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Editor’s Note: Conducting research and reporting new information has been part of the Green Section’s mission since it was founded in 1920. While our research program primarily focuses on turfgrass and environmental research, we are increasingly involved in studying a wider range of factors that influence golfer experience. Understanding what golfers want and how to best improve their experience relates directly to the economic and environmental sustainability of golf courses and this information helps guide golf course design, construction and maintenance decisions so that resources are invested to deliver the best possible results. From 2020-2022, we conducted extensive research into golfer experience and related golf course factors. This work includes surveys of industry professionals and thousands of golfers, along with numerous field studies. We will share the key findings of this research in a series of articles over the next several months, starting with one of the most fundamental topics of all – who are the golfers at your course and what do they want?

Key Takeaways

  • This research identified eight green-grass golfer archetypes which have important differences. A facility can use a four-question survey and knowledge about the archetype tendencies to better meet golfer needs and increase their satisfaction. 
  • All archetypes want quality playing conditions and quick pace of play. For players in the more-engaged segments, meeting expectations for course conditioning and not frustrating them with slow play will keep them coming back.
  • Providing quality forward tees directly addresses the desires of the less-engaged segments and indirectly all golfer archetypes. Offering tee options which match player capabilities will improve overall pace of play when more players utilize tees that are a good fit for their ability.


As part of the USGA’s ongoing research into golfer experience, a recent project sought to classify golfers into archetypes based on their individual characteristics and how they engage with the game. The archetypes were developed through a three-part qualitative study of 126 golfers. Then the archetypes were refined, quantified and characterized using a quantitative survey of 20,001 golfers from across the United States.

Golfers have a wide range of demographic characteristics, skill levels, motivations for playing golf, and variable amounts of time and resources to devote toward playing the game. Golf courses themselves vary considerably in the experiences offered through number of holes, course design, conditioning, pricing, access and many other factors. Within a course, multiple teeing options allow golfers to tailor their experience depending on their ability and their desires for the round. If golf facilities can better understand the characteristics of their current and potential customers, they can improve their course and experience offerings to increase golfer satisfaction in the most efficient and effective manner possible. The archetypes identified through this research provide an important foundation for courses that wish to understand their customers better.

What are the different golfer archetypes?

Golfers across all of the archetypes identified in this study share many similar traits. For the eight green-grass segments, all play on natural turf at 18-hole, 9-hole or par-3 courses. They all play for fun and enjoyment and nearly all play for additional reasons like competition, exercise and outdoor activity. A ninth segment of “off-course” golfers was also identified – “Golfertainment” – but this group will not be a focus of this article.

As part of developing the segments, three skill levels were defined. Highly skilled golfers have a handicap index less than 10 and regularly score in the 70s or lower on a par-72 golf course. Medium-skill-level golfers have a handicap index from 10-29 and score normally in the 80s or 90s. Lower-skill-level golfers have a handicap index above 29 and typically score more than 100. None of the archetypes are gender based. The eight green-grass, experience-based archetypes identified through this study are:

Occasional: The infrequent and often reluctant casual player that is lowest on the engagement scale and learning curve. This archetype represents 14% of the golfing population, can be any age or skill level and is classified into this group because they play less than 12 rounds per year. All other archetypes play more frequently.

Determined: These golfers are lower on the learning curve, lower on performance expectations and likely newer to the game. This archetype represents 6% of the golfing population and is classified into this group because of their lower skill level. They are the highest-scoring golfers that play 12 or more rounds per year and can be any age.

Fun-Only: It’s all about the social aspects for these players. Having fun is the only significant reason they play. This golfer doesn’t keep score, doesn’t compete against others and doesn’t play for any of the many other reasons golfers play in addition to having fun. This small segment can be any age and represents only 2% of the golfing population.

Sporty and Grinder: Golfers are classified into these groups because of their medium skill level and because they play 12-52 rounds per year. The only difference separating these segments is age. Sporty golfers represent 3% of the golfing population, are younger than 50, and often picked up the golf “bug” after participating in other sports or physical activities. The Grinder golfers represent 17% of the golfing population and are 50 or older.

