Golf participation in the United Kingdom is not in decline, according to a European Tour study.
Findings from a Golf Actives Study undertaken on behalf of the European Tour show that 11 million people in the UK (9.3 million adults and 1.7 million junior golfers) are actively engaged in golf, almost a fifth of the population.
The study flies in the face of recent studies showing falling golf participation in the UK. According to a KPMG report published this year, “Golf Participation in Europe 2015,” England, Scotland and Wales suffered 4.8 percent declines in the number of golf club members last year. Furthermore, said the report, Scottish golf clubs saw a 17.52 percent membership decline in a 10-year-period from 2003.
Those figures don’t reflect the changing nature of modern golf, according to the European Tour, since traditional surveys only look at the number of golf club members.
The Tour claims several shorter formats of golf are encouraging people to engage in golf, many of them juniors. Formats include: driving ranges (3.1 million active users); pitch and putt courses (2.3 million); nine-hole courses (2.2 million); putting greens (1.7 million); and par-3 or short courses (1.2 million).
The report also cites the emergence of non-traditional formats encouraging active participation, such as adventure or mini-golf (2.7 million active users); computer games (1.9 million); and golf simulators (0.4 million).
European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said: “Our ‘Golf Actives Survey’ suggests our sport is very healthy, participation in it is changing and the younger generation have more options to experience our wonderful game.
“That doesn’t mean playing 18 holes should not remain the pinnacle of golf: indeed, doing so successfully is the goal to which most will continue to aspire. It simply means that playing 18 holes shouldn’t be the sole yardstick we use to measure participation.”
The European Tour grants free entry to children under the age of 16 at all its tournaments as long as an adult accompanies them. The R&A does the same at the Open Championship.
“It’s all about bringing new kids into the game of golf,’ said Ian Poulter, host of this week’s £3 million British Masters at Woburn. “To know that we’ve got under-16-year-olds that can come here for free to watch golf is great. That’s what we need to do.
“We need to grow the game of golf and make it fun for players to some back to the game of golf. The numbers have declined over the years.”
Not according to the European Tour. People are just experiencing the game differently.