Global Edition


4.42pm 26th July 2019 - Opinion

The following presentations were made on July 17th 2019 by Richard Payne, Director – Sports Accounts of SMS INC. and John Bushell – Managing Director of SMS INC

Richard Payne, Director – Sports Accounts of SMS INC

Richard Payne

Good afternoon Ladies and gentlemen, it is my honour and pleasure to once again welcome you all to the Open Industry Lunch on behalf of SPORTS MARKETING SURVEYS INC. for the 148th Open Championship here at Royal Portrush. This is the first time that The Open has returned to this magnificent links course in the wonderful golfing country of Northern Ireland in 68 years. This is now the 34th Open Lunch that Sports Marketing Surveys has hosted and the tenth Industry lunch that we have co-hosted with the BGIA and the Golf Foundation on behalf of HSBC Golf Roots; but I for one feel that this year is something a little bit more special.

A lot has been made of this being The Open that has returned to Northern Ireland, but it struck me that there are almost certainly none of us in this room that were present at Portrush in 1951, similarly the vast majority of spectators and staff on site will not have been here 68 years ago and certainly none of the players were competing back then against Max Faulkner. So while the Claret Jug may well be returning, this is the first year since Turnberry first held The Open in 1977 that virtually everyone on site will be experiencing The Championship at a new venue which I think adds to the excitement and shared experience for this year!

It is fair to say that a lot has happened over the past 12 months since we were all together at Carnoustie – from Molinari winning his first Major; Koepka almost achieving his 3-peat and the return of Tiger in a green jacket. There was also a relatively low key event in France where a postman, an English/Italian duo and a team of the best European golfers reminded the Americans who was boss.

It’s also been a busy 12 months for us at SMS INC.

As many of you are aware we conducted our 3rd global project for the R&A and USGA with The Distance Insights Project that included interviewing respondents from 20 different golf stakeholder groups through to over 65,000 respondents from 115 countries completing our online survey and many of the golfers you will be watching this week.

We also expanded our golf consumer work to include several projects in the US, segmentation and price modelling work in Asia as well as increasing the amount of trade and event research in multiple markets.

We have just completed our 35th year of working with the All England Lawn Tennis Club for Wimbledon and have established new Retail Audits for the cycling and running markets across Europe.

So as you can see, life at SMS INC. is certainly not dull and may I take this opportunity to thank you all for your support and we look forward to working with you on new and exciting projects over the next 12 months.

Just before I finish, I wanted to give you a couple of stats regarding the state of golf in the UK which fortunately are very positive!

Our usual barometer for ongoing performance is our Rounds Played Monitor – basically the ‘bums-on-seat’ measurement for courses around the country and I can report that Q1 2019 saw the best average rounds played for 7 years an increase of over 30% against what was quite a catastrophic Q1 in 2018. Early indications would suggest that we are about 8% up in Q2.

Our 2018 GB Golf participation research also saw a resurgence in numbers following 6 years of continual decline with numbers returning to the levels seen back in 2016 and closing back to the 3 million mark of full length course users.  Importantly Core golfers have also increased with the number of Avid golfers (those who play at least weekly) actually having grown to pre-2015 levels of over 450,000.

What does this mean? Well in our view this shows that there is real momentum in our sport at the moment and with initiatives such as the GolfSixes linking the professional game through the European Tour and the amateur game with England Golf and the Golf Foundation or the R&A’s Women In Golf Charter – or even enhancing and gamifying the range experience with technology such as TopTracer, there is a genuine opportunity to widen golf’s appeal and ensure its continued health now and in the future.

Thank you very much for your time, for your continued support and I’ll now pass you over to John to bamboozle you with some of the sporting facts and figures that you never knew you wanted to know!

