An independent survey has found that number of rounds of golf played last year actually increased by 3 per cent, National Club Golfer can exclusively reveal.

The survey, completed by Sports Marketing Surveys Inc, took into account the number of rounds of golf booked in at around 250 courses nationwide.

As such, the figures were based upon the actual number of rounds played and SMS’ sports account manager Richard Payne said: “Golf isn’t in a bad state because golf courses are slightly busier than last year, it’s just those golfers that do play are playing more often.

“The end of year figures showed the number of rounds of golf played was pretty static in Scotland and it is up across the board.”

The survey, to be released on Monday, responds to the Active Peoples Survey released yesterday by Sport England, which said the number of golfers playing regularly had fallen by 3 per cent.

‘I can’t deny that golf is in decline’ SMS have accepted these figures, but have countered it by saying their research indicates that those people who do play golf, are playing more than ever before. Additionally, sales of shoes, drivers, irons and golfballs at pro shops have also increased.

“The APS sample is huge, so you certainly can’t question the validity of the data,” explained Richard. However, he added that the survey method may mean that a number of golfers could have been missed off the final count

“The APS counted people as golfers if they played four times in the last month,” said Payne, a single-figure handicapper. “Now I’m a golfer and I played three times last week, but I might not play again for a month. So if you asked me in a month, I would say I hadn’t played and I would not be classed as a golfer.”

Payne explained how the Sport England survey does an excellent job of taking into account every sport, but the more focused SMS report into golf alone has given the industry a reason to feel positive.

With the majority of private courses not recording the actual number of rounds played by members, the survey primarily focused upon pay-and-play, municipal and proprietary courses.

“I can’t deny that golf is in decline at the moment,” added Payne. “You just have to look at membership numbers . But the truth of the matter is it’s nowhere near the decline some people would have you believe.”

The results will make for interesting reading for local authorities who manage golf courses, many of whom took part in the survey. During the difficult financial times, some councils are choosing to close their courses, citing falling player numbers. However, this survey suggests the golf remains as popular as ever – it is still the fifth most popular participation sport in the country – and so a case could be made to secure the future of municipal courses.

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