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A new survey has revealed that the number of rounds of golf played in Great Britain continues to rise, increasing for the fourth consecutive year in 2021.
Although there was some drop-off against 2020 when lockdowns were lifted and courses reopened, research undertaken by Sports Marketing Surveys (SMS) found that, across the year, 12 per cent more rounds of golf were played in Scotland, England and Wales.
And when compared against equivalent times before the pandemic, growth figures for 2021 are even more positive. For example, in quarter four last year, rounds played were up by 40 per cent versus the same time period in 2019.
SMS admits the closures of 2020 and the subsequent increased appetite for golf upon reopening makes it hard to establish an exact data set, but the research does suggest a lasting increase in the game's popularity - it was also 17 per cent more popular last year compared to 2019 and 2018.
Due to its very nature, golf acted as an escape for people in the midst of Covid-19. As such, some who had never picked up a club before were rushing to their local course, while others returned from extended absences, with many quickly catching the bug.
However, while Richard Payne, Director of Sports Marketing Surveys, welcomed these latest figures, with the cost of golf in the UK set to sky-rocket, he also noted the industry faces a challenging year ahead.
He said: “First and foremost, it’s great to see rounds played growing, proving that demand for golf is strong as we head into an exciting 2022. Rising costs and inflation are likely to put pressure on leisure budgets this year and so, particularly for those who came into golf during the pandemic, the key question now is how embedded has it become in their sporting and lifestyle DNA.
"Is it a core hobby that they will continue to play even if the costs of access and equipment rise in line with inflation in other areas of the economy? The strong results for Q4 do suggest golfers continuing to play through the inclement winter months, and so we are optimistic that people will stay in the game.”
Phil Anderton, Chief Development Officer at The R&A, also welcomed the news and struck his own note of caution, insisting golf, as a sport, must keep trying to attract as many newcomers as possible.
He added: “We have seen full-length course user golf participation rise to over 66 million worldwide in 2021 and almost 11 million in Europe. The rounds played for Great Britain in 2021 continue to support the evidence that more golfers are playing more often and realising the benefits of the sport for their physical and mental health.
"Golf, however, cannot become complacent as a sport and the industry must grasp the opportunity to maintain this interest by offering new and returning golfers the opportunity to stay in the sport and enjoy it at all levels – from traditional forms to new formats.”
A lifelong golf fan, Andy graduated in 2019 with a degree in Sports Journalism and got his first role in the industry as the Instruction Editor for National Club Golfer. From there, he went on to enjoy a spell freelancing for Stats Perform producing football reports, and then for RacingNews365 covering Formula 1. However, he couldn't turn down the opportunity to get back into the sport he grew up watching and playing and now covers a mixture of equipment, instruction and news for Golf Monthly's website and print title.
Andy took up the game at the age of seven and even harboured ambitions of a career in the professional ranks for a spell. That didn’t pan out, but he still enjoys his weekend golf at Royal Troon and holds a scratch handicap. As a side note, he's made five holes-in-one and could quite possibly be Retief Goosen’s biggest fan.
As well as the above, some of Andy's work has featured on websites such as goal.com, dailyrecord.co.uk, and theopen.com.
What's in Andy's bag?
Driver: Callaway Mavrik Sub-Zero (9°)
3-wood: TaylorMade M1 (15°)
Driving iron: Titleist U500 (17°)
Irons: Callaway Apex Pro '19 (4-PW)
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM9 (50°, 54° and 58°)
Putter: Titleist Scotty Cameron Newport 2.5
Ball: Titleist Pro V1
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