Golf participation numbers have fallen by 21,600 over the last year, according to Sport England, whose Active People Survey records data of people who play for more than 30 minutes per week

Golf participation numbers have fallen by 21,600 over the last year according to Sport England, giving proof to the R&A’s recent argument that showing golf on terrestrial television doesn’t necessarily lead to more golfers playing and taking up the game.

During a period when Rory McIlroy, the game’s current biggest draw and inspiration, won two massive events that were shown live on the BBC (the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth and The Open at Royal Liverpool), numbers have still dropped by over 20,000, helping dismiss claims that live coverage is the main factor in golf’s popularity.

Sport England’s Active People Survey recorded data for people who parcipate in sport for more than 30 minutes once a week between October 2012 to October 2013, and then compared those numbers with the same data from October 2013 to October 2014.

Golf participation survey results

The exact numbers reveal people regularly playing golf once a week has dropped from 751,900 to 730,300.

This number was at 889,100 for the same period in 2005 to 2006, meaning a total loss of 158,800 regular players in the last eight years. This figure surely brings credit to the R&A’s decision that a fundamental change is needed to kickstart golf’s growth, with investment in grassroots golf a good starting point.

The Sport England survey also revealed that golf wasn’t the only loser for the 2013-2014 period, with the number of people participating regularly in sport overall down by 125,000 to 15.6m.

However, in the same period golf’s fastest rising competition, cycling, enjoyed a 700,000 rise from 2.00m to 2.07m, while team sports including football, cricket and rugby union all recorded increases in participation.