I couldn’t help but chuckle.

While filming some content with an equipment manufacturer recently, we were running through the incredible technology packed inside its latest driver when the company’s rep paused to deliver a knockout punch for the cameras: “The best part of all? This driver will still retail for under $1,000.”

Stop the press! I had better buy two. A single golf club for less than a grand, even if it is by a meagre 5 cents? Small details aside, it’s a selling point worth emphasising. Put it down to rising manufacturing costs, the American dollar, the recent uptake of this great game post-COVID or a combination of all three, golf’s latest financial windfall should be seen as anything but a negative. In fact, long may it continue for all and sundry. 

As many readers will recall, this isn’t our first rodeo when it comes to inflation. Back in October 2000, Callaway’s ERC II driver landed in Australia for $1,299. That works out to be about $2,600 today. When you factor in all the technological advances in today’s gear – including the use of AI – there can be no denying that golfers are, quite literally, getting more bang for their buck.

Yet the point remains: if there is a cost-of-living crisis right now, best not turn to our fairways for crucial data. Golfers, globally, seem removed from curtailing spending altogether – at least that’s what we can garner from this year’s mega 32-page Equipment Guide, along with the good word from leading golf retailers across the country.

“No question, the golf retail boom is still sustaining itself,” says The House of Golf’s managing director Michael Button, who has expanded his retail offerings to meet consumer demand. “The November-to-January period has, by all accounts, been the strongest in golf retail’s history.”

Adds Drummond Golf chief executive Jamie Cooke: “The significant influx of new people to the game of golf through the COVID period looks to have sustained itself at a higher level than what we had anticipated. Black Friday sales increased again year on year and took nothing away from the pre-Christmas activity that followed.”

It’s a trend that’s spreading beyond golf-store tills, too. Anecdotally, golf clubs are reporting record revenue from green fees and membership, while golf destinations are filled to the brim with accommodation, rental car and tee-time bookings. And, as your author knows too well in recent months, rocking up to your nearest driving range and expecting to walk straight into a bay is a fool’s errand.

“In addition to strength in retail numbers, our Big Swing Simulator entertainment business has also flourished,” Cooke adds. “Whilst we are watchful of the broader economic conditions, we remain confident that the golf market will continue to be strong.”

It’s all a bit overwhelming and hard to comprehend given contrasting reports in the Financial Review reveal shoppers slashed retail spending in the run-up to Christmas by the most since the pandemic lockdowns, cutting discretionary spend on things like household goods, clothes and footwear. The recession-like conditions in retail were underlined by vacuum retailer Godfreys Group entering voluntary administration, with credit watchers predicting more retailers will go bust in the coming months. 

Not in golf.

“With all the incredible new golf products having just been released for 2024, I just can’t see the current trend stopping,” Button says.

Adds the product specialist for a leading golf brand: “I think, collectively, we’re all waiting for the sport to hit a cliff and come to a screeching halt, but the numbers are telling us that doesn’t look like happening anytime soon.”

Could the predictions be right? Could golf be – dare we say it – recession-proof? Economists will say “only time will tell”. Either way, forecasting has become a delicate game of skill and hope. Sounds a lot like a sport we all love to play.