Melbourne, Australia: Ground-breaking research marks Australian golf’s new direction as it sets its sights on a solid path for post-pandemic growth.
Officially launched this week by the Australian Golf Industry Council (AGIC) – a collaboration of golf’s main industry bodies – the findings of the Nature Report are the most comprehensive on golf to date.
AGIC Chair and PGA Chief Executive Gavin Kirkman said the findings of the independent report were already being used in the development of the National Golf Strategy to be launched in December as an industry template for the future.
Some of the key findings include:
- Golf is well positioned to take advantage of a phenomenal growth in activity during the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Nine million Australians are ‘interested’ in golf of which less than 5% are members.
- 5.8 million of those Australians interested in golf have not yet played a game (54 per cent male and 46 per cent female).
- There are 1.645 million players of ‘alternative’ forms of golf, including 295,000 categorised as ‘ball-hitters’.
- Many children (an estimated 1.140 million) are interested in playing alternative forms of golf, second-only to swimming among organised sports.
- Golf is considered fun, accessible, a game for life and good for mental and physical health.
- Engaging women and girls remains its greatest challenge, though there have been recent increases in female participation. Engaging youth is another challenge.
- Shorter forms of the game and improved public facilities hold a key to the future.
Kirkman said the report showed that finding an entry point for golfers would be critical to the game’s future.
He said: “We know golf is a game that can be played by anyone at any age. It’s fun, it’s enjoyable and it’s good for your health.
“We need to ensure golf, in its many formats, is in the consideration set, particularly for women and juniors. Availability of different entry points so people can find their way into the game is key.
“Whether it’s at a golf club or mini golf facility, a driving range, or a simulator experience shouldn’t matter – all golf is golf. We know how sticky it is once someone has caught the golf bug, but we need to clear the path so they can find that start.
“Many want a more relaxed and a less regulated entry point to the sport, a golfing experience less focused on competition, no harsh clothing rules. People want to experience the game in a way that makes them feel welcome and included, regardless of skill or regularity of play.
“We need to continue to wrap our arms around members while putting out the welcome mat for newcomers to the game, to connect with everyone who wants to play. We’ve been solely focused on club players, but we’ll be stronger as a sport if we embrace other golfers too.”
Golf Australia Chief Executive James Sutherland said the eye-opener from the research was its top line of nine million people ‘interested’ in golf, including members, round players, ball hitters and alternative formats and many who are yet to pick up a club.
“Those numbers turn everything we’ve been doing on its head. If only five per cent of ‘golf people’ are members, the potential for the growth of the game is huge, and certainly more substantial than we’ve ever realised, if we get it right.
“Golf’s resurgence over the past couple of years, both in Australia and globally, is evidence of a new opportunity for golf that will see the game continue to grow and evolve for decades to come. We anticipate continued growth and the National Strategy addresses the findings of this report which can only be good for golfers, old and new.”
Nature Director Paddy Cain said the research was particularly instructive when it came to formats that are popular in the modern context.
He said: “Golf, in all its various formats (from traditional through to Holey Moley and mini-golf), is uniquely positioned to benefit from post-pandemic demand.
“Golf is known to enhance mental and physical well-being and social connection – all increasingly important in these times. Just less than three million people have played alternative golf formats recently, but have not played traditional golf.
“Considering these numbers, there is no sport in Australia that has higher adult participation.”