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)


Rounds played rise for fourth consecutive year in Great Britain

A strong end to 2021 kept the annual number of rounds of golf played in Great Britain ahead of 2020 and 2019. 

Continuing growth of golf in the UK

As expected, there was some drop off against the peak months in 2020 when lockdowns ended and golf reopened to a groundswell of pent-up demand. In October and December 2020 rounds played were well above equivalent levels in previous years. Although in 2021 quarter four could not maintain the strong 2020 demand levels, it still outperformed previous seasons. When compared against the pre-pandemic period, 2021 surged past equivalent figures from 2019. Against Q4 2019, for example, 2021 was up 40%, contributing to a year-end 17% rise in rounds played against 2019.
While it is hard to make exact comparisons with 2020 because of course closures and the subsequent rush for tee times, the comparisons with 2019 do suggest an enduring uptick in the popularity of golf in the UK. 
Taking a longer-term view, rounds played have now risen for four consecutive years. 2021’s annual rounds were up 12% against 2020 and 17% against both 2019 and 2018.

Richard Payne, Director of Sports Marketing Surveys welcomed the figures, while noting the potential impact of rising living costs in the year ahead.
“First and foremost, it’s great to see rounds played growing, proving that demand for golf is strong as we head into an exciting 2022. Rising costs and inflation are likely to put pressure on leisure budgets this year and so, particularly for those who came into golf during the pandemic, the key question now is how embedded has it become in their sporting and lifestyle DNA. Is it a core hobby that they will continue to play even if the costs of access and equipment rise in line with inflation in other areas of the economy? The strong results for Q4 do suggest golfers continuing to play through the inclement winter months, and so we are optimistic that people will stay in the game.”

Phil Anderson wants to continue to make golf more accessible

Phil Anderton, Chief Development Officer at The R&A, welcomed the results. He said: “We have seen full-length course user golf participation rise to over 66 million worldwide in 2021 and almost 11 million in Europe. The rounds played for Great Britain in 2021 continue to support the evidence that more golfers are playing more often and realising the benefits of the sport for their physical and mental health. Golf, however, cannot become complacent as a sport and the industry must grasp the opportunity to maintain this interest by offering new and returning golfers the opportunity to stay in the sport and enjoy it at all levels – from traditional forms to new formats.”
Sports Marketing Surveys has been tracking rounds played in Great Britain for over 20 years but the monitor continues to evolve. For that reason, Sports Marketing Surveys is formalising a partnership with the Revenue Club to track online golf bookings, and ensure the rounds played monitor gathers as much data from as many different sources as possible.

(Text: Sports Marketing Surveys)

European Tour Top Tours

European Tour: Willett amongst Major winners is ready to battle 1500 metres above sea level in the Swiss Alps.

Tournament: Omega European Masters
Race to Dubai: Tournament 30 of 39 events
Venue: Golf Club Crans-sur-Sierre, Crans Montana, Switzerland

Tournament Preview

Danny Willett is hoping to recreate his special 2015 victory when he tees it up in “one of the best stops on Tour” at the Omega European Masters.

The Englishman secured the third of his seven European Tour victories at the picturesque Golf Club Crans-sur-Sierre seven years ago, and his subsequent victories include the 2016 Masters Tournament. After an up and down year, he is hoping that his knowledge of the course that sits 1500 metres above sea level in the Swiss Alps – and where he has recorded two further top five finishes – will pay dividends.

The 33 year old is joined in the field by defending champion Sebastian Soderberg and fellow Major winners Francesco Molinari and Henrik Stenson, who are making welcome returns to the event after eight and nine years respectively.

Soderberg sealed an impressive play-off victory in Crans Montana in 2019 – prevailing over Rory McIlroy, Andres Romero, Lorenzo Gagli and Kalle Samooja in a play-off to claim his first European Tour title – and is aiming to build on his first top 20 finish of the season in last week’s D+D Real Czech Masters.

His fellow Swede and 2016 Open Champion Stenson is also looking to carry over his form from last week, with an impressive putting performance leading to a tied fourth finish and his best result on the European Tour this season. While the man who lifted the Claret Jug two years later is focusing on staying pain free after an injury-plagued season, Molinari hopes that a long-awaited return to the venue where his finished in second place back in 2006 will help to kick start a good run leading into the end of the season.

Player quotes

Danny Willett: “We always say the place makes a week for us, and this is one of the best stops on the European Tour, if not any Tour, up here in Crans. We’ve had some pretty nice results around here. That week (his win in 2015) was very special. My mum and dad were there, the first time they had seen me win for a while. It’s just nice to come back to a place with great memories.

“You’ve got to control distance here. Notoriously small greens, tricky to putt, tricky to chip around. The guys who do well around here control the ball flight well, control the numbers into these small greens at altitude to give themselves birdie putts. It’s a real precise second shot golf course. There are a lot of chances out there so you just need to stay patient.”

Sebastian Soderberg: “It’s wonderful to be back, this course is special. Playing at this altitude with all of the upslopes and downhills, it’s a different experience and it’s definitely nice to be back.
“I finally feel like I’ve finally played some good golf (this season). I don’t think it was great for me to be leading last week in Czech Republic heading into this event. I haven’t played the weekend since May, so I had to deal with a few more emotions than I have in a while. I was a little rusty there I would say, but as much as you can put yourself in that position and gain from the experience the better. I’m definitely happy feeling those things coming into this week.”

Henrik Stenson: “It’s one of the iconic stops on the European Tour, it’s a beautiful week. Once you have made the climb to get up here it’s super easy – you can walk to golf course, restaurant, hotel, it’s got a great atmosphere. It’s bringing back some great memories from the early days on Tour as well.

“Last week in Czech Republic, putting was probably as good as it’s ever been over four days. I kept it super tidy on the greens and that’s where I made up a lot of ground. Kept it tight in terms of bogies as well. Other than a plugged ball on a fairway trap in the third round, I was more or less bogey free for three days. That’s a statement to how well we managed to play around the golf course on short game and putting.”

Francesco Molinari: “It’s very nice to be back here in Crans – it’s been a while. It’s a spectacular place, challenging and nice course, and a fun event to stay in town and walk around. First and foremost I want to be healthy and playing pain free, be more consistent without having to stop every other week. It would be nice to progress through the weeks and have a strong end of the season so next year can be different from this one.

“It’s a ball striking course, quite tight off the tee. If you go off line with the trees it is hard to score well. With the altitude, distance control is quite important. That’s something that I did well in the past and I need to do well again this week.”

Press Release by the European Tour Communications


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