Global golf participation has risen by one third in 7 years

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir August 2, 2023 14:25

Golf has seen a stunning rise in adult participation across the world – by 34 percent in the last seven years.

New figures for most markets around the world, but not including the USA, show that the game is one of the fastest growing sports on the planet, largely but not entirely fuelled by the participation boom that took place during the pandemic.

The R&A has stated that an additional ten million adult golfers are playing the sport worldwide since 2016. This equates to 39.6 million on-course golfers (nine and 18 holes) in R&A affiliated markets.

In 2016 the figure was 29.6 million people, while it was 34.5 million in 2020.

The data is provided in a new Global Golf Participation Report, which, for the first time, collectively measures The R&A’s affiliated markets in Asia, Africa, Canada, the Caribbean, Central and South America, Europe, the Middle East and Oceania.

The report also highlights that 61.2 million adults (outside the USA and Mexico) engage with the sport in some format, which is the first time an estimate has been made beyond on-course activity to include alternative-only formats, such as par-three golf, indoor simulator golf and driving range use.

Phil Anderton, chief development officer at The R&A, said, “Golf’s popularity has surged in recent years, which is reflected in a notable increase in the number of people playing the sport in both traditional on-course and alternative formats.

“It is significant that ten million more golfers are playing on the course since 2016, but it is also important that millions of others are engaged in golf through many other alternative formats, such as driving ranges, which are so vital to the growth of the sport.

“It also underlines why effective and impactful participation programmes are important for encouraging more people into the sport and retaining them in greater numbers. We are working closely with our affiliated national federations and stakeholders within golf to sustain this momentum. We thank them for their efforts as we aim to ensure that golf is thriving for years to come.”

The top five on-course adult golfer markets overall in 2023 are in Japan (8.1 million), Canada (5.6 million), Republic of Korea (5.4 million), England (3.4 million) and Germany (2.1 million).

While the USA is not included in the research, the latest data shows that that country has 25.6 million active golfers.

Asia is the leading region for people engaging with golf among R&A affiliated regions, with total adult engagement of 22.5 million. Europe is next highest with 21.1 million adult engagement.

Women make up almost a quarter of adult registered golfers in R&A affiliated markets worldwide, demonstrating the positive impact of initiatives focused on promoting greater diversity and inclusivity in golf.

The R&A is continuing its commitment to invest £200 million over ten years in developing golf, including sustained work to encourage participation by promoting the health benefits of the sport through a global campaign.


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir August 2, 2023 14:25
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  1. JRIG August 7, 18:27

    Now the real question is how do they sustain and retain this gift horse?

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  2. Dr. Kanwar August 2, 14:58

    Great article – nice to get a global perspective of the sport. In most articles we still quote the figures 60 million worldwide of which 25 million people n the USA.

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