The recession took a toll on all kinds of consumer spending, and golf is no exception. But hope for a pick-up in golf spending is coming from an unlikely place.
According to research by American Express Business Insights, Generation Y, which is comprised of individuals aged 18 and 29 years old, increased their spending on golf by 27 percent between 2007 and 2011, while all other age groups saw a decline in spending during this period.
Seniors, which include those over the age of 66 years, reported a drop in spending of 21 percent during this time period. Spending by Boomers (ages 46 to 66) fell 19 percent during this timeframe, while Generation X (ages 30 to 45) cut spending by 19 percent.
"Golf has a reputation as a rich man's game and while the numbers prove that out, it didn't help shield the sport from the impact of the recession," said Ed Jay, senior vice president at American Express Business Insights. "There is a surprising bright spot with Generation Y becoming the group to watch, increasing spend while older generations pull back.
Unfortunately, Gen Y comprises just 1 percent of total golf spending at this time, while Boomers account for the majority at 56 percent of the total.
This is encouraging if the trend holds given the large size of the Gen Y demographic.
Notably, the trend continued in the first quarter of this year, with these younger golfers increasing their spending more by 21 percent.
Another glimmer of hope for the industry is that golf retail spending, which includes spending on apparel and equipment, rose 10 percent in the first quarter of this year. Potentially foreshadowing a return to the links.
The American Express study also looked at swings in spending state by state. For a breakdown of these results, seeour slideshow.