The latest survey into the numbers of people playing golf has brought encouraging news for the sport.
Participation in Great Britain finally stabilised in 2014 after a decade of decline, according to the leading sports research company SPORTS MARKETING SURVEYS INC. (SMS INC.).
Now, SMS INC – which supports the England Golf strategic plan to grow the game – is urging clubs to put more emphasis on the three Fs of fun, flexible, family.
Richard Payne, Senior Manager of Sports Accounts at SMS INC. commented: “We have continuously stressed the importance of the three Fs and, following these latest figures, the industry must fully adopt this vision to convert beginners into regular golfers and to prevent the loss of more infrequent players.”
The latest SMS INC. review finds that just over 3.3million people played golf in Great Britain last year – and indicates that over 2.6m are involved in the sport in England.
The number of women golfers grew for the second year in a row, as did the number of ‘avid’ golfers who play at least once a week. Their numbers rose by 53,000 last year.
The report follows earlier news from SMS INC that the number of rounds played in GB in 2014 grew by 3.5% when compared with 2013.
Further good news from additional intelligence confirms that equipment sales in GB have levelled across most categories in terms of volume and value, suggesting the downturn is over.
However the report also identifies the declining number of infrequent golfers – who play less than once a month – as a cause for concern. Time is a major factor influencing player numbers and may be the significant reason behind this.
Richard Payne commented: “Whilst the 2014 figures give the golf industry reason to be more positive, the continued decline of infrequent golfers remains a challenge that needs to be overcome.”
England Golf’s strategic plan, Raising Our Game, urges all who care about the game to work together to increase the number of regular golfers and to halt the decline in club membership.
Initiatives include the Get into golf campaign which inspires adults to take up or return to golf and offers great value coaching with PGA professionals. There are over 400 facilities offering opportunities for beginners, improvers and returners to the game and this year all golf clubs will be able to promote their sessions and membership offers on the website
County activity last year encouraged thousands of people to take up opportunities to learn and to play the game, according to England Golf research. In the six months to September 2014 over 24,000 took part in structured activity (59% increase) and more than 13,700 people became regular, once a week players (83% increase).
A pilot scheme has just started in three counties, working intensively with clubs in Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Northamptonshire, to introduce additional initiatives to increase participation and membership.
A range of factsheets are being prepared to help clubs recruit and retain women members and a Women and Girls’ Advisory Group has been set up to create a forum for discussion and to provide feedback on initiatives. A pilot programme to help clubs target women in a specific age range will get underway this year.
The Results Book from the 2014 Golf Club Membership Questionnaire, which was carried out by SMS INC, offers advice to clubs to attract new members, retain current members and appeal to junior golfers.