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Study Finds Maine’s Golf Industry Generated $270 Million in 2011

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Activity at Maine’s 144 golf courses, along with tourism-related spending by out-of-state golfers, generated a $270 million statewide economic contribution in 2011, according to research by University of Maine economists Todd Gabe and James McConnon.

Gabe and McConnon, who conducted a similar study 11 years ago, recently calculated that the golf industry’s $270 million economic contribution, which includes the expenditures by golfers and related multiplier effects, support 4,935 full- and part-time jobs in Maine, which provided $90 million in labor income.

Study results are based on surveys of Maine golf courses conducted at the end of the 2011 golf season, as well as visitor spending figures from the Maine Office of Tourism. The study was funded by the Maine State Golf Association and Golf Maine.

“Golf ranks right up there with activities such as hunting, fishing, skiing and snowmobiling in terms of participation by visitors to Maine,” says Gabe, a professor of economics. “The golf courses told us that 31 percent of their players are from outside of Maine, which is almost identical to the out-of-state golfer estimate from our 2001 study.”

Maine’s golf courses indicated that poor weather, the low number of people playing golf, and competition from other courses and activities are some of the biggest challenges facing the golf industry.

“The recent global recession has hit the golf industry hard, reducing golfer participation in the United States,” says McConnon, a UMaine Extension specialist and professor of economics. “As we come out of the recession, it’s important that golf courses develop and implement creative and innovative marketing strategies to increase the participation of both resident and non-resident golfers.”

The study found, based on figures from the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Golf Foundation, Maine ranks 32nd nationally in terms of the statewide demographics for playing golf.

“It’s noteworthy that the many of the states with the best demographics for golf are located in Maine’s primary tourism market,” Gabe adds. “Places such as Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Maryland have some of the most favorable population demographics for playing golf, which explains why so many tourists in Maine are likely to hit the links.”

Nancy Storey, executive director of the Maine State Golf Association, one of the project’s sponsors, says, “We in the golf business know that it is an important part of the Maine economy, but this study helps us quantify the impact of golf in the state.

“Along with the sport’s large impact on the state economy,” she notes, “the study shows that Maine’s golf courses (also) made about $1.8 million in charitable donations in 2011.”

“Despite its draw,” Storey says, “golf has been under-recognized as a major contributor to Maine’s tourism industry. Golfing tourists are traditionally more affluent, older and willing to spend money on luxury accommodations and dining, meaning that their economic contribution per person is significant. We’re hoping that this study will make people realize how valuable golf really is here in Maine, despite the fact that we essentially have the shortest golf season in the country.”

The report is available at the School of Economics Faculty and Staff Research and Publications website.

Contact: Todd Gabe, (207) 581-3307; James McConnon, (207) 581-3165

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