UK Golf Participation Numbers Increase To Second-Highest Level On Record

The figures for 2022 show an increase of players in Great Britain and Northern Ireland to 5.3 million in 2022

A generic image of golfers on a green
(Image credit: R&A)

Golf participation in Great Britain and Northern Ireland rose in 2022 and remains well up on pre-pandemic levels.

The R&A conducted research into the figures in collaboration with England Golf, Golf Ireland, Scottish Golf and Wales Golf and found that there were 5.6 million adult golfers playing on full-length courses of nine or 18 holes in 2022. That’s the second-highest number since monitoring began over 30 years ago. It also represents a 265,000 increase on the 2021 figure of 5.3 million.

The record year came during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, in 2020, when there were 5.7 million on-course adult golfers taking advantage of a pursuit that allowed social distancing while offering health benefits. Even though that figure was down slightly in 2022, it is still well above the level before the pandemic, which stood at 3.7 million on-course adult golfers in 2019. The latest figures amount to a rise of more than 50% on that year.

There was more good news, too, with an increase in female participation. The women’s game has arguably never had a higher profile and that is reflected in the news that 20% of adult on-course golfers in 2022 were female, up from 15% in 2019.

Chief Development Officer at The R&A Phil Anderton explained the figures prove that players who took up the game during the pandemic have continued to enjoy the pursuit. He said: “It is very positive to see the number of on-course adult golfers grow in Great Britain and Ireland last year. The sport remains very popular on full-length courses as large numbers of lapsed or non-golfers who took up the sport during the pandemic continue to enjoy playing.”

As well as the pandemic, Anderton also pointed out the positive effect of participation initiatives in the encouraging figures. That included Golf is Good, which was launched by the R&A and Golf Wales last year to promote the health and wellbeing benefits of golf. He said: “The growth has been aided by the important work of golf bodies to drive participation initiatives and increase awareness of the benefits of the sport for physical and mental health, including our pilot health campaign in Wales last year.”

Anderton also encouraged the good work to continue into the future despite current economic hardships. He said: “There remains significant interest in golf and while we recognise that there are economic challenges due to cost of living pressures, it is important for everyone involved to do their best to keep existing golfers in the sport.”

As well as increased participation, the number of rounds people played also increased last year, up 6% on 2021 and an eye-catching 24% on 2019.

Mike Hall
News Writer

Mike has over 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on a range of sports throughout that time, such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance staff writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the game's most newsworthy stories. 

He has written hundreds of articles on the game, from features offering insights into how members of the public can play some of the world's most revered courses, to breaking news stories affecting everything from the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to developmental Tours and the amateur game. 

Mike grew up in East Yorkshire and began his career in journalism in 1997. He then moved to London in 2003 as his career flourished, and nowadays resides in New Brunswick, Canada, where he and his wife raise their young family less than a mile from his local course. 

Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.