Played golfrounds in Great Britain remain high in 2023

In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, golf has experienced a remarkable upswing, with an increasing number of enthusiasts taking up the sport. This surge is reflected in the rising frequency of golf rounds played, as highlighted in a report by Sporting Insights. Remarkably, well into the third quarter of 2023—over three years since the pandemic’s onset—the numbers of rounds played remain consistently high.

Up to 55 percent More Golf Rounds than 2019

Despite a sluggish start to the year, golf rounds played in the UK in 2023 continue to surpass pre-pandemic figures. Only January of the first nine months of the year saw a decline compared to 2019. September emerged as the strongest month of the quarter, showing a significant increase of 55 percent compared to 2019 and a ten percent boost from 2022. Although the growth rate has moderated since the immediate post-pandemic period, the overall trend remains mildly positive. Quarterly golf rounds played in the UK increased by five percent compared to the third quarter of 2022, contributing to a year-end total three percent higher than 2022. The current average of 2,910 rounds played per golf course per month translates to an additional 646 rounds per golf course per month, equivalent to approximately 21 extra players per day.

More rounds of golf are still being played in the UK than before the pandemic. (Source: Sporting Insight)

Congratulations to all involved in the sport for the robust and consistent growth in playing frequency. Special commendation goes to the clubs and their teams, successfully engaging and inspiring golfers across all skill levels. The upward trajectory of golf extends beyond the playing field, benefiting professional golf as well. Major golf tournaments on the island have witnessed a significant surge in ticket sales compared to previous years.

(Source: Sporting Insight)

Amateur Tours

Rose Zhang sets new record as the world’s leading amateur golfer

Rose Zhang of the United States of America today broke the record for the total number of weeks as the number one golfer in the women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR).

Zhang has now spent 136 weeks as the world’s leading women’s amateur golfer, surpassing the record total of 135 weeks set by Leona Maguire of Ireland in 2018.

The 19-year-old ascended to the number one position in WAGR for the first time in September 2020 and has gone on to beat Lydia Ko’s record of 130 consecutive weeks by remaining at the top of the ranking ever since.

Rose Zhang: “It’s an unbelievable honour”

“It’s an unbelievable honour and a testament to a lot of hard work not just by me but by my team as well. Passing names like Lydia and Leona on any list is incredible; they’ve both gone on to have such impressive professional careers and are great role models in golf. I’m grateful for all the support I’ve received and look forward to continuing to pursue my dreams in this game.”

“I want to congratulate Rose on this amazing achievement,” said Leona Maguire. “It takes so much hard work and determination to become the world’s number one amateur golfer and to consistently hold that position for a record-breaking number of weeks shows just how good a golfer Rose really is. She is a future star of the game.”

Zhang was awarded the Mark H McCormack Medal in 2020, 2021 and 2022 as the world’s leading women’s amateur golfer, joining Maguire and Ko as the only three-time recipients of the accolade.

Notable wins in this time include the recently held Augusta National Women’s Amateur, the 2022 NCAA Championship and US Women’s Amateur two years ago. Last year, she also won the Smyth Salver as the leading amateur at the AIG Women’s Open at Muirfield, finished T-11 at the Chevron Championship in 2020 and qualified for the 2019 US Women’s Open as a 16-year-old.

Professor Steve Otto, Chief Technology Officer at The R&A, said, “We would like to congratulate Rose on this record-breaking achievement at the highest level of women’s amateur golf, as well as her recent success at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. She has consistently delivered outstanding results for some time now and continues to show why she is so highly regarded in the sport. We look forward to seeing her compete in the AIG Women’s Open once more at Walton Heath this year.”

