Up, Up and Away

After dropping for the previous 2 years, rounds played in Colorado in 2023 took a noticeable jump

By Gary Baines – 1/27/2024

For the first time since that in-so-many-ways unforgettable year of 2020, the number of golf rounds played in Colorado increased in 2023 compared to the previous year.

Golf Datatech released its “National Rounds Played Report” — the one that encompasses data for the entire 2023 season — on Friday. And the results for Colorado were similar to the nationwide averages.

With a boost from the totals from December — which were up 42.7 percent compared to 2022 — Colorado’s rounds for the full year of 2023 jumped 3.5 percent over 2022, according to Golf Datatech.

That ends of run of two straight down years, rounds-wise, for Colorado, which saw its numbers decrease by 2.1 percent in 2021 and 4.1 percent last year. All that comes on the heels of the Covid-19 golf surge of 2020, when Colorado’s rounds played leaped a whopping 19.9 percent.

When you do the math for all those ups and downs, the number of rounds played in the Centennial State have increased by 16.5 percent since 2019, according to Golf Datatech figures. 

Nationally, Golf Datatech reported that rounds in 2023 were up 4.2 percent compared to ’22, with public-access facilities increasing at a higher clip than private courses — 4.2 vs. 2.8 percent on average, respectively. 

Interestingly, Colorado’s neighbor to the south, New Mexico, showed a 18.4 percent jump in rounds compared to 2022. As for some of the hotbeds of golf nationwide, New York rounds were up 10.3 percent, Illinois’ 8.7 percent, Texas’ 2.9 percent and Florida’s 0.6 percent. Trending the other way were California (-1.7 percent) and Arizona (-1.8 percent).

Overall, the National Golf Foundation reported this week that there were 26.6 million on-course golfers in the U.S. last year. Off-course golfers — like those at Topgolf, golf simulators and practice ranges — add roughly 18.4 million to the total of those who play the game in one respect or another.

“Going back to when we started closely measuring off course around 2013 or 2014 … no sport has experienced more growth than golf,” David Lorentz, the chief research officer for the National Golf Foundation, said this week at the PGA Show in Orlando. “You hear everywhere that pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in the U.S. and it is on a percentage basis the fastest-growing sport. But volume-wise growth? It is the game of golf, and more people need to be talking about it, frankly.”

Of course, comparing rounds played one year to the next involves numerous factors, with one of the most notable being weather at a given locale. In fact, the Golf Datatech report notes that 1 degree warmer temperature average year over year translated into a 0.76 percent increase in rounds played, and 1 inch of rain increase year over year equaled a 2.2 percent decrease in rounds played.

Here are the rounds played +/- percentages over the last 10 years in Colorado: up 2.3 percent in 2014, down 1.3% in 2015, up 6.5% in 2016, up 3% in 2017, down 2.4% in 2018, down 3.1% in 2019, up 19.9% in 2020, down 2.1% in 2021, down 4.1% in 2022 and up 3.5% in 2023.

For the Golf Datatech National Rounds Played Report, see below.

About the Writer: Gary Baines has covered golf in Colorado continuously since 1983. He was a sports writer at the Daily Camera newspaper in Boulder, then the sports editor there, and has written regularly for since 2009. He was inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 2022. He owns and operates