A new research report has shown that golf participation is on the rise in Europe with over 10 million golfers now enjoying the sport.
The second edition of the European Golf Participation Report, published by The R&A and the European Golf Association (EGA) using research conducted by Sports Marketing Surveys, presents a more representative view of everyone who plays golf on a full-length course (9 or 18 holes).
The report combines the number of registered golf club members and non-club member independent golfers in each country to provide a measure of total golfers playing the sport.
The new data shows that there are over 10.6 million golfers now enjoying playing golf in Europe, a healthy increase from the 7.9 million last monitored for 2016.
Different ways to play
The breakdown of the total golfer community combined across Europe also reveals there are more independent golfers (59%) compared to those golfers registered as a member with their national federation (41%), highlighting the different ways golf is being played.
The research also shows that 73% of national federations in Europe recorded growth in registered golfers from 2019 to 2021, with the total of registered golfers rising by more than 190,000 from 4.13 million to 4.32 million (a 4.6% growth).
New golfers are enjoying positive experiences of the sport, supported by a wide range of participation initiatives and the ability for golf to be played safely in a number of European countries during the Covid-19 pandemic to boost mental and physical health for participants.
Phil Anderton, Chief Development Officer at The R&A, said, “An overall rise in golf participation is always encouraging and with over 10.6 million golfers now enjoying the sport on full-length courses across Europe, it is clear to see that a wide range of initiatives are having a positive impact and that golfers are enjoying the healthy benefits the sport provides.
“We believe that counting independent golfers together with those who are registered as club members gives a more accurate view of the total number of golfers playing on a full-length course each year and reflects how the sport is being consumed from country to country.”
The report, published every two years, includes data collected from the EGA’s 49 national member federations, with this year’s edition comparing participation trends to pre-Covid-19 levels from 2019.
The number of women and junior golfers playing the sport has remained largely stable over the last two years, highlighting the opportunity for growth in these consumer markets.
Other key findings reported include:
- Markets that saw the greatest growth in registered golfers include England (up by 63,500) and Sweden (up by 54,589)
- A total of nine markets – largely among emerging golfing nations – saw growth in registered golfers of over 30%, with Latvia and Belarus achieving over 150% growth
- The markets with the highest proportion of total golfers in the population include Iceland (17.7%), Scotland (10.9%), England (8%) and Ireland (7.8%)
- Combined registered women golfers across Europe increased by 13,000 (to just over 1 million), with the proportion of registered golfers in Europe narrowly declining from 27% to 26%
- Germany (221,865), Sweden (129,949) and the Netherlands (125,537) are the top three markets for the number of registered women golfers
- Combined registered junior golfers across Europe increased by over 43,000 (to more than 350,000), with the proportion of registered golfers in Europe relatively stable at 8%
- Sweden (61,839), England (45,304) and Germany (41,212) are the top three markets for the number of registered junior golfers
No room for complacency
The R&A is encouraging national federations to embrace independent golfers and bring them into the sport. Building a relationship with independent golfers has provided opportunities to increase club membership numbers, with success seen in England, for example, through the iGolf platform. The online subscription platform provides non-club members with an official WHS handicap index.
Michael Thannhäuser, General Secretary of the EGA, added, “It is highly encouraging that during a challenging two years, the number of registered golfers in Europe has grown with increases seen in nearly three quarters of the total European countries.
“The role of national federations in this growth is vital and I applaud those who used the pandemic as an opportunity to promote golf as a safe and healthy sport and attract new players. Although the report is very positive, there is no room for complacency when it comes to developing the sport and securing its future.”