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Q1 ‘Rounds Played’ down 14% in UK following wet start to the year


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The average monthly number of rounds of golf played per course in England, Wales and Scotland dropped to an average 1,385 for the first three months of 2024, representing a 14% decrease on the same period last year, according to the latest research from Sporting Insights, which has been tracking rounds played at commercial golf courses across mainland Great Britain since 2000.

The greatest impacts, according to Sporting Insights’ figures, were felt in the Midlands and the North, although there were green shoots for the latter in the form of a year-on-year growth in March. 

Scotland and the South experienced single-digit percentage drops against Q1 2023. It should be noted, however, that 2023 enjoyed strong February and March performances. 

Despite the somewhat lethargic start to the golfing year in the UK, some of which was caused by a wetter-than-average winter, Sporting Insights says that conditions remain positive for golf to put up strong numbers through the rest of 2024. The caveat, it says, is that the continuing high cost of living does appear to be impacting on leisure spend, albeit at lower levels than might have been predicted.

“A few things are important to bear in mind,” noted Richard Payne, joint managing director of Sporting Insights. “First is the relative strength of 2023 and 2022 when looking at any downward shifts in performance. For March 2024 to finish 3% down year-on-year is a decent result that should not be interpreted as cause for pessimism as golf moves into the critical summer window, and they are still well up on 2019 figures. 

“The second is that, while not insubstantial – in fact the appetite for winter golf reflects the hardiness of so many GB golfers – Q1 rounds are dwarfed by summer numbers, which are 2-3 times higher on average than we see over Q1, so there is more than enough time for the year to end in growth.

“Finally, it’s worth pointing out that like any outdoor sport, fluctuations in participation happen. This is the first quarter to see a year-on-year drop in rounds played since Q1 last year. If declines in rounds played persist throughout the year, then there may be conversations that the industry needs to have, but it’s much too early to worry at this stage.”

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