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A sport for the retired? New research shows golfers aren’t as old as you might think

Data from the PGA’s ‘Golf for All’ report belies the well-worn stereotype of golf as the pursuit of the aged

 

Just over half of golfers who play on-course are under the age of 44, a groundbreaking report has revealed.

Data provided by the PGA’s Golf for All research shows that the largest single group of golfers in the UK & Ireland are not the stereotypical older players but people aged 35 to 44.

They make up 24 per cent of the 4.9 million golfers who play on a golf course each year, with 18 to 24-year-olds and 25 to 34-year-olds making up 15 per cent and 14 per cent of the numbers respectively.

Over 65s are the second biggest group, making up 17 per cent of the total, but the research shines an interesting light on the age gap between those who play and those who are members of golf clubs.

Golf for All, commissioned by the PGA in partnership with Ipsos, looked at participation within the sport, who plays it, and how they access it.

Club membership is seen as a pursuit largely for those with time on their hands, with the most recent statistics showing nearly two thirds of members were over 50 and a third were over 60.

With around a million members at last count, the big differences between the ages of those tied to clubs, and others who play at facilities, should provide food for thought for an industry that has traditionally focused on its subscribers.

Time, and a desire for value for money, are often cited as reasons why younger players don’t take the plunge into membership and the latter is highlighted by the rise in England Golf’s iGolf subscribers.

More than 50,000 have signed up to the scheme, which offers an official handicap to players who are not members of clubs in return for a modest yearly fee.

golf for all report

‘We don’t need to try to shoehorn quick, cheap golf into traditional golf’

Membership options at club often focus on age – with a bewildering array of intermediate categories available at some – without looking at the time element.

But speaking to Golf Business Quarterly about the report and the overall motivations for playing golf, PGA Chief Executive Rob Maxfield said the key was to offer variety.

“Eighteen-hole golf is brilliant for people who’ve got time on their hands,” he said. “We can’t forget that. We mustn’t try to make on-course golf too much quicker, or into something it’s not – we’ve still got to have that offer to go along, have your coffee, meet your playing partners, play your game, come back in.

“For a lot of people, the fact that golf takes all day is one of the major plus points. We don’t need to try to shoehorn quick, cheap golf into traditional golf that can be delivered by other parts of the market.

“I’m not saying that golf clubs shouldn’t offer 9-hole green fees, try to speed up play, they absolutely should, but let’s not get away from the fact that there are a lot of people who play the traditional game and love it in its current form.

“We shouldn’t try to change that too much, but instead try and offer a variety of options for customers and potential customers.”

You can read the full Golf For All findings by clicking here.

Now have your say

What do you think? Are you surprised by the age range? And is there still a place for traditional golf in this fast-paced modern world? Let me know with a comment on X.

  • This piece also appears in the GCMA’s new monthly Insights newsletter that is packed with expert opinion on matters relating to golf club management. Sign up to Insights for FREE here.

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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