Over 192,000 people were inspired to try golf in England in just one year – and have helped pump millions of pounds into clubs.
The figure is identified in England Golf’s latest County Impact Report which highlights growing participation and club memberships in the year to the end of March 2016, despite a wet winter.
Of those who tried the sport, over 64,000 went on to take structured coaching courses (up 17% on the previous 12 months); around 34,000 are now playing once a week, and almost 14,000 new club memberships have been reported (up 31%).
It’s estimated that the benefit to golf clubs and other centres, from coaching and subscriptions, could be as high as £22.5 million.
The newcomers and returners to the sport were attracted by Get into golf opportunities offered across the country. Their numbers reflect the work of the England Golf county network to support clubs to recruit and retain more players and members.
Nick Pink, England Golf Chief Executive, said: “These are excellent results. They’re a tribute to the hard work of our network of County Development Officers and all our partners, including the county unions and associations, the Golf Foundation and the PGA. Together, they work with and support clubs to grow the game.
“We are looking forward to building on this success and, supported by our new partnership with Sky Sports to promote Get into golf, we will continue to spread the message that golf is a great game for all.”
The county activity supports the aims of both the England Golf strategic plan to create more players, more members and stronger clubs, and the England Golf Partnership’s Whole Sport Plan for Golf.
Support for clubs offered during the year included highly-praised Business Growth Forums, which launched England Golf’s new training and education programme, Let’s Raise our Game. Over 600 clubs and 1500 key decision makers attended and a series of demand-led workshops were organised as a result.
The Business Growth Forums were developed from the Increasing Membership and Participation (IMP) pilot in Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Northamptonshire, which helps clubs take a fresh look at their opportunities, identify goals for growth and trial new approaches
It has also led to the national launch of Golf Express, which promotes the nine-hole game to encourage busy people to play more often. England Golf ambassador Justin Rose often plays nine holes in practice and describes Golf Express as: “A great way to play all the game in half the time.” In the successful trial in Staffordshire over 4600 nine-hole rounds were played in eight-months.
The Get into golf campaign, to inspire people to take up and play golf, continues to create awareness of beginner opportunities and attracted over 850,000 hits on its website through investment in digital advertising. The new partnership with Sky Sports aims to bring 500,000 new or lapsed golfers into the sport by the end of 2018.
Other initiatives included specific action to attract more women and girls. A total of 115 clubs offered women-only Get into golf coaching sessions and attracted 2700 participants. Half are now playing regularly and over 600 have taken out some form of membership.
England Golf is working with 140 clubs in 16 counties during 2016 to recruit and retain women by offering activities and opportunities which specifically meet their need and wants. This pilot project makes use of the England Golf women’s factsheets.
Girls Golf Rocks, a joint venture by England Golf and the Golf Foundation, was trialled in Essex and is now running in nine counties, with over 500 girls taking taster sessions and 420 going on to take coaching courses. Final figures will be available in the next review.
England Golf continues to work in partnership with the Golf Foundation to provide opportunities for young people to ‘start, learn and stay’ in golf. Almost 140,000 youngsters – 75% aged under 14 – tried golf through HSBC Golf Roots centres, Street Golf and satellite clubs. Over 14,000 are now playing regularly and over 3500 have joined clubs.