Golf participation appears to be continuing to stabilise after the latest Active People Survey figures from Sport England.
The encouraging news comes from the results for the year to October 2015, which have just been released. They consolidate the previous year’s results which had indicated that the downward trend was slowing.
The results give cause for optimism that the focus on creating more players, more members and stronger clubs is having a positive impact.
Overall 740,100 people, aged 16-plus, play golf in England for at least 30 minutes once a week. That’s up slightly on the previous year (730,300) and this is the first, small, increase in participation since October 2012.
The growth is among young people has been particularly significant, with 50,400 aged between 16 and 25 now involved in weekly golf, compared to 38,400 a year ago.
Other encouraging signs include an increase in the number of male golfers; among black and minority ethnic (BME) groups; and in club membership.
Sandy Jones, Chief Executive of the PGA, said: “It is heartening to see these results and especially to see the recovery in the numbers of young people who are playing golf. But there is still much more to be done to consolidate these results and to grow the game. That is why there is ever closer collaboration across the industry to ensure our collective efforts are focused on the right priorities for the future.
David Joy, Chief Executive of England Golf, said: “A great deal of hard and coordinated work is taking place at club, county and national levels, to recruit and retain more players and members, to provide the right coaching opportunities and to show that golf really is a game for all. These results will encourage all who are involved in this work to continue their efforts and to keep moving in the same direction.”
Initiatives have included county action plans which attracted over 92,000 people to try golf in the six months to September. Over 36,000 took structured coaching courses with PGA professionals and 40% went on to play once a week.
Increased capacity for the network of County Development Officers who work closely with the PGA and the Golf Foundation to support clubs. The Get into golf campaign for example was opened up to all clubs in 2015 with over 760 promoted coaching opportunities for beginners and improvers.
Trials of new approaches to make the sport more accessible, include Golf Express, which promotes nine-hole golf and a pilot project involving 100 clubs aimed at attracting more female members.