Friendly, flexible, family-orientated golf courses could double the number of UK golfers

A new survey has revealed that the number of people playing golf in the UK could be doubled if clubs and courses were friendlier, encouraged families and offered greater flexibility and better playing conditions.

‘Growing Golf in the UK’, a report commissioned by Syngenta and undertaken by independent market research company GfK, canvassed the opinions of more than 3,500 UK residents, including 2,145 non-golfers and 1,477 golfers.

It revealed a huge latent demand for golf in the UK with an estimated 8.5 million people interested in taking up the sport, of which just under half are in the younger 15-39 years age group.

Simon Elsworth, Syngenta Head of Turf and Landscape EAME, said: “Clearly, there is a significant opportunity here for golf to both retain existing players and to attract many new people into a sport that offers health and social benefits to all.”

Currently, out of a total UK population of 63 million, 38 million people are physically active or participate in sport, with approximately 4 million playing golf. Of the non-golfers interviewed, 65% said they were looking for a new or additional sport or hobby, with 55% saying they had enough time for golf.

Initiatives that would encourage non-golfers to take up the sport included*:

– Free golf morning (63%)

– Easy access to affordable golf lessons (61%)

– Relaxed dress code (54%)

– 2-month trial period (53%)

– More friends and family participating in the game (48%).

However, the research also highlighted the reasons why golf faces challenges maintaining its existing customer base.

Of the golfers interviewed, up to 50% feel intimidated by club rules, regulations and even members of staff – with 25% recalling no experience of being treated like a valued customer. Almost two-thirds (65%) said they would consider leaving their club or regular course.

The shortfall in female participation in golf, and the potential for more women and family golfers, was also highlighted in the research. Female golfers prefer to participate with family and friends, the study found. They also play a key role introducing children to the game.

While social factors greatly influenced golfers and non-golfers alike, on-course factors also proved important. The research found that golfers want smooth rolling greens, courses with visual appeal that blend naturally into their environment, plus well-conditioned fairways and rough that is not too thick so golf balls can be found quickly.

Simon Elsworth, continued, “The purpose of the survey was to better understand the sustainability of the UK golf course industry, from a social, business and environmental perspective.

“What we’ve found is that there is very significant latent demand for golf that could be realised if clubs and courses were able to promote themselves in a friendlier, flexible and family-orientated way. Ultimately, people want to relax, be treated as a valued customer, share time with friends and family and enjoy a healthy sport in an appealing, outdoor environment.

“Over the next six months, we will be sharing more insights from the ‘Growing Golf in the UK’ report and look forward to presenting a summary of the results at a number of golf industry events, while engaging with partners to find solutions focused on the long-term sustainability of golf.”

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Miles is the Owner and Managing Director of Robel Media, and the award winning GOLF RETAILING Magazine. With over 25 years in the media business, Miles has a wealth of experience in magazine publishing, digital media and live events. HANDICAP - 7.2