How older golfers are keeping the Australian golf industry viable

WHILST many individual golf clubs continue to struggle with dwindling memberships and financial issues, the latest Australian industry report showing a continued overall upward trend in the number of golf competition rounds played nationally is heartening.

The just released report shows there were almost ten and a half million competition rounds played in 2018 in Australia, with golfers over 60 the biggest participating group.

The fact that it is older golfers propping up many clubs will come as no surprise to the observant, with the obvious need for the “supply” of older golfers to continue unabated into the future.

That means for golf to continue to be in an overall healthy position it needs to not only inspire the next generation to take up the sport and regularly participate – but also to ensure that golfers in middle age who might have lapsed return to the sport, and that brand new golfers in their 40’s, 50’s 60’s (and even older) are attracted.

For as well as the many golfers who take up the sport when juniors, then have long absent periods in their middle years when education, work and career development, bringing up a family, and other pressures intervene, there are those who come to the sport as complete novices in their latter years.

All groups need to be understood, catered to and inspired.

Australian Golf Industry Council report details

The National Competition Rounds Report for 2018 was released in March by the Australian Golf Industry Council (AGIC). AGIC was established in 2006 as a group comprising all of the key bodies of the golf industry in Australia, designed to work together for the common good of the game and the industry.

The report showed more than 10.43 million rounds were recorded in 2018 by GolfLink, an increase of 182,388 rounds or 1.8% over 2017.

Rounds increased at similar rates in regional and metropolitan areas amongst males and females.

Chairman of the AGIC, Gavin Kirkman, said he was pleased with the latest figures.

“We know from the myriad of ways that people participate in our sport, holding a handicap and entering in club competitions is a huge part of the Australian golfing culture. To see this this grow is a healthy sign for golf,” Kirkman said.

“We’re very aware the impact of time pressure on society, affecting not only participation in golf but all traditional sports.

“With recent changes to the Rules of Golf to make rules easier to understand and adjustments to the World Handicapping System to increase flexibility, golf is seeking to become more accessible and in tune with the way modern sport is played.

“With the industry’s promotion of nine-hole golf, it’s encouraging to see nine-hole rounds increase 14.7% in 2018,” added Kirkman.

“In a reflection of the time pressure on participation, 63% of all rounds were played by golfers aged 60 and above. As well, it is perhaps no surprise that the majority of golf is played by mid-to-high handicap players and clubs should consider this in their course set-ups.

“Females who made up 18% of all rounds, had only 5.7% of rounds played off handicaps of 10 or lower. For males with the remaining 82% of all rounds, only 24.2% were played off handicaps of 10 or lower.”

AGIC has encouraged golf courses to promote more casual access to the game for more people, particularly younger females and males. Recommendations for courses include:

  • reserve course times to suit casual players
  • provide equipment for new starters
  • shorten the holes with forward tees
  • relax the dress code and the use of social media
  • take the emphasis off scoring, competing and rules.

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