women's British Open Championship, and the Solheim Cup.

Growth has been steady in purse amounts, attendance, ticket price, and gate revenues. At its inception there were fourteen events with a total purse of $50,000.7 However, by 1990 there were 37 events with a total purse of $17.1 million and by 2000 the tour had grown to 42.8 Because of the relatively little money media rights deals bring in, the LPGA relies heavily on sponsorships.

1 "Selected Recreational Activities: 1985 to 2003" Statistical Abstract of the United States, 2004-2005. (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Census Bureau, 2004), Table 1240.

2 "Selected Recreational Activities: 1990 to 2010" Table 1243 and "Participation in Selected Sports Activities: 2009" Table 1249. Statistical Abstract of the United States, 2012. (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Census Bureau, 2011) .

3 "Sporting goods Sales by Product Category: 1990 to 2009, and Projection, 2010" Statistical Abstract of the United States, 2012. (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Census Bureau, 2011), Table 1250.

4 Kagan's the Business of Golf. (Carmel, CA: Paul Kagan Associates, 2000), 32.

5 Ibid., 33.

6 Ibid., 42.

7 Ibid., 59.

8 Ibid., 61.

Top of Page Back to Top

Electronic Resources

General          Associations and Organizations


"The 2013-2018 World Outlook for Golf Bags, Handcarts for Carrying Golf Bags, Golf Club Shafts Sold Separately, Tees, and Training Devices for Putting and Driving." ICON Group International, Inc. 2013. External Link

Covers the latent demand outlook for golf equipment but does not report actual sales data. It does look at individual countries. Related reports on individual types of golf equipment are also available from this publisher for purchase.

Brantley, Chris. "What Tiger Woods Is Worth to Golf and its Advertisers" Motley Fool, April 23, 2014. External Link

"Global Golf Equipment Manufacturing Industry 2012-2017: Trend, Profit and Forecast Analysis." Lucintel, July 2012. External Link

This is a market research report looking at the global golf equipment manufacturing industry which experienced growth from 2007-2012 which is expected to continue for the next five years (2012-2017).

Golf Business Magazine External Link

Published by the National Golf Course Owners Association, has a searchable archive dating from 2001. Articles cover the topics of interest to golf course owners. Also available in print form: LC Call Number: GV961.G5503 : LC Catalog Record: 76206975.

Golf 20/20 External Link

From the National Golf Foundation, Golf 20/20 presents the industry's strategic plan to grow the game of golf. It offers research and reports. Some reports, like that for market segmentation, have free downloadable Executive Summaries while others, such as the Industry Report, Golf Economy Report, and Minority Representation Report, have free downloadable PDF versions.

Golf Channel External Link

This site is most concerned with what is available on the channel, but does include nice statistical links on the various tours, as well as a nice history section with a overview of the history of the game, the Majors tours, and a golfers library.

Golf Participation in the U.S. National Golf Foundation. External Link

Includes annual participation rates by frequency of play and golfer segments. Demographic profiles segment golfers by age, gender, household income, education and occupation.

Golf Product News. Fair Lawn, N.J. : Golf Pub. Enterprises, 1990 - present. External Link

Includes golf tips, product reviews, and information for the junior golfer.

Golfweek External Link

Articles and other information on all areas of golf.

Golf Industry Online External Link

This is a b2b site with news and information about the golf industry, links to other golf sites. Includes a nice industry directory

Golf Industry External Link

Includes: news on the golf industry, tournament information, statistics on the tour and money rankings, as well and an equipment directory by country (US, Ireland, England, Asia, Europe, etc.).

The Golf Wire External Link

Provides golf news and calendar. Offers an e-mail newsletter subscription that features press releases pertaining to golf and the industry, compiling the headlines in a quick, easy-to-read format.

Industry Statistics Sample for NAICS 713910 - Golf courses and country clubs

This links provides access to data collected from the Census Bureau for NAICS code 713910 which comprises (1) establishments primarily engaged in operating golf courses (except miniature) and (2) establishments primarily engaged in operating golf courses, along with dining facilities and other recreational facilities that are known as country clubs.

"Plimsoll Golf Equipment Industry Analysis." Plimsoll Publishing, April 2013. External Link

An industry report looking which analyzes of the top 185 companies.

Sens, Josh. "The Coming Tiger Crash: Woods’ Absence Spells Trouble For Golf Industry." April 21, 2014. External Link

Sports Byline USA, Interviews with sports figures.
From the Sports Byline USA Collection
Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division.
Digital ID:

Includes over 6,400 interviews with athletes, coaches, trainers, managers, owners, writers and others in the areas of baseball, football, basketball, hockey, soccer, tennis, golf, track and field and other sports. For the full collection of interviews, contact the Recorded Sound Reference Center.

