Golf sees global boom in female participation… with one exception
The game of golf is seeing a boom in female participation around the world – with the one notable exception being the UK.
Speaking at the HSBC Golf Business Forum in Abu Dhabi, Giles Morgan, HSBC’s global head of sponsorship and events, said that new data is showing women are flocking to golf.
“Increased female affluence, access and attractiveness to the game of golf have resulted in an uptake of the game by female players and indeed female supporters the world over,” he said.
This is occurring in all markets, he added, especially in the USA, where a major drive to attract women has been successful.
“Much of this success is down to specialist targeting and adaptation of the game. Attesting to this is the PGA‘s recent USA wide initiative to bring more women into the game. The most recent figures from 2013 show that there was a net gain of almost 260,000 women golfers in the USA alone.”
However, this success does not appear to have hit the UK golf industry. Last year it was revealed that Germany now has more female golfers than in the UK, despite having four times fewer golf courses.
In relation, at the Golf Business Forum, the outgoing chief executive of The R&A, Peter Dawson, warned that British golf clubs, which have seen large membership falls over the past few years, will continue to struggle.
“Worldwide we’re still growing but the growth will be in new countries and established countries will have to fight to keep their market share,” he said.
“There’s so much competition for people’s time these days in mature golf markets it will be pretty hard for golf to keep the market share it had of people’s leisure time years ago,” he said.
He also said golf clubs have been investing too much money on clubhouse investments that end up hurting participation in the game.
Speaking to Reuters in Abu Dhabi, Dawson said that golf needs to be affordable if it is to attract new participants, but too many clubs offer expensive green fees or memberships to pay for unnecessary clubhouse improvements.
Expenditure on the golf course should be the priority, he added.
“Far too much investment is put into golf facilities, not on the course, but in clubhouses and the rest. If we want lots of people to come to the game it mustn’t cost too much. That means the investment in facilities has to be at a moderate level,” he said.
He said other major issues affecting participation are the time it takes to play a round of golf and the lack of a dominant star in the professional game.
“It used to be that you could have breakfast and lunch at home and play golf in between and we have to allow some people to do that again,” he said.
One solution, he added, was for golf clubs to offer two-ball tee times in the morning.
“Golf is also a very difficult game to dominate – to become a star today with so many good players in the world is becoming harder, but we need stars badly,” he said. “If we have a scenario where 50 players win one tournament each year I think the game will struggle as compared to if we have two or three exceptional players.”
Last week Peter Dawson announced he will be standing down as the CEO of The R&A in 2015. The position has been described as the most powerful one in golf.