(Article via CNBC)
A study carried out by research firm Sports Marketing Survey, commissioned by the Royal & Ancient (the ruling authority for golf outside of the United States), found that 11 million people in Britain played “some form of golf” last year.
That figure took into account participation on either nine or 18-hole courses, driving ranges, pitch-and-putt, golf simulators, “adventure golf” and even golf video games.
The survey found the most ardent golfers are still over the aged of 65; playing on average around 49 rounds of golf per year. However, when it comes to elite levels at the top of the golfing pyramid, it appears to be a younger man’s game. When analyzing the overall strokes gained for 2017, on the PGA and European tours all of the top five names were in their 20s, including multiple major winners Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy.
This was one of the most interesting articles that I have seen on golf for a while: out of the United Kingdom population of 66 Million, 11 Million played golf within the past year. Having a sixth of your population playing a sport is pretty damn good, considering that golf also competes with soccer and rugby in the UK. Though this is great news for the sport, many of the country’s aging population is driving this high rate. So the biggest question is: how can golf continue to grow with the younger generation?
One of the most important areas of growth with the younger crowd is controlling the cost of golf: from greens fees, to equipment, to accessories. And the R&A and USGA are trying to make this a priority. As the article States:
Equipment costs have also made some feel as though the sport is prohibiting them to play it seriously. If you wanted to have the exclusive Majesty Prestigio Super 7 driver by Japanese manufacturer Maruman in your bag, it will set a golfer back around $2,500 and a full five star set of irons, bag and accessories from Honma Golf could cost up to $76,000.
Introductory sets are available for less than 1 percent of that price and the R&A, in conjunction with the USGA (United States Golf Association), will be introducing a rewritten rulebook for the game to be enforced from January 2019, simplifying rules to make the game more accessible.
New rules include; no more penalties for accidentally moving a ball on the green, option to putt with the flagstick in and a player can take no more than 40 seconds to play a stroke. The Women in Golf charter was also announced in May 2018 by the R&A.
Trying to make golf cheaper for kids will allow them to get out and play more will be a huge undertaking, but even more of an undertaking is relaxing the recreational rules of golf. Many ardent defenders of the game will say that having different sets of rules for tournament play and recreational play is bad for the sport, but I think it is fantastic to do. This will allow players to practice their game and gain more confidence, while also realizing that if they ever do decide to play in tournaments, they have to know the differences in the game. It’s just like a game of pick-up basketball: you will let a travel or foul go in pick-up, but in a real game, you have to play by the rules.
I think the two golfing bodies are doing the best they can to help market to the younger generation. Having great young players like Jordan Speith and Justin Thomas help them market to the kids but also having a resurgent Tiger Woods can help young adults get back into a game they may have forgotten about. Hopefully, the combination of young superstars being the faces of golf, combined with better access to golf for the youth, will continue to have a positive impact on the growth of golf.