The downward trend in the number of people who play golf regularly is slowing, according to Sport England’s Active People Survey (APS). The APS tracks the numbers playing sport in England and the figures for once-a-week golfers rose steadily from April 2014 to a high of over one million in July and August. The numbers dropped then, coinciding with a wet end to the summer.
But overall, 730,300 people, aged 16-plus, played golf at least once a week during the year. That is a reduction of less than three per cent on the figure for October 2013. By contrast, the drop in participation in the previous year was almost 12 percent. The figures for the 26-plus age group are even more encouraging. They fell by just 1.1 percent to 691,900 in the year to the end of October; compared again to almost 12% in the previous year.
The report shows that numbers of regular players are growing in the 55-plus age group; that participation in the 45-54 age group has stabilised, after a steep drop; and there are also indications that club membership is increasing.
These latest figures for the year to October 2014 indicate that the brake is on and that activity by the England Golf Partnership is taking effect. The Partnership brings together the amateur governing body England Golf and the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) to grow the game with the support of the Golf Foundation and Sport England National Lottery funding.
Initiatives include the ‘Get into Golf’ campaign which inspires adults to take up or return to golf and offers great value coaching with PGA professionals. There are over 400 facilities offering opportunities for beginners, improvers and returners to the game and this year all golf clubs will be able to promote their sessions and membership offers on the website www.getintogolf.org
The EGP’s network of County Golf Partnerships supports clubs across the country with membership recruitment and retention plans. A pilot scheme has just started in three counties, working intensively with clubs in Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Northamptonshire, to introduce additional initiatives to increase participation and membership.
County activity last year encouraged thousands of people to take up opportunities to learn and to play the game, according to England Golf research. In the six months to September 2014 over 24,000 took part in structured activity (59 percent increase) and more than 13,700 people became regular, once a week players (83 percent increase).
In addition, the England Golf strategic plan, which was launched last summer, tackles the issues of declining participation and club membership. The strategy, Raising Our Game, sets out a vision of England Golf at the heart of a network of partners, taking action together to tackle the challenges facing the game.
England Golf chief executive David Joy commented, “The Active People Survey offers some encouraging news. There is much still to do to achieve the growth that we all want to see, but it is very heartening to see indications that the downward trend in participation is slowing. This will provide great encouragement to those who care about the game and who are working so hard at club, county and national level to increase participation and club membership.
“We are now doing many of the right things. These figures reinforce the importance of maintaining our focus on golf clubs, encouraging more people to find the club membership model that suits them and encouraging members and non-club members to play more often, to hit balls at the range, to squeeze in more six and nine-hole golf into their week and to enjoy the sport to the full.”
Sandy Jones, the chief executive of the PGA stated, “In recognising that the APS shows that there is still much to be done to increase the participation rates within the game of golf, we should take heart from the fact that the initiatives that have been put in place within the game are having an effect in arresting further decline in numbers. England Golf and The PGA along with many other partners are committed to returning the game to positive growth.
More information on the Active People Survey results for individual sports at: www.sportengland.org/research/who-plays-sport