More Americans Are Playing Golf, and Shoe Sales Are Booming

As the 2024 PGA Tour season heats up, so too is the golf shoe market as more Americans continue to flock to the sport following its rise in popularity during the pandemic.

Indeed, while major players like Adidas, FootJoy and Callaway still dominate the golf footwear market, the industry has seen a steady influx of new brands entering the space in recent years.

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One of the largest of these launches came in February when Tiger Woods unveiled his new golf brand Sun Day Red. Created in partnership with TaylorMade Golf, the debut was made possible after Woods split from Nike in January after 27 years with the company. Days after the announcement, Woods gave a sneak peek as to what the collection will look like when he stepped onto the green at the Genesis Invitational wearing shoes and apparel from his new label.

Launches like the one from Woods is just the tip of the iceberg, as an increasing number of brands dig deeper into the market – a stark contrast from the reports that Nike may be pulling away from the sport entirely.

Tiger Woods Sun Day Red Debut
Tiger Woods wore a hat, sweater and shoes all featuring the Sun Day Red logo at the Genesis Invitational in Pacific Palisades, Calif. Getty Images

A sampling of these launches include Puma’s new golf shoe collection this month ahead of the Arnold Palmer Invitational tournament, as well as its capsule in honor of the 50th annual Sawgrass Tournament fronted by the Phantomcat Nitro Gator golf shoe. March also saw the drop of Ecco’s new LT1 golf shoe, and golf apparel brand TravisMathew’s debut shoe, the Daily Pro Hybrid.

Fashion brands are also getting in on the hype. One of these cases comes via Swedish fashion brand J.Lindeberg. After its collaboration with Ecco last year, the label decided to launch its own golf shoe collection for spring 2024 featuring the Vent 500 and the Range Finder models.

J.Lindeberg, J Lindeberg, golf, golf shoe, Vent 500
J.Lindeberg’s new Vent 500 golf shoe.

“[Our collab with Ecco] was a great project,” Neil Lewty, head of design at J.Lindeberg, told FN. “From there we got the [golf] bug and decided to work on our own designs and ideas. We like the idea of developing shoes that look and feel like running sneakers. Our new range works well as a day-to-day sneaker as well as a performance golf sneaker.”

More Americans are Flocking to Golf

The rise in brands participating in the category is not surprising if you drill down on recent golf participation data, which has been growing for years now. Certainly, for some consumers, COVID-induced quarantines and gym closures forced them to find new ways of working out.

With outdoor sports deemed more “pandemic friendly” in 2020 and 2021, golf saw a surge of new and returning players getting into the sport, as country clubs and driving ranges became socially distanced havens.

Puma Golf, Phantomcat Nitro Gator golf shoe, Florida, 50th annual Sawgrass Tournament
Puma Golf’s Phantomcat Nitro Gator golf shoe. Puma

The once waning sport saw a record 45 million Americans participating in golf in 2023, a 9.6 percent increase from 41.1 million players in 2022, according to recent data from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA). For comparison, total golf participation was at 34.2 million participants in pre-pandemic 2019.

Interestingly, the SFIA found that last year’s growth was driven by an 18.8 percent year-over-year increase in off-course play, which includes driving ranges and entertainment venues like Top Golf and Five Iron Golf, to 18.5 million people. On-course participation also rose in 2023 from the prior year by 3.9 percent to 26.6 million players.

Retail Sales Reach New Record

This spike in participation has translated to a big bump in golf shoe sales, too. According to Circana’s retail tracking data, golf footwear saw $407.8 million in sales in 2023. And while dollar sales did decline 1 percent last year versus 2022, the market is still 48 percent larger compared to pre-pandemic 2019 when the category reported $275.8 million in sales.

“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,” Beth Goldstein, footwear and accessories industry analyst at Circana, told FN. “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.”

Ecco, golf, golf shoe, LT1
Ecco’s new LT1 golf shoe. Courtesy of Ecco

Retailers like Dick’s Sporting Goods and its Golf Galaxy store banner are among the merchants winning in the space. On its fourth quarter conference call on Thursday, Dick’s president and chief executive officer Lauren Hobart told analysts that golf is a “compelling long-term growth opportunity.”

“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 said.

These plans also include more stores as well. According to Hobart, Golf Galaxy is “another important part” of the company’s growth story. As of Feb 3, 2024, there were 104 Golf Galaxy locations, this is up from 98 stores as of Jan. 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,” Hobart added. “With 14 performance centers now open, we’re excited to open another 10 locations throughout 2024.”

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