Rounds Played figures for the second quarter have shown that year to date totals across Great Britain are on course to return to 2020 levels as early as July.
The figures, part of a quarterly data collection by leading research agency Sports Marketing Surveys, show that the drop caused by the closure of golf courses in part of March, throughout April and the first half of May, has nearly been offset by impressive rises in June.
To be specific, rounds played lurched from a 100% decline in April, to a 27% drop in May and a 61% rise in June. If the June figures were to be repeated in July, the annual total would be comparable with 2019.
That is why there is huge cause for optimism despite quarterly figures that show a 23% drop on 2019. The 2020 figures include a period in April and the first half of May when no golf was played, as well as weeks during which many golf clubs opened for two ball golf only. Many courses have since chosen to keep two ball only, at least at certain peak times, because of the positive impact on pace of play. Some resort courses dependent on play and stay traffic did not open until July.
It should also be remembered that the circumstances surrounding the virus and the closing of golf clubs varied substantially by region. For example, the results are impacted heavily by Scotland, where no golf was played until 28th May, resulting in a quarterly performance down 67% and a half year down 49%.
With that in mind, the national figures should be seen as a hugely impressive response from the golf industry. Like for like, if we were to exclude the days of cancelled golf, the figures would represent some of the most positive for the industry in over a decade.
Nor can the promising figures be written off as owing solely to good weather. While May does seem to have benefitted from both pent-up demand for golf during lockdown, as well as excellent golfing conditions (in fact May 2020 was the driest on recrod), June excelled despite more changeable conditions, including above average rainfall and typical levels of sunshine.
Instead, it seems simply that the lockdown period has encouraged golfers to play more often, whether making up for lost time, taking advantage of the absence of commuting time or competing leisure interests, or as one of the safer ways to socialise with friends and family. Highlighting the power of the latter, SMS research suggests that golfers feel exceptionally safe playing the sport, in a way that they do not feel comfortable taking part in other leisure activities.
Richard Payne, Director of SMS commented: “These results represent an extraordinary comeback from the golf industry, one which should make everyone involved immensely proud. To go from no golf to the flurry of rounds in the second half of May and then the unprecedented rise in June is a complete turnaround for the fortunes of the industry. It shows that the appetite for golf among existing players is strong. With the lockdown hammering home for many people the value of fresh air on mental health, and the government now prioritising physical activity and exercise, we believe that golf is in a strong position to attract new players hoping to reap the many benefits that the sport can offer.”
Sports Marketing Surveys is the leading provider of actionable, robust and independent sports and leisure research. It has operated the Rounds Played Monitor in Great Britain for 20 years, and supports businesses across the sporting landscape to help them understand the players, fans, events and stakeholders who matter.
*Golf resumed in England on the 13th May, in Wales on the 18th May and in Scotland on the 28th May.
** In July SMS reported early figures suggesting that rounds played were up by over 70% in June. This was correct at the time on the basis of the smaller sample of early reporting clubs. The new figures take into account the full sample