“Rose continues to build upon an exceptional amateur career, and all of us at the USGA would like to congratulate her on this incredible record-breaking achievement,” said John Bodenhamer, USGA chief championships officer. “She has become a role model to so many young girls around the world and has consistently performed at the highest levels. We know this is only the start of what will be a long and impactful career in the game.”
(Press Release by R&A)


Great Britain and Ireland: Golf participation continues to grow

“Sporting Insights” examines golf participation in the British Isles at regular intervals. For the year 2022, the second highest value of adult golfers since records began over 30 years ago is given. Golf in the UK continues to grow, according to the data.

Specifically, the data shows that 5.6 million adult golfers were on the courses of Great Britain and Ireland. The study, in cooperation with the R&A and the national associations of Great Britain and Ireland, only counted full-length courses of 9 or 18 holes.

Golf in the UK: 50 per cent growth

Golf participation in 2022 increased by 265,000 golfers, according to Sporting Insights, well above the 2021 figures (5.3 million) and only just below the record set in the 2020 pandemic year (5.7 million golfers). At the beginning of the corona pandemic, golf had experienced enormous growth.

The current figures also show a significant increase in the number of golfers compared to before the pandemic. In 2019, 3.7 million golfers were on the courses of Great Britain and Ireland. This represents a growth of more than 50 per cent in three years. This has included an increase in the proportion of female golfers: 20 per cent were female in 2022, up from 15 per cent in 2019.

“It is very positive to see the number of on-course adult golfers grow in Great Britain and Ireland last year,” Phil Anderton, Chief Development Officer of The R&A, was pleased to say. “The sport remains very popular on full-length courses as large numbers of lapsed or non-golfers who took up the sport during the pandemic continue to enjoy playing.”

Participation initiatives highlight health aspects

Additionally, the number of rounds played has also increased slightly. Compared to the previous year, six percent more rounds were played in 2022 and even almost a quarter more than in 2019 (24 percent). This was also helped by various campaigns, for example the “Golf is Good” participatory initiative in Wales. The R&A’s campaign, featuring ambassador Gareth Bale, successfully highlighted the health and wellbeing benefits of golf.

“The growth has been aided by the important work of golf bodies to drive participation initiatives and increase awareness of the benefits of the sport for physical and mental health, including our pilot health campaign in Wales last year,” Anderton said. “There remains significant interest in golf and while we recognise that there are economic challenges due to cost of living pressures, it is important for everyone involved to do their best to keep existing golfers in the sport.”


Great Britain: Golf enthusiasm continues

Golf continues to prove popular in Great Britain, with ten percent more rounds of golf played in the first nine months of the year than in the equivalent period in 2021.

This is despite a small four percent drop in year-on-year play rates between July and September. It should however be remembered that the summer of 2021 was atypical, with rounds played experiencing an extended bounce after the lockdowns earlier in the year.

Continued strong participation in the UK

Contrasting against pre-lockdown years, Q3 2022 rounds were up 40 percent against 2019. Q3 was boosted by a drier than average July and August, but this alone does not account for the strong enduring appetite for golf.

The results can therefore be read as another indicator of strong ongoing participation. The North was the strongest performing region in 2022, recording one percent growth against the very strong third quarter of 2021.

“Golf continues to be a sport attractive across all levels of the game”

Richard Payne, Director at Sporting Insights, said: “This has been another good quarter for golf. The similarity in results between 2021 and 2022 suggests to us that golf is reaching a new normal baseline, which would be great news, because that normal is clearly a step up on where the game found itself before the pandemic. However, we are certainly not getting complacent because we know that the cost of living crisis is going to impact on leisure, putting pressure on memberships and green fee visits alike. What’s clear though is that golf is in a much better position to weather this storm thanks to the industry’s efforts over the last two years.”

Those efforts include work from The R&A to promote the links between golf and health. Phil Anderton, Chief Development Officer at The R&A, added, “It is again encouraging to see the positive data for rounds played in Great Britain for the third quarter of 2022.

“Golf was on the rise pre-pandemic and this latest data highlights how golf continues to be a sport attractive across all levels of the game through various formats. It is important for the sport to maintain this momentum and we are pushing initiatives such as the benefits of golf for your health strongly to continue to drive growth.”

