New participation figures show record-breaking drop followed by extraordinary rise

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir August 11, 2020 07:12

New figures that compare the number of rounds of golf played in the UK in the second quarter of 2020 with 2019 suggest there has been record-breaking growth – even though, paradoxically, they actually show the biggest fall ever.

The figures, part of a quarterly data collection by research agency Sports Marketing Surveys (SMS), compare April, May and June 2020 with the same three months a year earlier.

April saw no golf at all due to the lockdown, while clubs across the UK generally reopened between mid and late May.

In total there was a 23 percent drop in the number of rounds played – the biggest fall ever for that quarter – but they actually point towards the biggest annual rise since records began.

The figures show a 100 percent decline in April, a 27 percent drop in May and a 61 percent rise in June.

This means that if the June figures are to be repeated in July, and early indications have suggested that they will be, then the UK golf industry will have equalled the participation figure for the whole of 2019 by just July – with five months of the year still ahead. Some resort courses dependent on play and stay traffic have also only just reopened with, for example, St Andrews and Kingsbarns not reopening until August.

The figures show regional variations: for example in Scotland where no golf was played until the end of May, quarterly performance was down 67 percent and the half year down by 49 percent.

Richard Payne, director of SMS commented: “These results represent an extraordinary comeback from the golf industry, one which should make everyone involved immensely proud. To go from no golf to the flurry of rounds in the second half of May and then the unprecedented rise in June is a complete turnaround for the fortunes of the industry. It shows that the appetite for golf among existing players is strong.

“With the lockdown hammering home for many people the value of fresh air on mental health, and the government now prioritising physical activity and exercise, we believe that golf is in a strong position to attract new players hoping to reap the many benefits that the sport can offer.”

He added that the data is even more encouraging because June’s figures took place against more changeable weather than May, including above average rainfall, and that other research has shown golfers feel that it is a particularly safe game to play during a pandemic.


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir August 11, 2020 07:12
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  1. Griffster August 22, 08:44

    Yes let’s celebrate these numbers after the horrible winter then C19 lockdown, but we really should drill down into the data… my club, yes participation is up, but it’s the same members playing more! It’s not nett new golfers! We lost 3 months revenue for the clubhouse and Proshop. Retired and furloughed members playing more is not a game changer IMHO.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Stuart H August 20, 11:21

    These figures might not be as good as people think as they could just be existing members playing more. For example I know of one large Club that has collected its County affiliation from its members and told the County it cannot afford to pay them at the moment and could not give a date when they would be able to pay them.

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  3. Phil August 11, 16:19

    staggering figures lets home it continues

    Reply to this comment
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