Reports & Insights

Golf participation remains above pre-pandemic levels

Golf participation remains above pre-pandemic levels

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Reports & Insights

New figures reveal golf participation in Great Britain and Ireland in 2021 remained strongly above pre-pandemic levels.


Research undertaken by Sports Marketing Surveys (SMS) on behalf of key golfing bodies including The R&A, England Golf, Golf Ireland, Scottish Golf, and Wales Golf demonstrates how the sport continues to thrive despite the reopening of competing leisure activities reopening.


Two new participation reports produced by SMS show that 5.3 million on-course adult golfers – the second-highest number since monitoring began over 30 years ago – played on full length courses (9 or 18 holes) in Great Britain and Ireland in 2021. This includes a marginal increase in Ireland and a slight reduction in Great Britain.


Golf enjoyed a significant boom during the pandemic due, as research showed, to its ability to be played safely and proven benefits in boosting mental and physical health. The latest data shows that participation in golf is still well above the rates in the years prior to COVID-19.


In Great Britain, the number of on-course adults had already begun to gradually increase before COVID-19, rising from 2.5 million in 2017 to 3 million in 2019, before surging to a peak of 5.2 million in 2020. The latest figures show that 4.8 million golfers played in 2021, confirming that as well as more new players being attracted to try the sport that those who have taken it up are staying with the game.


With fewer restrictions on play in 2021, the new figures also reveal that the number of avid golfers more than doubled, there was an increase in female golfers, and, in good news for the pathway, the use of driving ranges and Par-3 courses remained high.


Phil Anderton, Chief Development Officer at The R&A, said, “It is extremely positive that the number of on-course adult golfers remained so strong in Great Britain and Ireland last year.


“The vast majority of lapsed or non-golfers who took up golf during the pandemic have continued to play, with the sport remaining very popular in the use of full-length courses, driving ranges and alternative golf venues in particular.


“Golfers are enjoying positive experiences of the sport, supported by a wide range of participation initiatives and communication around the benefits of the sport for physical and mental health. It is important to maintain this momentum and ensure golfers enjoy the sport at all levels.”


John Bushell, Managing Director of SMS, added: “We always knew that 2020 had set a very high bar so it’s hugely pleasing to see that demand for golf remained so high in 2021. The figures show a clear majority of those who played for the first time in 2020 staying in the game, as well as new entrants continuing to pick up clubs for the first time, suggesting those initiatives developed before and during the pandemic are continuing to bear fruit. We congratulate all involved in the delivery of golf in Great Britain and Ireland and look forward to watching continued efforts to foster growth in the coming years.”

The full golf participation reports are available for immediate download via the SMS website.

GB participation report 2021 – £1,600 – BUY NOW

Ireland participation report 2021 – £1,200 – BUY NOW

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