If we had told you at the start of 2020 that golf would face two plus months of closures and yet still end the year with an overall growth in rounds played in Great Britain, we might well have been committed to an asylum. At the very least, we might have found ourselves in the Tate Modern labelled something like ‘glass overflowing with optimism’. Instead, it was the appetite for golf and rush for tee times that were bedlam, not the predictions. Across the country, 2020 rounds played were up by 12% compared to 2019.
Sports Marketing Surveys already reported on a record third quarter, with rounds up by 59% compared to 2019. Now, the sports insights company can reveal that the 4th quarter followed the same pattern, culminating in growth of 41%. This was despite golf course closures during the November lockdown, as well as restrictions in certain areas under tier four rules.
The surge in the second half of 2020 was a truly national effort. The North was the biggest beneficiary in Q4, growing 66% in the last three months to end 13% up for the year. The Midlands and Scotland both grew by over 40% between October and December, while the South region enjoyed a 30% rise in Q4 and was the most successful region for the year overall, up by over 20%. Applying these figures to industry norms from The British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association (BIGGA), golf courses dealt with an extra 3,750 pitch marks per month across 2020, including an extra 8,750 per month between May and December.
The extraordinary results should do two things. Firstly, they should give enormous confidence that the industry can and will recover from its current predicament, with courses closed across England and Wales under national lockdown restrictions. The findings should also increase the pressure in support of the growing weight of evidence that golf can be played safely in accordance with social distancing and should therefore be one of the first activities permitted to reopen.
Recent research by the All Party Parliamentary Group For Golf (APPGG) highlights independent epidemiological evidence to the Chief Medical Officers across the UK. As well as presenting the case for the fundamental safety of the game, the report also highlights the many efforts from golf courses to this end, as well as the nexus connecting golf with the physical and mental health of its participants.
Richard Payne, Director of SMS, welcomed the findings, saying: “I know from speaking to them just how hard so many of the golf courses and governing bodies have worked to generate these results, but we still shouldn’t take them for granted. Golf has been one of the massive success stories of the past year in sport, with the UK success emulated in America. None of that has happened by accident. It’s also important to recognise that there will still be many individual facilities who are struggling. Those courses and resorts dependent on tourism, hotel guests, and large societies will need support in the months to come. Overall, we know how important the weather will be in determining the scale of the recovery and growth this year, but, for a number of reasons, including ongoing widespread working from home, which will give people more time to play, we are optimistic and expect to see a further boost in 2021 when golf courses can reopen.”
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.
For more information, please visit www.sportsmarketingsurveys.com or contact Richard.firstname.lastname@example.org