Germany tops golf participation growth in Europe

November 22, 2010

As per a survey conducted by KPMG golf participation in Europe has changed since a few years now.

Europe’s golf market had experienced a significant growth in both demand and supply since the 1980s. The number of golfers had more than tripled in the last 25 years, doctor and golf course supply had doubled in the same period. While the number of registered players grew by 5% annually until 2005, research suggests that since then demand growth has slowed down in the second half of our decade to 1-2% per year

From 2000 to 2010, England and Wales have experienced a decrease in the number of golfers.

The leading countries in golf participation growth were Germany (+254,000 = 74% growth), the Netherlands (+204,000 = 146% growth) and Spain (+187,000= 124% growth).

The Czech Republic, despite having the most developed golf market in Eastern Europe, has experienced an 650% growth in the last 10 years, which was also significant in absolute terms: almost 40,000 new golfers have been registered in the country.

Golf demand and supply within Europe is concentrated in a relatively small number of countries. In fact, 92% of all golfers are located in only 10 countries, with the majority in the UK & Ireland. Similarly, the 10 countries with the largest golf course supply provide 90% of all golf courses in Europe.

Golf is especially popular in the Nordic countries, where participation rates are far higher than in the rest of Europe. This is paralleled with a well-established supply in Northern Europe, i.e. a lower number of inhabitants per golf course.

In most European countries, demand is dominated by male golfers. On average, 65% of all golfers are men, 25% are women and 10% are junior golfers. In the UK & Ireland, Europe’s largest golf market, three-quarters of the players are male. In terms of female golfers, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Benelux are the leaders. In these countries, female participation is above 30%. Germany and the Netherlands are also in the top fi ve in absolute terms, with 209,000 and 110,000 female golfers, respectively.

In Turkey an extensive youth program, the ‘Golf Junior League’ initiative, proved so successful that in the last three years over 2,000 junior golfers were registered in the country.

Although participation growth in Europe has already started slowing down from 2005 onwards, last year there was in fact a 4% decrease in the number of golfers in Europe’s largest golf market, the UK & Ireland, and eight other countries have experienced a decrease in participation. This suggests significant efforts are needed in order to maintain and further grow participation in the game. Increasing media attention and the popularization of a new breed of ‘golf celebrity’ are all important in raising interest in the game. Young Tour stars, including Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell and the Molinari brothers, Francesco and Eduardo, are bringing a fresh, reinvigorated outlook to the professional game, which is also being supported by the inclusion of golf in the Olympics.

Governments, tourism bodies, as well as golf federations and associations have a crucial role in encouraging the industry to join forces, for the good of the game. The potential for educating the youth, promoting the game among the female population, and making golf a ‘family activity’, has been recognized by many. However, only a few stakeholders have, in fact, taken action, and the industry is still missing the structured programs required to generate participation to the game.