According to data from the National Golf Foundation 25.1 million people (aged six and over) played on a golf course in the United States in 2021 – furthermore there were another 12.4 million people who took part in off-course activities like driving ranges, indoor golf simulators or venues like Topgolf and Drive Shack.
To give you some idea of how large an interest there is in the game in the United States (and to keep things in perspective when it comes to the Ryder and Solheim Cups!) the last figures in Europe, published by The R&A and the European Golf Association (EGA), stated that there are now over 10.6 million people playing golf in Europe which was a large jump from 7.9 million last monitored in 2016. This number was measured on the number of people who played golf on a nine or 18-hole course.
To break the US numbers down a little further there were a record 3.2 million people who played on a golf course for the first time in 2021 which followed on from a similar figure the previous year which obviously coincided with the pandemic. Before that the previous height was 2.4 million which coincided with Tiger Woods being at the very peak of his powers – otherwise you could expect there to be over two million new golfers each year.
There was more good news from the NGF findings in that the biggest customer age segment was the 18-34 one which numbered 6.1 million with another 4.8 taking part in the off-course activities which generally provide a solid pathway to the course. The report states that more than 5 million are 'very interested' in starting up in the game.
Over three million juniors played golf on a course in 2021 which complemented the upward trend from the 24 per cent jump in 2020 – and there were some very positive signs with more than one third (36%) being girls which compared to only 15% in 2000. And more than one quarter of juniors are now non-white which is a very welcome large jump from 6% in 2000.
Another welcome trend showed that around 6.2 million females played on a golf course in 2021 which means that 25% of on-course golfers are women. In 2020 and 21 there were more than six million females (adult and junior) golfers which is the first time that this number has been exceeded since the financial crisis in 2007.
And, of those taking up the game, this shows that females represent a a disproportionately higher percentage of beginners (37%), juniors (36%) and off-course participants (44%) than they do elsewhere in the game.
Needless to say this still leaves a huge chunk of the American population who still don't play though the report does add that 17.8 million are 'very interested' in playing golf on a golf course. Almost half of this number are thought to be lapsed golfers who have previously played but not within the previous 12 months.
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Mark has worked in golf for over 20 years having started off his journalistic life at the Press Association and BBC Sport before moving to Sky Sports where he became their golf editor on skysports.com. He then worked at National Club Golfer and Lady Golfer where he was the deputy editor and he has interviewed many of the leading names in the game, both male and female, ghosted columns for the likes of Robert Rock, Charley Hull and Dame Laura Davies, as well as playing the vast majority of our Top 100 GB&I courses. He loves links golf with a particular love of Royal Dornoch and Kingsbarns. He is now a freelance, also working for the PGA and Robert Rock. Loves tour golf, both men and women and he remains the long-standing owner of an horrific short game. He plays at Moortown with a handicap of 6.
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