John Bushell – Managing Director of SMS INC 

To echo Richard, ‘Welcome to Royal Portrush’ as it returns onto The Open rota for the first time since 1951. As ‘Distance in Golf’ is very much a topic of the moment, I thought I would add a different angle to the debate. As the crow flies, we are 369.24 miles from our office in Wisley, Surrey to Royal Portrush – this is identical to the distance the same crow would fly from our offices to Carnoustie, Angus, the venue for last year’s 147th Open Championship. Well, actually, it was 368.9 miles – so a difference of 0.34M or 598 yards – in other words, within 6 yards of the Championship distance of the newly constructed Mackenzie-Ebert 592 yards 7th here on the Dunluce Links.

John Bushell

There are many measures of distance – yards, metres, kilometres, miles, furlongs and fathoms, and last year, I introduced a new one – the ‘Rory Drive’. There has been a little chance in the measurement value, but I will return to this now established metric. For some ‘distance in golf’ is a problem because they cannot generate enough – and I fall into this category as I become shorter in length each year.  Perhaps Rory may be having the same issue. The ‘Rory Drive’ in 2018 was #1 – leading the PGA Tour stats with an average of 319.7 yards, in 2019, he has fallen to #2 with an average of only 315.3 yards – a fall of over 4 yards in a year.

If we make the same assumption that he does not get ‘tired’ as he ‘drives’ from Wisley to Dunluce Road and continues to maintain his average length, it would take 2,033 ‘Rory’s’ compared to 2,031 ‘Rory’s’ to Carnoustie.

I cannot underestimate the importance of a successful OPEN to all of us in this room – and to Northern Ireland. The R&A’s published economic impact of The 147th Carnoustie Open was £120M to Scotland, with THE OPEN itself generating direct benefits of £69M, of which £21M was the benefit to the local area of Angus. The 148th OPEN at Portrush is arguably the biggest sports event ever in Northern Ireland, and with a sold out event, and a knowledgeable and enthusiastic Irish and international crowd – we must hope for an even greater commercial impact. Part responsibility for delivering this legacy falls to Tourism Northern Ireland, and this gives me the chance to Welcome to the Industry lunch – Leanne Rice – Marketing Manager of Tourism Northern Ireland; and on his first visit, and part of the legendary-Carr golfing dynasty in Ireland, Roddy Carr – a victorious Walker Cup golfer when he won 3 ½ points out of 4 as GB&I won back the trophy at St Andrews in 1971 for the first time since 1938. Part of the SMS Sports Consulting Group, Roddy has been working with Leanne and SMS INC. on the Golf Tourism strategy for Tourism Northern Ireland for 2020 to 2025.

The financial success of THE OPEN is also critical to golf and to The R&A as it provides the funds to develop the game internationally. When Max Faulkner won in 1951, the total prize fund was £1,700 – with the winner taking £300. In 2019, the total prize fund has been increased to $10.75M or £8.6M with the winner receiving £1.54M.

According to the Office of National Statistics, the composite price index calculations show that prices are on average 3015% higher than 1951 – so the £300 first prize would be worth £9,345 in 2019 – so £1.54M is pretty well ahead of inflation.

But on a serious note, the success of THE OPEN is what enabled the R&A to announce the investment of £200M over 10 years, including £80M on women’s, mixed and family golf. Charles Harrison – the Chairman of the R&A Development Committee responsible for this investment is also with us here today.

When Max Faulkner became ‘Champion Golf of the Year’ in July 1951 aged 33, he was known as the ‘peacock’ of the golfing generation dressed in his pastel hues, and two tone-shoes. So, perhaps, we will be seeing one of the more colourful players winning at Royal Portrush, and certainly no-one in beige. The BBC stated at the time that Faulkner was ‘fuelled by tea and cigarettes’ – well, I am not certain that the winner in four days time will be fuelled in the same way – more likely by “Quinoa, Courgettes and decaffeinated Cappuccinos’.”