Since 2000, Sporting Insights (previously known as Sports Marketing Surveys) has tracked rounds played at commercial golf courses across mainland Great Britain.

As part of Sporting Insights’ ongoing partnership with The Revenue Club, the Q3 report includes an additional section that looks at the booking channel trends from the 140 clubs that they work with.

(Text: Sporting Insights)


Top ways to get more involved in golf

Golf is a fantastic sport with a long history. Unlike other sports, however, there is less of a communal viewing culture. You don’t typically see groups of friends meeting up to tailgate at the Ryder Cup or sports bars full of golf fans going wild during the final holes of the Korn Ferry Tour Finals.

Watching golf can be a bit of an isolated activity. It can also feel like there isn’t much else that you can do besides watch the tournaments and read news about what’s going in the various Championships.
Here are our top four suggestions for things you can do to get more involved in golf.

Bet on tournaments

Betting on sports is a great way to get more involved. When you have a little bit of money riding on the outcome of an event it makes it even more exciting. With the PGA, you can bet on the winners of individual Championships. Another popular bet type is futures bets, including on the winner of the FedEx Cup.

Golf isn’t just an American sport, in fact, it was invented in Scotland. The United Kingdom and Ireland both have extensive histories with golf. Betting on golf has been growing in popularity in Ireland in particular, likely due in part to the number of high-profile tournaments the country hosts.

The 112th Irish PGA Championship Pro-Am at the Wild Atlantic Dunes in Belmullet is just one example of the rich golfing culture the country has, and just one example of the tournaments you can bet on.

Make your voice heard about LIV

Sportswashing is a fairly new term, but the problem has been around for quite a while, and it has finally reached the golf world. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, sportswashing is when a corporation or government tries to improve its reputation by investing heavily in a sports team or tournament. It is a form of reputation laundering and incredibly problematic.

In Saudi Arabia’s case, the Public Investment Fund is being used to fund the LIV Golf Invitational Series in the hopes of distracting the public from their ongoing human rights violations. The massive payouts they are using to attract leading golfers are working and LIV is growing.

You can get involved by contacting top golfers, either through their agents or social media – whatever way the golfer has made themself accessible to fans – to either thank them for refusing to participate in LIV if they have already rejected an offer or encouraging them to do so if they are currently being scouted. You can also reach out to major golf sponsors to encourage them to pull any support from LIV.

This is not only an important human rights issue, but also a golf issue. By splitting professional golfers into two tours, both will be weakened. If half the top competitors aren’t in the PGA Tour, it will make wins less impressive. A split viewership will also drop viewing numbers, which can lead to loss of advertising revenue and less golf on TV.

Use a course app

There is an app for everything, and golf is no different. Some are designed to help you with your swing, some give club recommendations or track your progress over time. These are all great for your personal golf game.

There are also some great apps that can increase your engagement with professional golf. The PGA Tour App allows you to follow every shot as it happens and includes 3D shot tracking too. There are apps that also have all the breaking news, highlights and coverage.

Golfshot GPS is another app that adds another interesting element to the Tour — it allows you to navigate through over 40,000 courses worldwide. You can see all the distances between holes, the hazards and the lay of every inch of the course. This year’s BMW Championship is being held at the Wilmington Country Club for the first time in its history, making it a perfect opportunity to explore the course along with the players.

Get out on the course

Playing a sport is possibly the best way to get more involved with it. There is only so much you can learn about a sport by reading about it or atching it on TV, the best way to understand a sport is to play it yourself. You don’t have to go play on world famous courses or use top of the line clubs. Just spending some time at your local course with friends is a great way to turn golf from something you like to something you love.


Study: More golf played in 2022 than ever before

2022 continues to see strong performance for golf and the golf industry. Sports Marketing Surveys’ ongoing Rounds Played monitor shows that quarter one rounds played across Great Britain rose by 7% against pre-pandemic figures. The finding is the latest in a long line of statistics indicating the sustained rise in appeal of golf and follows the news that 4.8m people played golf on a full-length course in Great Britain in 2021, the second highest figure on record.  

