Golf participation in Great Britain and Ireland returned to growth in 2022 and remains considerably above pre-Covid-19 pandemic levels, according to new figures.
Research led by The R&A, together with England Golf, Golf Ireland, Scottish Golf and Wales Golf highlights how the sport continued to prosper thanks to participation initiatives and increased awareness of the mental and physical health benefits that golf provides.
New data gathered by Sporting Insights shows that 5.6 million on-course adult golfers – the second-highest number since monitoring began over 30 years ago – enjoyed playing on full-length courses (9 or 18 holes) in GB&I last year.
Participation rose by 265,000 to surpass the total of 5.3 million in 2021 and is now only slightly below the record of 5.7 million on-course adult golfers in 2020, when golf enjoyed significant growth during the pandemic due to its ability to be played safely outdoors and boost the health and wellbeing of participants.
The latest data shows that participation in GB&I also sits well above the rates in the years prior to Covid-19, given the 3.7 million on-course adult golfers in 2019. It means there were over 50% more on-course adult golfers in 2022 than pre-pandemic levels.
As national federations also work hard to encourage more women and girls into the sport, 20% of adult golfers on full-length courses in GB&I were female in 2022 compared to 15% in 2019.
Phil Anderton, Chief Development Officer at The R&A, said, “It is very positive to see the number of on-course adult golfers grow in Great Britain and Ireland last year. 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.
“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.
“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.”
In Great Britain, the average rounds played were also 6% up on 2021 and 2022 was 24% up on pre-Covid-19 in 2019. Rounds played per month for the full 12 months was the highest in 2022 of the last 10 years.
John Bushell, Managing Director of Sporting Insights, added, “It’s great to see what appears to be a lasting increase in the public’s appreciation of golf and its myriad benefits. Congratulations should go to all the organisations who have played a part in expanding access to and increasing interest in the game over the last few years – and to see this reflected in 5.6M adult golfers playing on-course is testament to the appeal and fun given through playing the sport.”
Participation initiatives included ‘Golf is Good’, a new global project by The R&A piloted in Wales last summer in partnership with Wales Golf. Featuring R&A global ambassador Gareth Bale, it used recent scientific research to promote the health and wellbeing benefits of playing the sport through cutting-edge animation.
The campaign produced positive results with 65% of current golfers who had seen golf and health advertising playing more golf than usual in 2022, compared to 48% of current golfers who had not seen the advertising. Furthermore, 73% of current on-course golfers were likely to play more golf because of the campaign.
The ‘Golf is Good’ campaign insight in Wales and the new GB&I participation and GB rounds played data was produced by Sporting Insights www.sportinginsights.com