It has been a great golfing year since we last met for The Industry Lunch – with the arrival of Francesco Molinari as a golfing superstar with his victory at THE OPEN;  and the resurgence of Tiger Woods winning The Masters – a victory which does ‘move the needle’ in terms of golfing audiences, following and coverage. The OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP is now the last Major of the season with the calendar change, and we have also seen Brooks Koepka winning the 2018 and 2019 PGAs’ and Gary Woodland winning the US Open. In fact, golfers from the USA have therefore won the last four majors, and 9 out of the last 10. Without upsetting any of our US guests today, I am really hoping for a European winner this week.

We have a British holder of a golfing Major in Georgia Hall who won the Women’s British Open at Lytham last year. Since, the Women’s British Open became a Major in 2001, there have been only three British victors – Karen Stupples in 2004, Catriona Matthews in 2009, and then Georgia in 2018. She will be defending her title at Woburn at the start of August hopefully alongside many British stars – including 2019 LPGA Tour winner Bronte Law, as well as Felicity Johnson (who is with us today), Charlie Hull and Meghan Maclaren – whose father is with us today. The success of the Ladies European Tour, and of female European professional golfers is very important to the R&A’s ‘Women In Golf Charter’ and long term development strategy which was launched just before THE OPEN in July 2018. SMS INC. have signed up to The Charter – as I know have many in this room – for those of you who have not can I encourage you to investigate it. We wish Felicity, Georgia and all of our European female golfers great success at Woburn next month.

This leads me to the Ryder Cup, and Europe’s 17 ½ to 10 ½ victory over the United States at Le Golf National in France last September – where the Molinari-Fleetwood golfing-marriage becoming the first European pair to four matches together at a single Ryder Cup – and then Francesco writing his name in Ryder Cup history becoming the first European player to win all five of his Matches.

But, the most important element of the 2018 Ryder Cup Matches is ‘the Legacy’. The Matches at Le Golf National delivered an economic impact for France of €236M – and The FFG have also just opened their 101st ‘short course’ or ‘starter centre’ in June 2019 as part of their commitment on winning the bid. SMS INC. have been working with The FFG on evaluating the success of this initiative – and with an initial look at the statistics  around golf facilities in Europe – a programme we are working on with Richard Heath of the European Golf Association and The R&A, France have more short-format facilities than any other European golfing nation.

So turning to SPORTS MARKETING SURVEYS INC. and a very busy last year. We have completed our 35th consecutive Equipment Census at The Wimbledon Championships, a full-programme of 11 studies at Roland Garros – the French Open, supported The R&A on ‘The Women In Golf Charter’, and completed the international ‘Distance Insights’ project on ‘how does distance impact on your involvement in golf’ for The R&A and The USGA. The team has kept this all so confidential that they would not even tell me which PGA Tour, European Tour or LET players we were interviewing, so I could not tell you!

We have also revisited The 2015 Golf Actives programme for The R&A extending this to include Ireland and completing this for Martin Slumbers and The R&A to cover all of GB&I. This was reported only this weekend just gone. Golf Actives measures and monitors those who have had any active involvement in golf in the last 12 months from full length 18-hole golf, to 9-hole, pitch-&-putt, adventure golf, footgolf, driving range usage – with and without golf simulators like Toptracer. The R&A have allowed me to release a couple of key figures to the industry. The figure for GB&I is 12.2M adults and children aged 6 to 17 had some form of active involvement in golf in the last 12 months – which represents 18%  of the adult population and 21% of the aged 6 to 17 population. This is a really significant penetration of ‘active involvement in golf’. If we compare to the UK report from 2015 to 2019 – then for the UK, we recorded an increase from 11.0M to 11.5M Golf Actives – an increase of 500K of which 400K of this increase were more children getting involved. This is positive and exciting news.

An important measure, and an opportunity, when asked ‘who have you introduced to golf’ – male golfers introducing their daughter to golf were 13% – whereas male golfers introducing their sons was eleven percentage points more at 24%. We need male golfers to introduce their daughters to the game in the same percentage levels for us to really achieve the aims of ‘family golf’. This is an exciting ‘call-to-action’.