Rounds played comparisons with Q1 2021 are asymmetrical because of widespread lockdowns and course closures in the first months of last year. The second half of March 2020 was also lost to the virus. The growth against 2019 and 2018 is a better indication of golf’s current position of strength.

Golf is more popular than ever before

The major growth came in the month of March, which, as well as having the highest number of average rounds also recorded the fastest growth, seeing a 22% surge against 2019. In regional terms, the North was Q1’s best performer, up 27% against 2019. Other regions enjoyed strong performances, with only the Midlands (-1%) not recording growth.

The news was welcomed by SMS’ Director, Richard Payne. “Yet again the data indicates what we have seen throughout the pandemic, that golf is in a strong position. A lot of commentators expected the appetite to dwindle fast, but, knowing golf well, we were always confident and we are again delighted to see that the data keeps showing that the game has thrived since the pandemic began. Golf is delivering so many great benefits that people want from sport – access to fresh air and natural beauty, low impact healthy exercise, socialising, inter-generational play. It will be a real shame if rising living costs destabilise that in the months to come, forcing people to give up some of the things that keep them happy and healthy.”

Phil Anderton, Chief Development Officer at The R&A, said, “It is very encouraging to see again the positive data for rounds played in Great Britain in the first quarter of 2022. This builds on previous insight which showed that golf was on the rise pre-pandemic and continues to be a sport attractive to golfers across all levels of the game – including the use of full-length courses, driving ranges and alternative golf venues. Golfers are enjoying the wonderful physical and mental health benefits the sport provides and taking up a wide range of participation initiatives on offer. It is vital for the sport to maintain this momentum.”

(Text: Sports Marketing Surveys)


World Rankings: Would You Make the Cut?

Official World Golf Ranking Governing Board announces updates to the Ranking System
Modified system for the 23 Eligible Golf Tours to go into effect Week Ending 14th August 2022.

London, United Kingdom – The Governing Board of Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) today announces enhancements to the Official World Golf Ranking. The updated system will incorporate modern statistical techniques which will allow all eligible players and events to be more accurately evaluated relative to each other.

Over the last three years, OWGR has coordinated an independent analysis of the Ranking and its system to ensure it is meeting its key objectives of publishing a transparent, credible and accurate ranking based on the relative performances of participating players. The results of this analysis have led to the changes announced today, including distribution of Ranking Points to all players making the cut to provide greater differentiation of performances; and use of a Field Rating calculation based on a statistical evaluation of every player in the field, rather than just those in the field among the current Top-200 of the Ranking.

Major Championships will continue to award 100 First Place Points, while THE PLAYERS Championship will award 80. All other tournaments will award Ranking Points according to the strength and depth of their fields, with a maximum of 80 First Place Points.

Click here for additional details, Frequently Asked Questions, and definitions about the updated OWGR Ranking System.

“The Official World Golf Ranking owes a massive debt of gratitude to founders Mark H McCormack and Tony Greer, whose vision has done so much to shape the competitive landscape of men’s professional golf over the past 35 years”, said Official World Golf Ranking Chairman Peter Dawson. “Since 1986, the Tours eligible for inclusion have grown in number from 6 to 23 and the rankings have been continuously modified to accommodate this expansion and to improve accuracy. We are confident the further enhancements announced today will best position OWGR for the years ahead.”

Following a 12-month notice period, implementation is set for Week Ending 14th August 2022 at which point all future eligible tournaments will utilize the updated system. There will be no recalculation of past events, meaning the impact of the new methodology will be gradual.

Ladies Tours

Olympic Golf: Women’s Round Three Update

Nelly Korda Maintains Lead with One Round Remaining

Kawagoe, Saitama, Japan – The Nelly Korda Show continued on Friday at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The Team USA star and World No. 1 player shot a third-round 2-under 69 and maintained her lead at -15 through 54 holes.

