Future uncertain for European golf market

Numbers in Ireland have been continuously falling since 2007

Tue, Apr 29, 2014, 16:58

European golf will struggle to maintain its market share as people opt for alternative ways to spend their leisure time, the head of the R&A warned today, urging clubs to speed up play and reduce costs to attract new players.

Golf participation in Europe fell for the first time in 20 years in 2011 and declined further in 2012, according to consultants KPMG, while the United States has also suffered a marked drop in both players and courses.

“There’s so much competition for people’s time these days in mature golf markets it will be pretty hard for golf to keep the market share it had of people’s leisure time years ago,” said Peter Dawson, chief executive of the Royal and Ancient.

“Worldwide we’re still growing but the growth will be in new countries and established countries will have to fight to keep their market share,” Dawson said at the HSBC Golf Business Forum in Abu Dhabi.

Part of the reason for golf’s decline in Europe and the United States is the increased time it takes to play a round, a problem that could ease if clubs scheduled two-ball tee times in the morning, Dawson said.

“It used to be that you could have breakfast and lunch at home and play golf in between and we have to allow some people to do that again,” he said.

“Far too much investment is put into golf facilities, not on the course, but in clubhouses and the rest. If we want lots of people to come to the game it mustn’t cost too much. That means the investment in facilities has to be at a moderate level.”

It is estimated that golf participation in Europe did pick up slightly last year, but numbers in Ireland and Britain, which account for 29 per cent of the continent’s players and 44 per cent of courses, have been continuously falling since 2007.

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