A strong end to 2021 kept the annual number of rounds of golf played in Great Britain ahead of 2020 and 2019, according to the latest research conducted by Sports Marketing Surveys.
SMS is reporting there was some drop off against the peak months in 2020 when lockdowns ended and golf reopened to a groundswell of pent-up demand. In October and December 2020 rounds played were well above equivalent levels in previous years.
Although the last three months of 2021 could not maintain the strong 2020 demand levels, it still outperformed previous seasons. When compared against the pre-pandemic period, 2021 surged past equivalent figures from 2019. Against Q4 2019, for example, 2021 was up 40%, contributing to a year-end 17% rise in rounds played against 2019.
While SMS says that is hard to make exact comparisons with 2020 because of course closures and the subsequent rush for tee times, the comparisons with 2019 suggest an enduring uptick in the popularity of golf in the UK.
Taking a longer-term view, rounds played have now risen for four consecutive years. 2021’s annual rounds were up 12% against 2020 and 17% against both 2019 and 2018. Rounds played in Great Britain rose for the fourth consecutive year in 2021
Richard Payne, Director of Sports Marketing Surveys, welcomed the figures, while noting the potential impact of rising living costs in the year ahead.
He said: “First and foremost, it’s great to see rounds played growing, proving that demand for golf is strong as we head into 2022. Rising costs and inflation are likely to put pressure on leisure budgets this year and so, particularly for those who came into golf during the pandemic, the key question now is how embedded has it become in their sporting and lifestyle DNA. Is it a core hobby that they will continue to play, even if the costs of access and equipment rise in line with inflation in other areas of the economy? The strong results for Q4 do suggest golfers are continuing to play through the inclement winter months, and so we are optimistic that people will stay in the game.”
Phil Anderton, Chief Development Officer at The R&A, also welcomed the results. He said: “We have seen full-length course user golf participation rise to over 66 million worldwide in 2021 and almost 11 million in Europe. The rounds played for Great Britain in 2021 continue to support the evidence that more golfers are playing more often and realising the benefits of the sport for their physical and mental health.
“Golf, however, cannot become complacent as a sport and the industry must grasp the opportunity to maintain this interest by offering new and returning golfers the opportunity to stay in the sport and enjoy it at all levels – from traditional forms to new formats.”