Record numbers of women and men in England are playing sport every week – and even the wettest summer for 100 years failed to dampen enthusiasm for golf, according to new figures from Sport England.
The latest Active People Survey shows that, despite the adverse weather, golf held its own among regular, once-a-week players, compared against figures released a year ago. And, other evidence from the England Golf Partnership (EGP) shows that interest in the game is booming among beginners and returners – reflecting the national enthusiasm for sport inspired by the Olympics and Paralympics.
The Survey reports that 15.5 million people aged 16 and over are playing sport every week. That’s 750,000 more than a year ago and 1.57 million more than when London won the Olympic and Paralympic bid.
The strongest growth has been among women and overall the figures also reveal the inspirational impact of the Games – the number of people taking part has risen sharply in the period since London 2012.
In golf, the number of once-a-week players rose during the mild winter of 2011/12 but dropped back during the wet summer. Overall, 850,500 people played golf at least once a week for the 12 months ended October 2012, remaining steady when compared with figures from the previous year.
The survey notes the impact on golf of the bad summer weather, particularly the heavy rainfall of April and June, and comments: “Weather appears to have had an impact on participation.”
Roger Moreland, the EGP’s Chief Operating Officer, commented: “The weather has clearly influenced participation and obviously that’s not something we can control.
“During the mild winter months the number of regular golfers rose by 69,000, which shows how popular golf is when the weather is right. It is disappointing that the atrocious weather in spring and much of the summer coincided with the peak playing period.
“Golf obviously cannot control the weather and there are many challenges to be faced, not least of which is the economic environment. Nonetheless, there are also exciting opportunities to be grasped. The Olympics has created huge interest in sport and has helped to encourage very large numbers of people to try golf. We expect many of them to go on to take part regularly, especially as golf will also become an Olympic sport in 2016.”
EGP research, released earlier this week, shows rapidly growing interest in the sport. Over 70,000 people tried golf at taster and coaching sessions run by its network of County Golf Partnerships in the six months to the end of September – almost double the number in the same period in 2011. The research also shows an increase of 8% in the number of adults playing golf regularly as a result of being involved in CGP activity.
These initiatives have been underpinned by Get into Golf, a pilot marketing campaign launched by the EGP in April, which promotes one clear message to direct new and lapsed golfers to the structured coaching and playing opportunities on offer.
Pilot schemes aimed at inspiring university students and women to get into golf have also proved extremely successful.