John Bushell and Richard Payne celebrate another successful Industry Lunch with Sarah Cusition, Senior Sports Research Executiveat SMS

Turning to another event that finished on Sunday, we witnessed another iconic sporting Championship. The men’s semi-finals on Friday was the 40th meeting of Nadal against Federer – but the first at Wimbledon since the epic final of 2008, which Nadal won having lost the finals to Federer in both to 2006 and 2007. Federer prevailed to take the tally to 24-16 in Nadal’s favour.  However, the 2018 Championships was also the 14th Grand Slam which has featured Nadal, Federer and Djokovic in the semi-finals.

On Sunday, we then had an epic final – the first match at Wimbledon 2019 to feature the super-tie break when reaching 12-12 in games in the fifth and deciding set. We know how that the Djokovic prevailed wielding a Head racquet and closed in further on Wilson wielding Federer’s record of 20 Grand Slam victories with his 16th victory. This super-tie break at Wimbledon was happening at the same time as the super-over – more on this to come.
Wimbledon 2019 was the 35th consecutive Equipment Census for Sports Marketing Surveys, and as is tradition with the unveiling of the Winner of the Equipment Census saw Wilson dominating racquets in play, with Head and Yonex tying in 2nd equal meaning that Babolat has dropped to fourth. As important, our team completing the census in our new base just by Aorangi practice courts completed 499,756 steps, equivalent to 284 miles, or just over 68 times around the new Dunluce Links.

Wimbledon is one of the few global sporting events where there is equal prize money for the winner of the Men’s singles title and Ladies’ singles title – and whilst the women’s game is over the best of three compared to best of five for the men is indicative of how sport should be changing. The R&A announced earlier this month that the prize money for the Women’s British Open would increase by 40% to US$4.5M as part of the process to achieve greater equality – and the WBO has a level playing field with the event also over 72 holes.

We saw Serena Williams in her 32nd Grand Slam final, and whilst she did not add to her tally of 24 grand Slams losing to Simona Halep, it was an amazing feat for the 37-year old mother who in her 24 Grand Slam titles has defeated 12 different players ranked #1 – including her sister – Venus – seven times. That’s family rivalry.

2019 may herald the arrival of another tennis superstar in fifteen year-old USA qualifier Coco Gauff who beat the aforementioned 39-year old Venus Williams (one of her idols) in the first round. Coco – born in 2004 – where at Wimbledon that year Maria Sharapova defeated Serena in the final, and Roger Federer was crowned Men’s singles champion. Not that much changes then.

For those with an F&B mind, a couple of interesting facts – at Wimbledon they serve or sell 21,917 bottles of champagne; 166,055 portions of strawberries, and 303,277 glasses of Pimms. Whilst ‘fun facts’, this actually highlights an important point. Our event research shows that respondents always say that the price of F&B is too high – and yet, even at £8.50 a glass, those at The Championships consumed 303,277 glasses of Pimms – that is over £2.5M towards the event. Wimbledon funds British Tennis through the surplus from The Championships, much as The R&A fund golf development through the revenues from THE OPEN. It is important. I am certain that many from this lunch will be retiring to The Champagne Tent later – so, you are investing in the future of the game as you try and take on the target of 21,917 bottles of champagne.


This summer- and in fact in just the last two to three weeks, we have already witnessed a spectacle of sport.

The FIFA WOMEN’s WORLD CUP with the Lionesses reaching the semi-finals amidst the furore of VAR – without it perhaps Ellen White’s goal in the semi-finals against the USA would have stood, and ‘football would have come home’. Ellen White equalled the most goals of the tournament with 6 alongside Alex Scott and Megan Rapione of the USA – the latter winning the Golden Boot. However, this is not the real issue – again it is about women’s sport. The FIFA Women’s World Cup was only founded in 1991 – 61 years after the men’s equivalent. Interest is really growing – the semi-final of England against USA was the largest ‘peak’ BBC audience of the year to date (figures before the Wimbledon men’s final) of 11.7M – and the UK viewing figures cumulative for the tournament were 28.1M multiples higher than previous events.

