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Golf Popularity Booms With 5.5 million New Players

By: | Sun 19 Dec 2021 | Comments


RESEARCH figures revealed by The R&A and Sports Marketing Surveys (SMS) confirms something we already all knew - golf is enjoying a huge increase in popularity. Of course, it all came to a head during the pandemic but the research shows that playing numbers have actually been on the rise since 2016, with more than an additional 5.5 million golfers taking up the sport in that time around the globe.

The total number of worldwide golfers has increased to 66.6 million from 61 million over the past five years, surpassing the previous high mark of 61.6 million set in 2012. This includes club members and non-member independent golfers playing nine or 18 holes and users of driving ranges in markets where course availability is limited.

Golf Survey

The figure reflects a positive trend in golf in which participation levels are now rising worldwide after a period of decline. This was recently highlighted in the 2021 European Golf Participation Report, with more than 10.6 million golfers playing full-length courses on the continent, an increase from 7.9 million in 2016.


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Phil Anderton, Chief Development Officer at The R&A, said: “Golf is enjoying a real boom in popularity at the moment and we are seeing substantial increases in participation in many parts of the world, particularly in the last two years when the sport could be played safely outdoors during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The new figures are very encouraging but we need to work together as a sport to make the most of this opportunity by retaining those people who have returned to golf or tried it for the first time. We can achieve this by offering a variety of attractive and flexible options that encourage golfers to play more regularly and enjoy its many health and wellbeing benefits with family and friends.”

Regions experiencing the largest rises include Asia (20.9 million to 23.3 million), Europe (7.9 million to 10.6 million), with a marked increase in Great Britain and Ireland (from 3.6 million to 5.7 million), and North America (29.9 million and 30.6 million).

Research indicates that the trend actually began before Covid-19 and accelerated during the pandemic as the popularity of the sport grew due to golfers being able to socially distance in a safe outdoor setting and boost their physical and mental health.


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In Great Britain, the number of adults playing a nine or 18-hole course rose from 2.5 million in 2017 to 2.8 million in 2018, then to 3 million in 2019, surging to 5.2 million in 2020.

The Post Covid Opportunity Research, along with findings from Bayfirth Research, details experiences of golfers during the pandemic, motivation for playing and long-term plans. It found 98 per cent of those interviewed are enjoying playing golf, with 95 per cent seeing themselves playing for many years to come.

The R&A also launched a Covid-19 Support Fund to help golf deal with the impact of the pandemic, with the £7 million funding package largely aimed at national federations and other affiliated bodies in Great Britain and Ireland.

But with so many golfers now playing the game, how does that actually impact accessibility?  Whilst the reports are encouraging signs for golf as a whole, some of our readers my be interested to know that in England there are over 2,000 golfers for every golf course.  The next nearest country is Italy but with a much smaller 1,300 golfers per course.

Let us know what you think in the comments below and how the future of golf may change.  You can also find some related articles covering other aspects of this topic which you may find of interest.


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