Golf’s Winners And Losers In 2020

It's been a year like no other! From the players to organisations and events, who were golf's winners and losers in 2020? We share our thoughts here...

Golf’s Winners And Losers In 2020
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It's been a year like no other! From the players to organisations and events, who were golf's winners and losers in 2020? We share our thoughts here...

Golf’s Winners And Losers In 2020

Clearly 2020 has been a year like no other – one that has disrupted all our lives hugely and, of course, presented huge challenges for the golf industry.

In our end-of-year round-up of golf’s winners and losers in 2020, there are a few obvious candidates, along with one or two less obvious ones…


Golf Club Membership

Golf club membership has been in decline for decades with clubs increasingly struggling to retain and attract new members. 2020 changed all that.

Lockdown one sparked an unprecedented membership boom driven by clubs restricting play to members only on resumption and furloughed workers unexpectedly having both time and money on their hands.

Moray Golf Club signed up 300 new members! Let’s hope most of golf's new members stay in 2021.

Sophia Popov

The 28-year-old German produced the fairytale story of the year when she won the AIG Women’s Open at Troon in August.

Golf’s Winners And Losers In 2020

Germany's Sophia Popov secured a remarkable victory in the AIG Women's Open at Troon (Photo: Getty Images)

She was ranked 304th in the world at the time, had missed out on a full LPGA Tour card by one shot at Q School and only got into the event after finishing T9th in the Marathon Classic a couple of weeks before.

Lee Westwood

Westwood pocketed €1.75 million in his first and last events of 2020, and that Abu Dhabi victory and Dubai DP World Tour Championship runner-up spot were enough to clinch a third Harry Vardon Trophy for winning the Race to Dubai at the ripe old age of 47.

Lee Westwood: on top again in Europe at 47 years of age (Photo: Getty Images)

Laurie Canter

The 31-year-old Englishman, who had never finished better than 154th on the Race to Dubai, had already been enjoying the season of his life with two runner-up finishes before teeing it up in the DP World Tour Championship for the first time.

A breakthrough year at last for England's Laurie Canter (Photo: Getty Images)

70 holes later he was on the verge of a major upset until a double bogey on the 71st hole put paid to that dream. But he still finished 5th to end up 19th on the Race to Dubai.

Dustin Johnson

We’ve included Dustin Johnson not just for his hugely impressive Masters victory but for the rarely seen side of his character that he showed to the golfing world in his interviews afterwards.

Golf’s Winners And Losers In 2020

DJ revealing another side to his character with Amanda Balionis (Photo: Getty Images)

The European Tour

When lockdown struck and golf was off limits, things looked bleak for the European Tour with countless events cancelled.

In the end, Keith Pelley and his team somehow salvaged a 38-event season with the UK swing proving a huge success.

Andy Sullivan won at Hanbury Manor on The European Tour's well-received UK Swing (Photo: Getty Images)


Yes, maintaining courses with limited manpower, especially during lockdown one, and dealing with all kinds of weather extremes hampered our dedicated greens teams.

Golf’s Winners And Losers In 2020

Greenkeepers enjoyed the freedom of the course during lockdown two (Photo: Getty Images)

But with no golfers on the course, many used lockdown two to undertake all sorts of projects they wouldn’t normally be able to do. A silver lining to lockdown.

Related: Golf in 2020 - Reflecting on a year we'll never forget


Golf Clubhouses

Yes, the membership boom has been fantastic but clubs still lost out on huge sums of income during the lockdowns and other restrictions.

It's been a sad and lonely year for our golf clubhouses (Photo: Kevin Murray)

The unexpected membership revenue has been a godsend, but our clubhouses have been a shadow of their former bustling selves for most of the year.

Golfing Nomads

The nomadic, pay-and-play option has become increasingly popular in recent years.

But when golf courses re-opened in May with full tee-sheets for members only, suddenly those nomads had nowhere to play, with a number then opting to join or rejoin clubs.


Rules are rules, right? Yes, but many felt the LPGA got it wrong by only granting AIG Women’s Open Champion, Sophia Popov, a one-year exemption rather than the usual five for winning a Major and by not finding a way for her to play in the ANA Inspiration or the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Why? Because she wasn’t a full LPGA Tour member at the time of her Major victory so the points earned there didn’t count towards her season’s tally.

Surely the letter of the law should have given way to common-sense… and as a reigning Major champion, surely one of the two sponsors’ exemptions for the CME should have gone to Popov? Big own goal, LPGA!

The Open Championship

Only once since 1860 had The Open Championship not been played for reasons other than World War – in 1871 because no trophy was available.

The last time The Open wasn’t played was in 1945, so it was a huge blow to all concerned when The R&A decided that rather than trying to reschedule it, there would simply be no Open in 2020 with Royal St George’s now hosting in 2021.

Tiger Major Dreams

Despite starting 2020 with a top ten in the Farmers Insurance, Tiger only teed it up nine times with his next best finish 37th in the USPGA.

Golf’s Winners And Losers In 2020

Not the year Tiger was hoping for after the highs of 2019. Is the Major dream now all but over? (Photo: Getty Images)

He has looked uncomfortable on the course physically at times, and his chances of matching Jack’s Major record appear to be all but gone again just 20 months after his incredible 2019 Masters victory brought fresh hope.

Maybe in fairness to Tiger, it’s us golf fans who are the losers here rather than him!

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Jeremy Ellwood
Contributing Editor

Jeremy Ellwood has worked in the golf industry since 1993 and for Golf Monthly since 2002 when he started out as equipment editor. He is now a freelance journalist writing mainly for Golf Monthly. He is an expert on the Rules of Golf having qualified through an R&A course to become a golf referee. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 91 of the Next 100, making him well-qualified when it comes to assessing and comparing our premier golf courses. He has now played 1,000 golf courses worldwide in 35 countries, from the humblest of nine-holers in the Scottish Highlands to the very grandest of international golf resorts. He reached the 1,000 mark on his 60th birthday in October 2023 on Vale do Lobo's Ocean course. Put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content.

Jezz can be contacted via Twitter - @JezzEllwoodGolf

Jeremy is currently playing...

Driver: Ping G425 LST 10.5˚ (draw setting), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 55 S shaft

3 wood: Ping G425 Max 15˚ (set to flat +1), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 65 S shaft

Hybrid: Ping G425 17˚, Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro Orange 80 S shaft

Irons 3-PW: Ping i525, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts

Wedges: Ping Glide 4.0 50˚ and 54˚, 12˚ bounce, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts

Putter: Ping Fetch 2021 model, 33in shaft (set flat 2)

Ball: Varies but mostly now TaylorMade Tour Response