Should we be concerned about the latest participation slump data?

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir April 19, 2018 11:42

New research for golf participation over the last six months compared with previous years has found an unprecedented and stunning drop.

Golf participation has been steadily falling for nearly 20 years although in recent years there has been evidence to suggest the slump was over.

However, new data from SPORTS MARKETING SURVEYS INC has found that the number of golf rounds played in the UK between January and March 2018 were down by, on average, an extraordinary 22 per cent.

This follows on from the company’s research at the start of the year, which revealed that participation between October and December 2017 was down more than 11 per cent compared with 2016.

Shock 11% drop in golf rounds played at end of 2017


The previous three months were also down four per cent compared with 2016 and, to complete the year, the Q2 figures were up by four per cent.

“Rounds played were significantly lower for quarter one across all regions, leading to an average drop of over 22 per cent,” said a company spokesman.

“With a decrease of 15.7 per cent, Scotland was the territory least affected, with the north being the worst hit and losing a third of rounds compared to last year.


Q1 2017 had experienced a relatively strong period for rounds played with the highest average recorded since 2012 so perhaps it should come as no surprise that without unseasonably good conditions, Q1 2018 would see a decline year on year.

“However, very few could have anticipated the arrival of the two-part ‘beast from the east’ and the disruption, some may say destruction, that it wreaked on golf courses throughout the country.

“In total, rounds played in March were 35 per cent down compared to 2017.”

Director Richard Payne said he remained positive for 2018. “There are certain points in life where you come up against the perfect storm and it just so happens that, as an outside sport, golf’s storms share their names with meteorological ones, with ‘Eleanor’ disrupting the start of the year and ‘The Beast’ making golf virtually unplayable in March,” he said.

“That said, Q1 typically accounts for between 15 and 20 per cent of annual rounds played, meaning that there is a lot of golf still to be played. Following an exciting Masters, the revival of Tiger Woods and the Ryder Cup back in Europe in September, as an industry we need to dust ourselves off and focus on the positives that the year still has to offer – let’s just keep our fingers crossed that the sun gives us a helping hand too.”


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir April 19, 2018 11:42
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  1. martin April 24, 12:03

    I am always wary of these figures. I have been playing golf for 49 years but I have NEVER been asked about my participation. Have you?

    Reply to this comment
    • Matt April 28, 10:37

      I think the golf clubs get asked about thier roundage via thier tee sheet opposed to asking golfers themselves

      Reply to this comment
  2. Gavin April 23, 13:22

    I think you have to put this in the context of the weather over the winter. A lot more snow followed by heavy persistent rainfall has meant courses being closed for longer periods. The two are directly correlated and so it is not surprising at all to see a reduction. Still huge amounts of positive work going on for golf in England so not all doom and gloom!!

    Reply to this comment
  3. Pete April 19, 21:06

    I can see the thousand percent growth, since basically few were playing before. If you’re depending on women to save the game, you can forget it!

    Golf is on borrowed time…better get your act together and adjust the game to reflect the new culture.. not you father’s time consuming game anymore.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Kari April 19, 16:19

    Junior girls in the US has grown 1,000% over the past few years. Listen to the market research, make some investment and genuine effort to provide the untapped women’s market with what it needs to grow, and the UK might see some return. I think there should only be concern if golf leaders keep steering the ship toward the rocks and don’t make a course correction even if it is uncomfortable for them. (Invite women into the game without hesitation!)

    Reply to this comment
  5. Tony Clingan April 19, 14:43

    I don’t think we are comparing like with like,last winter was very dry and we were 92% up at the end of March 2017

    By contrast the last winter has been very wet with a lot of course closures and people not wanting to paddle round up to their ankles in water

    I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be concerned but we must base our numbers on sensible comparisons

    Tony Clingan
    Redhill & Reigate GC

    Reply to this comment
    • Jeremy April 19, 14:48

      Agree BUT our course was flooded for weeks two winters ago (or was it three?) and these figures are worse than even then

      Reply to this comment
  6. Bill April 19, 14:41

    Damn right we should I’m reminded of the Roman Empire and Nero fiddling while Rome burned. The powers that be are not really serious about the rules changes They aren’t really reaching out to grow the game The emphasis on Junior golf is good BUT how will kids get to the golf course? Transportation and access are keys Growing a game that’s been historically exclusionary is tough but access to accessible courses has to be explored

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