Golf participation in England has risen for first time in years

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir June 9, 2016 11:32

After more than a decade of year-on-year steep falls, golf participation and club membership in England has risen in the last year.

New figures from Sport England suggest that not only is the worst over for golf, but significant growth may even be on the cards.

The organisation’s Active People Survey has been charting the number of people playing golf since 2008. Every year since then until 2015 the number of weekly (nearly 900,000) and monthly (more than 1.5 million) golfers, and members of clubs (642,800), in England has fallen, to 740,100, 1.09 million and 488,000 respectively.

However, new figures from April 2015 to March 2016 show that while weekly participation has fallen slightly, both monthly participation and club membership have risen sharply, when compared with the period from October 2014 to September 2015.

The number of golfers who play once a week dropped by less than 2,000 to 738,200 (and had risen by more than 10,000 from exactly one year earlier).

The number of golfers who play once a month has risen from 1,095,600 to 1,115,800.

Perhaps the best figure for golf clubs is that the number of club members has risen significantly.

Its lowest figure was in 2013 when just 442,500 people were members of English golf clubs. This had risen to 477,000 in 2014 and 488,000 by October 2015.

In the next six months the average number of club members for the year had shot up to 507,100, the industry’s best figure since 2012, when English golf clubs had 530,600 people as members.

England Golf says a number of its initiatives have helped boost participation and club membership.

Over 192,000 people were inspired to try golf from April 2015 to March 2016, it states, around 34,000 of those are now playing once a week, and almost 14,000 have joined clubs as a result.

The newcomers and returners to the sport were attracted by ‘Get into golf’ opportunities offered across the country. Of particular success was ‘Golf Express’, which promotes a nine-hole version of the game to encourage busy people to play more often. In its trial in Staffordshire over 4,600 nine-hole rounds were played in eight months.

Other initiatives included specific action to attract more women and girls. A total of 115 clubs offered women-only Get into golf coaching sessions and attracted 2,700 participants. Half are now playing regularly and over 600 have taken out some form of membership.

Girls Golf Rocks, a joint venture by England Golf and the Golf Foundation, was trialled in Essex and is now running in nine counties, with over 500 girls taking taster sessions and 420 going on to take coaching courses.

Almost 140,000 youngsters also tried golf through HSBC Golf Roots centres, ‘Street Golf’ and satellite clubs. Over 14,000 are now playing regularly and over 3,500 have joined clubs.

Nick Pink, England Golf chief executive, said: “These are excellent results. We are looking forward to building on this success and, supported by our new partnership with Sky Sports to promote Get into golf, we will continue to spread the message that golf is a great game for all.”

Jennie Price, Sport England chief executive, said she was delighted with the results but all sports need to do more to be attractive and welcoming to people with disabilities.

“These figures are encouraging, especially the significant increase in the number of women playing sport and being active every week,” she said.

“I am concerned that, despite significant focus and investment, the number of disabled people being active has remained largely flat in the last 18 months. The sports sector needs to rethink how it supports disabled people, and in particular we all need to recognise that most disabled people are over 50 and that 75 percent have more than one impairment. We will work hard with the sector to address this as we implement our new strategy.”


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir June 9, 2016 11:32
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