What does the increasing popularity of golf in the UK mean for the sport?

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick January 20, 2022 11:52

Sport is a vital part of the United Kingdom’s culture. The success of sporting events like the 2019 Cricket World Cup, where Ben Stokes led England to victory, and the 2021 UEFA Champions League final, which saw two English football teams compete for the European title, are among the many woven into the country’s identity. Interestingly, since 2016, golf has become just as popular as football and cricket, with the number of players in Great Britain and Ireland increasing from 3.6 million to 5.7 million.

What caused the growth?

Globally, golf has changed over the years, from the style of play and the fashion to how golf clubs bring in new players. For example, as we covered, websites and social media platforms are now essential for golf clubs. They use them as a primary selling tool, encouraging players to book tee times and enjoy facilities. Likewise, the growth of golf in the United Kingdom reflects a worldwide trend.

According to new research figures discovered by The R&A and Sports Marketing Surveys (SMS), over five-and-a-half million additional golfers worldwide have taken up the sport since 2016. However, the United Kingdom has its own reasons why golf has increased in popularity. For starters, the United Kingdom is home to some of the most iconic golf clubs/courses, such as the Royal St. George’s Golf Club in Sandwich, Kent.

Royal St. George’s is one of the courses on the British Open’s rotation and the home of the Challenge Cup, one of the oldest amateur golf events in the world. In 1959, a 19-year-old Jack Nicklaus won the tournament before becoming one of the greatest golfers of all time.

Reputable courses aside, golf has also been shown to have significant health benefits, such as reducing the risk of cardiovascular issues. This has helped grow the number of players in the United Kingdom, as, over the years, there has been a push for healthy living throughout the country. For example, research figures released by the government last year revealed that around six million adults in the UK planned to exercise more (41%), eat more healthily (40%) and lose weight (39%) in 2021, a stark contrast to similar figures in 2020.

What does this growth mean for the sport?

In addition to health benefits, the rise of new golfers in the United Kingdom will bring many economic benefits, such as golf clubs seeing increased traffic and revenue. Golf equipment companies will also see growth in sales as new players purchase the necessary equipment. These companies will also be able to expand their business models if they see an influx of customers, such as opening a prototype store that lets golfers buy products, take lessons, and practice in hitting bays.

Similarly, like we saw a surge in the number of people playing tennis in the UK after Emma Raducanu won the US Open in 2021, the boom in the number of golfers in the UK will also help improve the country’s reputation on a competitive level. As young players take up the sport in the coming years, we will see more homegrown golfers competing in global competitions, and that will be crucial if Great Britain and Ireland want to match the United States’ dominance in the sport. For example, even though Rory McIlroy is the joint-second favourite to win the 2022 US Masters with top betting sites like Betway, where he is priced at odds of 12/1, the four players he shares odds with are all American. Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele and Brooks Koepka are all just behind him in the odds as well, so he is heavily outnumbered.

The increasing popularity of golf in the UK will bring benefits to all levels of the game. Grassroots golf clubs will remain competitive, and there will be next-generation talent putting the UK on the map (like Raducanu did in tennis). Golf equipment stores will also see a run of impressive quarterly reports. And all we can say is that it’s about time the country started to see golf for what it is: a beautiful game.


Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick January 20, 2022 11:52
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