Korda holds a three-stroke advantage on the coveted gold medal over India’s Aditi Ashok at -12 and a five-stroke lead over 2016 silver medalist Lydia Ko, Hannah Green, Emily Kristine Pedersen and Mone Inami, all tied for third at -10.

“I’m trying to stay as present as possible. I’m trying to stick to my game plan, trying to execute it,” said, Korda, a six-time LPGA Tour winner who is making her Olympics debut. “Obviously there’s going to be times where I’m going to not hit a shot well and that’s going to stray me from my game plan but I’m just really keeping my mind stuck to my game plan.”

After opening with birdies at 2, 5 and 6, Korda stumbled with a three-putt bogey at the par-5 8th hole. But she had smooth sailing from there, converting 10 consecutive pars to close her round. She pointed to her “fight” on the back nine, dropping in several dicey par saves.

“I didn’t have a really good back nine,” said Korda. “I was kind of spraying it all over the place, I had some testy par putts, but made all pars and I fought really hard to stay in it really or ahead of it.”

Jessica Korda, Nelly’s older sister by five years, is the next highest American, sitting tied for 29th at -2 overall. She was even-par for the day through 17 holes but double-bogeyed 18 to finish at 2-over 73.

Lexi Thompson and Danielle Kang round out the American contingent, tied for 34th at -1. Thompson shot her low round of the competition, with a 2-under 69 on Friday, while Kang carded five bogeys and two birdies en route to a 3-over 74.

Due to the high heat and potential for dangerous storms throughout the day, fourth-round play will start off the first and 10th tees, starting at 6:30 a.m. local time.

Interview transcript by Ladies Professional Golf Association

Live Satellite Tours Senior Tours

Legends Tour announces initial part of 2021 schedule

The Legends Tour today announces the first part of its International Schedule for 2021, marking the return of over-50s professional golf in Europe following the cancellation of the Tour’s 2020 season.

It follows the ground-breaking joint venture between Staysure Group CEO Ryan Howsam and the European Tour earlier this year, when Howsam acquired a controlling stake in the Staysure Tour which was rebranded as the Legends Tour, placing golf’s most iconic names at the forefront of the brand. 

Some of those iconic names, including Major Champions, former World Number Ones and Ryder Cup Captains, will host Legends Tour events in 2021 where amateurs will be able to tee it up alongside their golfing heroes in the innovative Alliance Pro-Am format. 

The season will begin in Austria when the Riegler & Partner Legends takes place from May 7-9 at Golf Club Murhof, with the Tour returning to the venue for the second time after its first appearance on the schedule in 2019. The Italian Senior Open will take place a week later from May 14-16 at a venue to be confirmed, before the first Senior Major Championship of the year, the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club, Tulsa, Oklahoma, from May 27-30. 

June will begin with a return to Jersey for the first time since 2016 for the ICL Jersey Legends at La Moye Golf Club from June 4-6, before the Tour makes its first trip of the year to mainland Britain for the Farmfoods European Legends Links Championship at Trevose Golf & Country Club, England, from June 18-20. 

The U.S. Senior Open will take place at Omaha Country Club, Nebraska, from July 8-11, while the long-running Swiss Seniors Open at Golf Club Bad Ragaz, will return for its 24th edition at a date to be confirmed in July. 

The WINSTONgolf Senior Open returns to WINSTONLinks, Vorbeck, Germany, from July 16-18, one week prior to The Senior Open Presented by Rolex at Sunningdale Golf Club, England, from July 22-25. The Championship will be hosted at Sunningdale one year on from its original date following its cancellation due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. 

The prestigious Staysure PGA Seniors Championship will take place at Formby Golf Club, Southport, England, from July 29-August 1, moving from London Golf Club where it has been hosted since its return to the International Schedule in 2018. 

