Golf ‘desperately needs to change its image’
A golf conference on participation has concluded that the game urgently needs to change its image – as a new survey finds that infrequent golfers are deserting golf and not being replaced.
Representatives from a number of clubs have attended a golf partnership conference at Brocton Hall Golf Club to discuss how to encourage more younger people, women and people with disabilities to take up the game, as participation and membership levels among traditional golfing profiles is dropping.
The survey finds that participation in golf in the UK in the first quarter of 2013 was down a staggering 32 percent compared with 2012, putting it at its lowest level in over a decade.
In total, Britain lost 150,000 golfers in 2013, meaning that overall participation has dipped below 3.5 million golfers for the first time in the last ten years. The loss is almost entirely down to ‘infrequent’ golfers, who play less than 12 times a year, giving up the game in 2013.
Professional golfer Richard Challoner, from the Mark Butler Golf Academy in Dudley, said golf needs to break down barriers and pull away from the stigmas the game is associated with.
Co-organiser of the conference, Gareth Shaw, added: “I think a lot of people have the viewpoint that golf is still in the dark ages.
“It’s not all about guys in diamond jumpers and Mercedes sitting in the car park, it’s about anyone being able to have a go and anyone being able to play.
“We have got to break down the barriers in golf and embrace the sport to let everyone engage as they should.”
The SMS INC research found that if infrequent golfers are taken out of the equation the industry actually had a good year in 2013, however.
The number of ‘avid’ golfers (who play at least once a week on average) increased by nearly 89,000 players.
More golfers also used a driving range and a par three course in 2013 than 2012.
“This offers signs that golfers are ‘coming back’ to the game by making use of arguably more practical, less time-consuming facilities,” said a spokesman for SMS INC.
“After the disruptions caused by the weather and sporting events in 2012, it seems that these infrequent golfers have not yet made it back onto a full length course though.”
Richard Payne, senior manager of Sports Accounts at SMS INC, added: “Trends over recent years have highlighted the habitual nature of the casual golfer.
“Whilst the die-hard golfers will fight tooth and nail to play, infrequent golfers, many of whom have several demands on their time, make their decision as to whether golf will be a part of their year very early so it is the challenge of the industry to ensure clubs are dusted off considerably before the Masters.”