Europe sees player decline and development slowdown


Europe’s economic struggles are having an impact on the state of golf, according to a new report by KPMG’s Golf Advisory practice.

The number of registered golfers declined in 2011 by 46,000, the first year that the continent has seen a decline. At the same time, the number of courses increased by .7 percent to 6,740.

“While the growth of golf started to slow down after 2005, last year was the first time there was an actual decrease in registered golfers,” said Andrea Sartori, head of KPMG’s Golf Advisory Practice. “The decline can be attributed to two factors: the reduction in the number of golfers in some of Europe’s largest golf markets, especially the UK and Ireland, and the lack of dynamic growth in Europe’s emerging markets, specifically Eastern Europe and the South-East Mediterranean.”

There was a loss of 42,700 registered golfers in the UK & Ireland (3.1%), followed by Sweden (loss of 21,000) and Spain (loss of 9,700). 

Meanwhile, golf course development has been slowed due to a lack of financing and confidence.

“The increasing equity requirements of financial institutions, the growing cost of debt and the increasing expectations of investors in terms of returns, means the market for golf resorts with real estate will continue to suffer for quite some time,” Sartori said.

Sartori said the first markets to bounce back will be the ones with “potentially strong domestic demand, which are also appealing to the international market from a tourism perspective.” He said cited Italy, France and Turkey as possible areas that could rebound first.

Turkey has aggressively marketed to children, to help build domestic demand.

“While much of the golf market stagnation in Europe may be attributed to the overall economic climate, continued support and investment in new programs will be needed to sustain demand and generate further growth in the game, especially in mature and developed golf markets,” Sartori said.

The downturn in golf participation follows a 25-year period of growth – the number of golf courses more than tripled since the 1980s, while the number of golf courses doubled.

Sartori said most countries are not investing into growing the domestic game.

“Rather than introducing youth and family programs, and promotional packages, approximately 30 to 40 percent of Europe’s operators and club managers actually increased prices in 2011,” Sartori said.  “More than half of clubs have not invested in enhanced marketing – and many have not yet capitalized on the opportunities provided by online marketing and social media.”

The Golf Participation in Europe 2011 survey can be downloaded at


After reading your report i am astonished that you are not updated with the decline of golfers in Sweden. When you are writing thet there was a loss of 21 000 swedish golfers you must also write that there are still newcommers to the sport. The net loss was in fact 9 011 qand these figures are from the Swedish Golf federation. So this is alarming as when you are showing a wrong picture. In Sweden golf is still the sport that attracts new players. So my suggestion is that before sending out information go to the bottom and find the truth And start instead of writing negative start writing in a positive mind.

Dear Bertil, Thank you for your note regarding the Golf Participation in Europe 2011 report. The 21,000 was in fact the net loss of golfers in Sweden based on statistics provided by the European Golf Association, which the Swedish Golf Federation has also reconfirmed. Our report reflects January 2011 versus January 2010, please make sure you compare the same. Nevertheless, the lack of accuracy in statistics throughout Europe is a problem that we are constantly facing, and different sources may provide different data. Despite the net loss in registered golfers, Sweden is one of the most mature golf markets in Europe, which we have also highlighted in our report. We stay at your disposal for any clarification at Kind regards, Zita Valint

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