Avid: This group is golf’s passionate “weekend warrior.” This archetype represents 16% of the golfing population, has a medium skill level and they play a lot of golf – i.e., more than 52 rounds per year. They can be any age.

Player and Veteran: Golfers are classified into these groups because of their high skill level. These are the best golfers with the only difference separating these segments being age. Player golfers represent 3% of the golfing population and are younger than 50. Veteran golfers represent 19% of the golfing population, are 50 or older, and have strong desires to preserve the norms of the game and the integrity of classic courses.

Note that 7% of respondents were unclassified and 13% are exclusively off-course Golfertainment participants, so the eight green-grass archetypes account for 80% of golfers.

The largest segment is Veteran (19%) followed closely by Grinder (17%) and Avid (16%). These three segments make up about two-thirds of the green-grass golfers in the U.S. when the Golfertainment segment and Unclassified are excluded. These segments share the characteristics of at least medium skill level and playing 12 or more rounds per year. The next largest segment were the least-frequent golfers, the Occasional (14%). The remaining four segments were each less than 10% of the golfer population.

A facility can quantify the type of golfers playing their course using a less than five minute, four-question survey covering the number of rounds played annually, the reasons for playing, skill level and age group. The next sections will describe how this information can be used to better understand the type of individuals playing your course and what they care about, which will give insight into improving their experience and increasing revenue.

Differentiating characteristics of each archetype

Our 2021 survey of 20,001 golfers across the United States showed that the typical golfer is a 60- to 69-year-old male, living in the suburbs, married or living with a partner, and their children are adults. The typical golfer plays at a public-access golf course, spends about $7,500 per year on golf and rides in a cart.

The following order of the archetypes provides the progression from the least-engaged golfer segment to the most based on rounds played and annual spending. For each segment, the significant differences compared to the median golfer are described:

  • Golfertainment golfers tend toward urban living, single, younger, female and no kids. They spend significantly less per year on golf than the median player.
  • Occasional golfers tend toward single, younger, female and with kids younger than 18 years old. They spend less per year on golf than the median player.
  • Determined golfers tend to be older and spend less per year on golf.
  • Sporty golfers tend toward urban living, single, younger and with no kids. They spend less per year on golf.
  • Grinder golfers tend to be older, but otherwise are similar to the typical golfer.
  • Fun-Only golfers tend to be older and ride in carts more often.
  • Player golfers tend toward single, younger and with no kids. They walk more frequently than the typical golfer.
  • Avid golfers tend to be older and spend more on golf per year at private courses.
  • Veteran golfers tend to be older, spend more on golf per year at private courses and walk more frequently than the typical golfer.

Table 1 shows these differentiating characteristics by illustrating if and how a segment differs from the survey midpoints in a given category. For example, if the table shows “male”, the archetype is more than 79% male and if it shows female, the archetype is less than 79% male. It doesn’t mean that the archetype is exclusively male or female. Blank cells indicate a characteristic is similar to the midpoint.

Now that we have defined the segments and outlined the differing characteristics between them, golf facilities can use this information to better understand who their customers are and how to better meet their needs. The survey used in this research also addressed golfers’ specific satisfaction characteristics. Let’s examine how to improve golfer satisfaction by using this information.

How can you better satisfy your golfers?

Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a widely used market research metric that typically uses a single survey question asking respondents to rate the likelihood that they would recommend a company, product or service to a friend or colleague. It measures customer experience of your product and provides a useful metric to anchor your customer experience program. Overall, the NPS scores in this survey were lower than typically measured for golfer satisfaction and are quite low for service and entertainment industries in general – which indicates clear room for improvement when it comes to golfer satisfaction.

