Latest Active People Survey results suggest decline in numbers is starting to level out
New figures from Sport England offer cautious optimism for golf, with indications that the decline in participation is stabilising.
The latest Active People Survey (APS) results, for six months to the end of March, show a tiny decrease of 0.35% in the number of regular golfers.
There are currently 727,700 people, aged 16-plus, playing for at least 30 minutes a week; in October 2014 the figure was 730,300. Looking back over a complete year, the numbers have dropped by just 1.4%, from 738,200.
The report says: “There are increasing signs that we are seeing participation begin to stabilise.”
However, it also questions whether there will be long-term stabilisation because of a downward trend in the 35 to 44-year age group and in monthly participation, which suggests infrequent players are being lost. The number of monthly participants dropped by almost 3% over the six months.
David Joy, the chief executive of England Golf, said the survery contained some “encouraging news for golf” but showed that there is still “more work to do”.
“Club membership is still in decline, we particularly need to attract younger people and women and girls into golf, and we need to encourage people to play more often,” said Joy.
“We have changed the focus of our county activity to work closely with clubs to promote structured coaching, regular playing opportunities and memberships.
“We are also trialling new ways to make golf more accessible and to show how it can fit into a busy lifestyle.
“Our strategic plan, ‘Raising Our Game’, calls on all who care about the game to work together to increase participation and club membership and it has received a tremendous response at club, county and national level.
“We now need to stay focussed on our strategy, to bring about the further changes required to achieve the further growth that we know is there.”
Sandy Jones, the chief executive of the PGA, said the survey showed some positives for the industry. “The latest figures released by Sport England should be considered as positive news for all who are working in the continued management of golf and the development of the game,” said Jones.