With the women’s Netball World Cup being played in Liverpool until the 21st July –enthusiasm, interest and support for women’s sport is high – amongst politicians as well as the sporting public. The time is perfect for ‘The Women In Golf Charter’ to take advantage of female sporting heroes.

Last Sunday also saw another World Cup come to fruition with the ICC Cricket World Cup being decided in a super-over after the match was drawn between New Zealand and England. The most exciting finish ever of a Cricket World Cup – resulting in England winning for the first time and creating world cricket superstars of Joffrey Archer and Ben Stokes. However, I want to use the 2019 Cricket World Cup to talk about changes in sport. The first two World Cup’s in 1975 and 1979 each featured 28 ‘sixes’ in the whole tournament – in 1996 it rose to 148 sixes, and in 2007 it was 373 sixes. Up to the epic final on Sunday, we had witnessed 353 sixes including 17 sixes by England Captain Eoin Morgan – an Irish born-&-bred England Captain – in one innings against Afghanistan. The crowds and fans love it – and it shows how the excitement of sport is generated by the power, distance and modern approach to the game. No one is complaining – and this also allows me to announce the results of the first ICC Cricket World Cup final equipment census. From the 22-players representing New Zealand and England, Kookaburra was the #1 bat in play from 6 players (5 of them from New Zealand) with New Balance and Gray Nicolls equal second with 4. There were seven other bats in play including one from non-traditional cricket brand – Adidas.

You may have noticed during my recounting of ‘sixes’, an individual marking the umpire’s call. Let me introduce you to, and welcome, Laurence Applebaum – the german-Canadian CEO of Golf Canada. Laurence and I go back to 2002 when he was head of Wilson Tennis in Europe. Laurence along with Eric Babolat of Babolat, and Hans Marte, the CEO of HEAD sport helped SMS set up the international tennis shipment reports. This sharing of ‘shipment data’ from up to 20 markets has become the main barometer of the health of tennis internationally. Welcome Laurence and Charlie Beaulieu – Chairman of Golf Canada to your first industry lunch.

This allows me to make one more golf observation featuring Canada. Canada has the highest proportion of the population playing golf worldwide – and also the highest proportion of left-handed golfers. In parts of the country, it also has one of the shortest golf seasons. Why the left-handed proportion?

Well, it goes back to another of my development routes to grow the game – ‘Golf as a second sport’. Many Canadian golfers take up golf after they have finished their main ‘youthful’ sport of ice hockey. Ice hockey players use the equivalent of a left-handed swing in hitting the puck – and so the transition to left-handed golf is natural. I believe one of the largest opportunities for golf is attracting those who stop playing their first sports – whether soccer, field hockey, netball, rugby or ice-hockey into golf. A strategy from Federations and clubs to build relationships with local sports clubs is a real untapped potential.


Many thanks for giving me your time today, for attending the Industry Lunch  – Sports Marketing Surveys 34th lunch – and we wish you a wonderful 2019 OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP here at Royal Portrush – and whether your OPEN is ‘fuelled by tea and cigarettes’, ‘strawberries & pimms’, or ‘quinoa, courgettes and decaffeinated capuccino’ or perhaps by ‘The Open Burger and coffee’ – I am expecting mine to include Heineken and Loch Lomond whisky – we look forward welcoming you all to Royal St. George’s in 2020.

In the interim we wish Leanne and her team at Tourism Northern Ireland, and all of the organising team of R&A Championships a successful 2019 event.

SPORTS MARKETING SURVEYS INC., The Courtyard, Wisley, Surrey, GU23 6QL, United Kingdom



Tel Office:      + 44 (0) 1932 345 539

 /  /  / 

In related news...