Golf in Europe stabilizing, reports show

Two recent reports give hope to the state of golf participation across Europe.

The years-long trend of declining participation in golf slowed in Europe last year, according to the European Golf Course Owners Association’s 2016 report. It showed participation dropped by just 0.85 percent.

And KPMG’s Golf Participation Report for Europe 2017 even showed a slight uptick in the number of registered golfers by 2 percent. This could be because of the many initiatives to stimulate the golf industry, said Andrea Sartori, KPMG global head of sports.

“The industry-wide focused effort to embrace junior and female participation, innovate formats of play in both the professional and amateur game, along with a broader acceptance that modern day life is influencing the sport across multiple levels, is slowly helping to swing the participation curve around and into a positive direction,” he said.

Between 2009 and 2015, participation fell by almost 5 percent annually across the continent, ECGOA said. That’s in stark contrast to before the global economic crash, when growth in demand had been stable at 5 percent annually.

But there is good news.

Both reports show that more than three-quarters of countries have seen either stabilized or increased participation in golf over the past year. In addition, fewer countries are seeing a decline in participation compared to last year.

Germany could soon overtake England as the largest golfing nation in Europe. Additionally, EGCOA said Germany is among the three countries (along with Austria and Switzerland) with the highest proportion of women golfers.

The ECGOA reported that Germany has seen consistent growth in golfers over the past 10 years, increasing its participation three-fold in 2016 with the addition of 4,000 new registered golfers.

The United Kingdom has problems not just with its overall golfer participation but also with the number of women golfers. England, Scotland and Wales have the lowest percentage of women golfers.

While England has seen golf participation slow, it’s not alone. Wales and Spain also saw fewer registrations last year.

But, Spain — along with Ireland and the Czech Republic — perhaps have more sustainable programs. That’s because they have the highest proportion of junior golfers, around 12 percent for each country.

Across Europe, junior participation has fallen by about 16,000 golfers over the past year, and stands at just 8.6 percent of total golf participation.

Some countries also have more casual juniors programs, the ECGOA report notes, which could explain why countries like Switzerland, Denmark and the Netherlands have the lowest juniors rates.

As to the number of courses, KPMG reports there were 6,924 courses in Europe in 2016, a decline of 28 from the previous year.

“Golf courses are neither being built nor closed in great numbers across Europe,” the KPMG study noted. 

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