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Millions of New Golfers Are Taking to The Course

By: | Tue 12 Apr 2022

THE scale of the boom enjoyed by golf has been revealed by two participation reports compiled by the R&A, England Golf, Golf Ireland, Scottish Golf and Wales Golf.

The research covers Great Britain and Ireland throughout 2021 and reveal just how much the sport benefitted as a result of the pandemic.

The reports demonstrate that 5.3 million on-course adult golfers enjoyed playing on full length courses (9 or 18 holes) in Great Britain and Ireland in 2021 - this is the second-highest number since monitoring began more than 30 years ago.

According to the research, golf enjoyed a significant boom during the pandemic due to its ability to be played safely and proven benefits in boosting mental and physical health. The latest data shows that participation in golf is still well above the rates in the years prior to Covid-19.

In Great Britain, the number of on-course adults began to gradually increase before Covid-19, rising from 2.5 million in 2017 to 3 million in 2019, before hitting a peak of 5.2 million in 2020. The latest figures show that 4.8 million golfers played in 2021.

The figures also reveal that the number of avid golfers more than doubled, there was an increase in female golfers and the use of driving ranges and Par-3 courses remained high.

Golfers Back Playing

Phil Anderton, Chief Development Officer at The R&A, said, “It is extremely positive that the number of on-course adult golfers remained so strong in Great Britain and Ireland last year.

“The vast majority of lapsed or non-golfers who took up golf during the pandemic have continued to play, with the sport remaining very popular in the use of full-length courses, driving ranges and alternative golf venues in particular.

“Golfers are enjoying positive experiences of the sport, supported by a wide range of participation initiatives and communication around the benefits of the sport for physical and mental health. It is important to maintain this momentum and ensure golfers enjoy the sport at all levels.”

Both reports were produced by Sports Marketing Surveys (SMS).

Key highlights from the 2021 Great Britain Golf Participation Report:

  • At 4.8 million, total adult golfers on a full-length course (9 or 18 hole) remains considerably above the 3 million in 2019 pre-pandemic level, albeit down from 5.2 million in 2020
  • Female golfer full course users increased to 34% of golfers (1.4 million to 1.6 million)
  • Avid golfers (who played more than 52 times) more than doubled from 149,000 to 339,000
  • Over 3.5 million people used a driving range - the second highest figure of the last 20 years
  • Par-3 course users rose from 27,000 to 41,000, similar to the figures between 2012-2016
  • The average age of golfers was 41, the same as in 2020
  • 15% of the population tried or started golf again in any on or off-course format because of the pandemic (in 2020 or 2021)

The new participation data builds on recent SMS research which highlighted that golf rounds played rose for a fourth consecutive year in Great Britain in 2021.

And it is not just Britain that is enjoying a huge increase in playing numbers. The American-based National Golf Foundation reports that the increase in playing numbers in the USA is even greater than when Tiger Woods first burst upon the scene, with a record 6.2 million beginners have taken up golf in the U.S. over the past two years.

During the two years between 1999 and 2000, Woods won 17 PGA Tour titles, including four majors. His popularity provided a boost to recreational golf, with more than 4.8 million Americans taking up the game for the first time in 1999 and 2000; many of them because of Woods.

Over the past two years, the number of new golfers in the U.S. is higher than it was back when Woods was at his most dominant. Almost 30% higher. In 2021, a record 3.2 million Americans played golf on a course for the first time. This after 3 million newcomers picked up golf in 2020 as the pandemic unfolded and people sought out safe, outdoor activities that could provide a sense of normalcy with friends and family.

Of course, there is no way of knowing if this will continue indefinitely, but the signs are highly encouraging.

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