KPMG has announced that the number of golfers in Europe has declined for the first time after more than 20 years of growth.

A survey carried out by KPMG discovered that there was a net loss of 46,000 registered golfers in 2011. Sweden saw the biggest decline with a loss of 4.1 per cent of its golfing population.

The decline in figures comes after a 25-year period of steady growth, the number of golfers since the 1980s tripling.

The Golf Participation in Europe 2011 survey did however record a small increase in the total number of courses in Europe last year.

Andrea Sartori, head of KPMG’s golf advisory practice in EMA, said: “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.

“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.”