World Golf External Link

This is a product affiliated with the Golf Channel and focuses on news, reviews, and information on golf courses.

Top of Page Back to Top

Associations and Organizations

International Golf Federation External Link

Tends to focus more on the sport of golf and not the business of golf.

Professional Golfers Association of America (PGA) External Link

The PGA of Americas is comprised of more than 28,000 people promoting the game of golf. Includes general golf sports information as well as industry news.

PGA Tour External Link

The web site for the PGA Tour.

Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) External Link

Mostly interested in the sport and the players of the LPGA, but does have a Stats section with the ADT Money list which ranks the players in order of money earned as well as have a career money list.

National Golf Course Owners Association External Link

Most information is for members, but does publish the magazine Golf Business.

Golf Course Superintendents Association of America External Link

Includes information on the operation of managing a golf course and includes topic of technical interest as well as more general information. Publishes a Leadership Survey (graphs available from 1999) as well as publishing Golf Course Magazine. Some of the information may be available for members only.

U.S. Golf Association External Link

Tends to focus more on the sport of golf and not the business of golf, but includes links to state/regional and international golf associations.

U.S. National Golf Foundation External Link

The National Golf Foundation is a source of information and insights on the business of golf. As the only trade association serving 4,000 members from all segments of the golf industry. The produce many reports such as Golf Facilities in the U.S., Golf Industry Report, and Minority Golf Participation which are for members, but it does include many free reports like 2011 Rounds Played Report, 2011 Golf Economy Report, and Operating and Financial Performance Profiles National Summary - 2010. Rounds Played is also available for those signing up for a guest membership.

Top of Page Back to Top

Selected Print Resources

"Chapter 45: GOLF." Leisure Market Research Handbook. 218-212. n.p.: Richard K. Miller & Associates, 2008.
LC Call Number: GV174 .L45 2008
LC Catalog Record: 2007263157

Chapter 45 of the book "The 2008 Leisure Market Research Handbook," is presented. It highlights a study conducted by SRI International on the annual economic contribution of golf to the U.S. economy.

Golf Business Magazine
LC Call Number: GV961.G5503
LC Catalog Record: 76206975
Online edition: External Link

Published by the National Golf Course Owners Association, the online edition has a searchable archive dating from 2001. Articles cover the topics of interest to golf course owners.

Hyman, Mark. "The Yin And Yang Of The Tiger Effect." Business Week 3703 (2000): 110.

The article focuses on the impact of golf player Tiger Woods on the golf sport as well as on economic aspects of the sport.

Kagan's the Business of Golf. Carmel, CA: Paul Kagan Associates, 2000.
LC Call Number: GV961.K34
LC Catalog Record: 2002204525

Includes a brief historical overview of the game, as well as data on the PGA, LPGA and Seniors for attendance, tour, revenue, expenses and golf of television. Other specific sections look at: Media for the PGA, LPGA, and Seniors; a look at the impact of Tiger Woods; player information; and course information.

McCarthy, Michael. "Why golf just keeps bringing in the green." Advertising Age 84 no.15(2013): 1.

The article considers economic aspects of golf particularly television broadcasting contracts and corporate sponsorships of the PGA Tour.

PGA Magazine: The Official of the PGA of America. Troy, MI: Quarton Group, 1989 - present.
LC Call Number: GV961.P7
LC Catalog Records: sn 89006425 and sn 89006507

Discuss all aspects of golf the sport and golf the business. Contains graphics on to sellers of equipment, apparel, etc. as well as industry profiles on important people in the industry.

Pennington, Bill. "In a Hole, Golf Considers Digging a Wider One". New York Times April 18, 2014.

The Royal & Ancient Golfers Handbook. London: MacMillan, 1990 - present.
LC Call Number: GV961.G75
LC Catalog Record: 91641850

Included are historical information the men's Major championship, professional and amateur events for men and women, as well as a section on the government and the history of the game.

Top of Page Back to Top

Library of Congress Catalog Searches

Additional works on the golf business in the Library of Congress may be identified by searching the Online Catalog under appropriate Library of Congress subject headings. Choose the topics you wish to search from the following list of Library of Congress subject headings to link directly to the Catalog and automatically execute a search for the subject selected. Please be aware that during periods of heavy use you may encounter delays in accessing the catalog. For assistance in locating the many other subject headings which relate to golf as a business, please consult a reference librarian.

Last Updated: 03/05/2019

To view PDFs Acrobat Reader

Top of Page Top of Page
  Home >> Guides >> BERA >> Issue 3/4, Summer 2005
  The Library of Congress >> Researchers
  March 5, 2019
Legal | External Link Disclaimer

Contact Us:  
Ask a Librarian