Figure 2 shows overall NPS by archetype for a round of golf. The average NPS for this survey was 27 and the results fall into four satisfaction levels. The most-satisfied golfers are the Veterans, with Avids as a close second. Grinders and Players are about average. Three archetype groups have NPS values well below the overall average: Determined, Fun-Only and Sporty. Finally, the Occasional segment is the least satisfied – no wonder they play the least amount of golf! If your customer base has a high proportion of the less-satisfied archetypes, there are likely significant opportunities to improve golfer experience through targeted programs. Improving the experience of these groups may also help you transition some players to a more-engaged segment which should increase revenue through more rounds of golf at your course.

We also know from this survey that the less-satisfied golfers are those who typically score over 100, are less accurate and shorter hitters, or tend to be female, younger and public-facility golfers. NPS scores for these groups range from 9-19, which is significantly lower than the average satisfaction score of 27 in this survey. If your facility currently serves many of these players, or you would like to increase the number of these players at your course, targeted improvements like forward tees built with similar quality at playing distances fitting their game or expanded teaching services could improve their satisfaction and engagement. Simply recognizing that these players are typically less satisfied is an important first step in making effective improvements to your course and offerings.

We know that the conditions on the course, especially the greens, are critically important to golfer satisfaction. Because this is well established, we did not include course conditions in this survey. Pace of play was included because of the interdependence with tee selection and course length. The top three touch points across all segments that would have an “Extremely Positive” impact on golfer satisfaction for this survey that focused on hole length, tees, course length and golfer decision-making are:

  1. Speed of Others on the Course (63%)
  2. Corrective Actions for Golfers Not Following Pace Standards (51%)
  3. How Level the Tee Boxes Are (46%)


These top three overall touchpoints speak directly to the benefit of quality tees at appropriate distances. Having tees in the right locations is part of the equation, but the quality of the tees is also important. If the tees aren’t flat and of consistent quality, golfers will be reluctant to play them or will be less satisfied when they do use them. More importantly, having tees that are a good fit for golfers’ ability is critical to the overall pace of play at any facility. Providing playing lengths that are appropriate for the golfers at your course results in an improved experience and faster pace of play. When golfers play tees that are a good fit for their ability and hitting distance, they will shoot lower scores, play faster and enjoy their round more – all of which translates to happier customers and opportunities for increased revenue.

Conclusions and recommendations for each archetype

All segments want excellent pace of play. Anything a facility can do to improve pace will increase golfer satisfaction and lead to increased revenue opportunities.

For the Occasional segment, golf is relatively important even though they play less than once per month. They self-identify as shorter and less accurate golfers who score higher on average. They often use forward tees and are generally less competitive. If they are given a quality experience using forward tees, they are likely to play more golf. They would also benefit from opportunities to connect with other golfers socially as they skew younger and single.

These recommendations also apply to Determined golfers, but they’re arguably even more important for this segment. These golfers play more and know what they want. They specifically state that having tees available for the range of golfer abilities is important to their satisfaction because it improves scoring opportunities and pace of play. Behavioral research indicates that instruction would help these golfers improve their satisfaction and move into other segments that play more golf and generate increased revenue opportunities.

The Sporty and Grinder segments state that an “Enjoyable Course Design for All Golfers” is particularly important to them. Behavioral research indicates that these golfers would benefit from faster playing options or anything that would increase opportunities for them to fit golf into their busy schedule.

Fun-Only golfers are all about fun. If you don’t frustrate them, they will return again and again – especially if you provide opportunities to improve the social aspect of their visit.

Avid golfers, Players and Veterans want good pace of play and good course conditions. If you meet their expectations with a quality experience, they will play golf often.

Future articles in this series will examine additional data about what golfers want in terms of teeing options and playing lengths, as well as ways to help golfers make choices that will improve their experience. Stay tuned!

The USGA appreciates the high-quality research performed by Sports & Leisure Research Group and Sports Marketing Surveys to support this work.

David Pierce is the director of research for the USGA Green Section. The research team develops data-based solutions that advance golf by helping courses improve golfer experience and resource management.