By Martin Blake, Golf Australia.
Golf Australia has announced participation figures not seen in 50 years of data collection, as the boom in golf gathers pace.
Golf club memberships in Australia rose 6.3 percent for the calendar year 2020 to 409,970.
It is the biggest rise in membership figures (more than 24,000) seen since the numbers were first collated nationally in 1970.
Despite varying levels of pandemic lockdowns, all states enjoyed similar level increases with metropolitan markets up by 5.3 percent over 2019. Growth of more than seven percent was experienced in regional areas, the geographic segment that had been most under pressure in recent years.
Men’s club membership soared by 7.4 percent in 2020, whilst women’s saw a 1.2 percent increase.
The figures, announced in Golf Australia’s 2020-21 annual report, will be included in the upcoming Participation Report compiled by Jeff Blunden of Golf Business Advisory Services. They come in the context of an overall downward trend in golf club membership that began in 1999 and continued until 2019, when there was an 0.05 percent increase reported.
Australia had 500,000 club members in 1998 but by 2018, this number had dipped to a low of 383,613 players.
The figures announced today are for club memberships only; other indicators also show huge increases in golf participation in the past 18 months.
The AusPlay data gathered by Sport Australia for the Federal Government showed 250,000 new golfers in 2020, by far the best result of organised sports. The Golf Australia annual report also includes a 12.3 percent increase in the number of competition rounds played in the 2020-21 financial year, as recorded by GOLFLink.
Golf Australia Chief Executive James Sutherland welcomed the membership figures as a groundbreaking moment for the sport in this country.
“We’ve all known for some time that there is a boom taking place and of course, we know that the Covid-19 pandemic has played its part in this,” said Sutherland.
“Having said that these numbers have come in context of a time when several states suffered lockdowns that impacted golf in a negative way, particularly in Victoria.
“What’s most important is now how it has happened, but how we are able to capitalise on it.
“We need to take hold of this and make sure that it’s a turning point for the sport.”
Sutherland said the sport was aligning better than previously as the launch of the new Australian Golf Strategy approaches. The strategy, an initiative of all the industry bodies headed by the PGA of Australia, Golf Australia and the WPGA, is due for launch next month.
“The focus for us now is retention and growth,” said Sutherland. “We know that there’s a tremendous appetite for golf in this country and some magnificent facilities. Golf is a game that is naturally socially-distanced, safe for everyone, played in the outdoors and it brings people together socially. It’s a fun sport, and with all it’s different formats, the game offers something for everyone.
“Golf in Australia has huge potential for growth – and with this upsurge in players, and a new industry strategy about to land, we are extremely excited about our sport’s future.”
Golf Australia reported a $4 million surplus in the 2020-21 annual report, after losses of more than $380,000 in the previous financial year and a $1.5 million loss in 2018-19.
“We have a clear task ahead,” said Sutherland and GA Chairman Andrew Newbold in the annual report. “We will look not only to hold the ground we have gathered, but to ensure a strong and sustainable future for generations of golfers to come.”