Former Ryder Cup Captain Paul McGinley will then welcome the Legends Tour to the island of Ireland for the first time since 2010 when the Irish Legends Presented by The McGinley Foundation takes place in Donegal at the stunning Rosapenna Hotel & Golf Resort from August 20-22. 

The Scottish Senior Open Hosted by Paul Lawrie will take place in September where the 1999 Open Champion will look to defend his maiden over-50s title which he picked up at Craigielaw in 2019. The date and venue for the event are still to be confirmed. The Farmfoods European Senior Masters will take place once again at Forest of Arden Marriott Hotel & Country Club, England, from October 1-3. 

Mark Aspland, Head of the Legends Tour, said: “We have been extremely excited to announce this schedule after the cancellation of our 2020 Schedule and we cannot wait to begin again next year. 

“We have used the time productively to strengthen our schedule for 2021 and give our members as many playing opportunities as possible. 

“I must place on record my thanks to all the partners, sponsors and federations who have made this schedule possible. We have a fantastic mix of old and new events and we are looking forward to visiting places we know well and venues and territories that are new to many of us. 

“We will be concluding the 2021 season with the Indian Ocean Swing Tour Championship events and we are working hard to add events through the season, particularly in the Autumn. Further announcements will be made early in 2021.” 

Ryan Howsam, Group CEO, said: “I would firstly like to say well done to Mark Aspland and his team for putting this schedule together. Following the announcement of the joint venture in September, we have been working together on the brand and marketing channels to improve the commercial value of the Tour and therefore enhance the playing opportunities for the Legends Tour members. We have identified several exciting projects that will enhance the Legends Tour over the coming years.

“There will be plenty of opportunity for amateur golfers to get involved in Legends Tour events, from playing in the Celebrity Pro-Ams, teeing it up in Alliance events and joining the Legends Club, our exclusive Membership Club for people who desire a more in-depth involvement in the Tour and our events.”

For anyone wishing to purchase playing spots in Celebrity Pro-Ams, Alliance events or to enquire about Legends Club Membership, please email Legends Tour concierge via: [email protected].

(Press release: Legends Tour)


Golf is booming in Great Britain

Sports Marketing Surveys can reveal that Q3 rounds played across Great Britain reached record levels* between July and September 2020.
Overall, the average number of rounds played across the country was up 59% compared to 2019. The recent surge means that total rounds for the year to date (up to September) were up 7% against 2019. In the context of the complete closure of golf courses in April, and then of ensuing periods of two ball only play, or increased gaps between tee times, this represents an extraordinary performance for the golf industry.Leading the charge has been the South, where the year to date figure was an astonishing 22% up.

Even in Scotland, where hotels and resorts did not reopen until 15th July, strong inroads are being made into the year to date deficit.
The news comes as golf clubs brace themselves for another month of closed doors. There had been hope that golf might be spared to some degree, and that national provisions that allow exercise with one person from another household might mean two ball golf could continue. However, England Golf, who led the arguments to government, announced with “deep regret” on Wednesday 4th November that they had been unable to secure an exemption.
Golf courses have reacted stoically, with many pledging to use the four-week closure to work on facilities in preparation for what, if 2020 trends were to be repeated, could be a bookings bonanza in the final weeks of the year.
SMS director Richard Payne reflected: “We know this news will be bittersweet for golf courses who have put in so much effort throughout this year to react to the changing coronavirus situation and keep golfers safe. Like many, we had hoped that golf would be able to remain open in any national lockdown. Nevertheless, the record results are a credit to the hard work of course owners, secretaries, professionals, and greenkeeping staff, and should give great heart to clubs as they face the next four weeks. With the delayed Masters driving interest in the sport in November, and consumers more aware than ever of the importance of socialising and exercising outdoors, golf should be well poised – regulations allowing – to rebound in December and end this topsy-turvy year on a high.”  

Text by: Sports Marketing Surveys