The number of rounds of golf played on UK golf courses in the first half of this year was nearly 10% down on the same period in 2005. This is the finding of the latest survey from Sports Marketing Surveys. Figures for the first half year have been affected by poor weather early on, and then by the Football World Cup.
Sources within the golf business confirm this data.
“We too experienced a slow start to the year following a cold winter, a wet spring and straight into the World Cup,” says John Weir of Crown Golf. “However from the beginning of August we have seen a noticeable upturn in the number of rounds of golf and are now tracking only a couple of percentage points behind last year.”
John Andrew, managing director of Direct Golf UK, said, “After a strong 28% sales growth in 2005 we predicted that the market would get tougher in 2006 due to a number of issues including the Football World Cup, and the news that rounds played are down 10% confirms our belief.
“As a leading specialist golf retailer we are directly affected by this and have taken a number of measures to prepare ourselves and have been able maintain sales and increase profitability. Specifically these have included keeping tight control on business management processes, driving margin profitability with particular focus on our own in house brands and totally reviewing our marketing spend to focus heavily on our existing customer database.”
“Clearly these are disappointing figures that have negative implications throughout our whole industry,” commented David Wells, chairman of the British Golf Industry Association. “However, the huge media coverage surrounding the Ryder Cup, coupled with some decent late summer weather can only help reinvigorate the participation levels this year. However, all stakeholders in game participation development must continue to collaborate proactively to ensure this fall in rounds played does not become a trend.”
Within the business, of course, there are always some who buck the general trend. Jon Everitt, CEO Benross Golf, said, “At Benross we are very aware of the challenging and highly competitive market conditions that have prevailed during 2006, particularly in the equipment sector. Despite the trading environment we are on track to achieve sales growth of 30% for the 12 months ending November 2006, an achievement we are rightly proud of.
“With rounds down there will obviously be an impact on retail sales which makes it even more critical that brands focus on the core disciplines of product innovation, strong customer service, marketing delivered by committed professional people to ensure success. We very much hope that the Ryder Cup boosts consumer interest in golf which in turn will extend the season and impact positively on retail sales.”
For Sports Marketing Surveys, Stephen Proctor said that he was confident that the first half figures do not reveal any major fundamental market decline. “We have seen this ‘Football World Cup effect’ before,” he said. “Now, along with the rest of the golf industry, we are anxiously awaiting the results for Quarter 3 – hoping that this decline will be reversed. Hopefully the Ryder Cup will encourage golfers to get on the course more frequently – though we shall lose some rounds this weekend as golfers cluster round their T.V. sets to watch.”
Sports Marketing Surveys www.sportsmarketingsurveys.com