Is the decline in golf participation levels coming to an end in Europe?

The decline in golf participation levels in Europe may be coming to an end, according to a recent report.

The KPMG Golf Participation Report for Europe 2016 from KPMG’s Golf Advisory Practice has found that ‘golf participation in Europe has begun a period of stabilisation since the declines it suffered following 2009 during the global financial crisis’.

The European golf market had grown steadily for 25 years until the 2009 financial crisis, with an annual average increase in golfers of 5% a year and in courses at 3%.

The KPMG golf report has found that there are 4,142,661 registered golfers in Europe, a decline of 0.3% on the previous year.

The proportion of the European population who ‘actively played golf in 2015’ is 0.9%.

The report has discovered that 30% of local golf associations said that the level of golf participation had increased in 2015 and 37% had reported levels remaining level. But 33% of European markets had experienced a decline in golf participation levels, including the key golf  markets of England, Spain and Ireland.

However, as the surrey admits, the figure for England is only for registered golfers, those members of a golf club. This figure has fallen by 19,000 during 2015 to 861,806 registered golfers, a fall of 2.4%.

But the report also quotes the English Golf Union as finding that, for the first time in six years, there has been an increase in the number of casual golfers. The Golf Union of Wales reckons that there are twice as many casual gofers as there are registered ones.

The KPMG report states: “Golf membership continues to become less attractive to non-competitive players. Golfers in Great Britain, Ireland and France, among other notable markets, feel no need to be registered to play and can continue to play as a casual golfer on a green fee basis.”

The report finds that those moving away from club membership to playing on a more casual basis, are those who are relatively new to the game – those who have been paying for less than five years – or who have handicaps over 32.