Golf Boom in Full Swing as Newcomers Tee-Up

Picture by Chris Keane/USGA.

Melbourne, Australia: Golf Australia has announced record growth in club participation and total participation, with a 6.4 per cent increase in club members and a 21 per cent (210,000) year-on-year rise in rounds played, according to AusPlay data.

The 2020-21 Golf Club Participation Report, prepared by Golf Business Advisory Services, showcases a combination of Golf Australia’s club member participation data and Sport Australia’s AusPlay data, with both data sets providing the golf industry a year-on-year view of the game’s participation trends.

More than 24,000 new players joined golf clubs in 2020-21, with the 6.4 per cent increase the largest jump in percentage terms recorded since data collection began in 1970, taking the total number to 409,970.

Junior members also experienced a major increase, with 16 per cent more kids under-18 joining their local club. AusPlay’s data reveals that Australian golf’s vision to be a sport for all is gradually becoming a reality, with an estimated 1,204,000 total golf participants playing nine-hole or 18-hole rounds in the 2020-21 period.

This is supported by Golf Australia’s nine-hole round data which experienced 20 per cent growth with more than 517,000 rounds played in 2020-21.

At club level, Victoria experienced the biggest lift in membership (up 8.9 per cent) despite access to golf clubs being limited during the on-going pandemic, while all states experienced substantial growth. South Australia grew by 7.2 per cent, Western Australia by 7 per cent, Queensland by 6.4 percent, New South Wales by 4.8 per cent, Tasmania by 4.6 per cent and the Northern Territory by 0.5 per cent.

Golf Australia Chief Executive James Sutherland said the findings were ‘monumentally encouraging for the game’, pointing out that the results buck the gradual decline in golfers endured between 2000-2019.

He said: “Our purpose is simple – we want more Australians playing more golf. There are many different forms of golf making it truly a game for everyone. It’s fun, it can be played at any age, and it’s proven to be good for your health. These are just some of the factors driving this phenomenal growth.

“Interestingly, these latest figures tell us there are far more casual golfers that are not members of a club than there are club members. This suggests we have a fantastic launching pad to continue to grow our sport and bring new people to our game. We want to keep driving this by making the sport more accessible and creating more options to play to ensure golf continues to be a sport for all.”

Sutherland said that the launch in December of the Australian Golf Strategy – a strategic plan for the entire golf industry – has highlighted participation as the most important factor in the health of the industry into the future.

He said: “So many new people have come to the game in recent times, they need to be embraced so they remain in the game while we continue to innovate to appeal to more Australians.

“It will be vital for us to understand these newcomers – what they want is not going to be the same as it has been in the past, and we need to acknowledge that and evolve to suit our new markets.

“The elite game is also incredibly important in providing role models for our young golfers to aspire to, and we were excited to see some of Australia’s best players in action at the Vic Open at 13th Beach.

“It’s been fantastic to see the PGA Tour of Australasia getting back into the full swing of things this season and there’s no doubt the Tour will play an important role in building on the 16% growth in junior members this year.”

Key findings of the report include:

  • Positive member movement was evident in all key market segments. Both member clubs and social clubs enjoyed growth around six per cent, driven by growth in male numbers of more than seven per cent. Junior numbers also enjoyed substantial growth, increasing by 15 per cent compared to the prior year.
  • All states except Northern Territory enjoyed growth well in advance of recent trends. Despite long periods of course closures due to lockdown measures, Victoria recorded the largest growth of 8.9 per cent.
  • New members coming to golf are younger than the broader club member age profile, with 60 per cent of new members under the age of 50. Of new members, 34 per cent were between 15-34 in 2020-21, compared to 25 per cent in 2019-20.
  • Female members make up 19 per cent of all golfers.
  • The national new club member attraction rate was 13 per cent, with an attrition rate of 10 per cent. Of all new golfers in 2020-21, 60 per cent were under 50 years old, compared to the number of 30 per cent of current members.
  • The average age of club members in Australia is 56.9 years. The average for male members is 55.3 years and for women, 64.3 years.
  • There were 11,769 million competition rounds played in 2020-21, representing a 12 per cent increase over 2019-20.
  • The report estimates ‘total golf participants’ at 1.204 million people, according to Ausplay, up 21 per cent on the previous year.
  • Get Into Golf, the adult introductory programme, saw 313 clubs and facilities registered, with 224 actively participating, and 6,594 participants in 1,230 programmes. Of the total participants, 5,564 or 84 per cent were female.

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