GOLF first began at least 500 years ago as a sport for gentlemen on the links lands of Scotland.
But the Royal and Ancient Game is now worth a staggering £1 billion a year to the home of golf, according to new research conducted by KPMG in association with Oxford Economics.
The “Value of Golf to Scotland’s Economy” report, commissioned by the Scottish Golf Union in conjunction with VisitScotland and Scottish Enterprise, was published today at the start of the two day Golf Business Forum organised by KPMG in St Andrews.
It shows that the industry now generates a total of £1.171 billion in revenues and employs more than 20,000 people in Scotland – accounting for one in every 125 jobs in the country. Wages alone total £300 million.
According to the report, once costs are taken into account, golf directly contributes £496 million to Scotland’s gross domestic product (GDP) annually, equivalent to 0.4 per cent of the country’s total economic output.
There are now 597 golf courses across the country, supporting more than 12,300 jobs and generating annual revenues of £582 million, with at least eight golf course projects currently in the planning and development phases.
Sales of golf equipment, clothing and accessories are worth a further £157 million a year, supporting 1,660 jobs, while golf tourism is worth at least £120 million to Scotland’s economy.
Andrea Sartori, head of KPMG’s Golf Advisory Practice, said the report was the first time that the value of the sport in the Home of Golf had been assessed across all its sectors.
He said: “While Scotland is the Home of Golf and there has always been an understanding that the sport produces economic benefits for the country, this research will empower decision makers and help them make policy and investment decisions accordingly.
“Many of the international delegates at this week’s Golf Business Forum have come to St Andrews specifically to learn more about golf in Scotland as it is seen not only as a world-class golf destination, but a world leader in the golf business.”
Hamish Grey, chief executive of the Scottish Golf Union, said: “This report clearly demonstrates the significant value of golf to Scotland’s economy. Comparing it to other industries, we can now see for the first time that for example golf’s direct contribution to GDP is 89 per cent that of fishing and fish farming, and 83 per cent of air transport.
“The report, commissioned by the Scottish Golf Union in conjunction with VisitScotland and Scottish Enterprise, provides credible data for all interested in Scottish golf to work from. A related and complementary study of the social impact of golf in Scotland is being developed concurrently and will be finalised later this summer.”
He added: “Scottish golf clubs are continuing to operate in challenging conditions, particularly in terms of finance and climate, and the Scottish Golf Union are providing our affiliated clubs with increased support, guidance and help with future business planning to ensure we have stronger clubs in the future to take advantage of the money spent in the industry.
“Our collective challenge is to work together to build on the evidence base from this report and ensure that future generations of Scots benefit from this great game and the related industry.”
Dr Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland, also welcomed the findings. He said: “Golf is a hugely important contributor to the economy of Scotland, and tourism in particular. With a number of major golf events on the horizon in Scotland, it was important to understand the scale of the industry as a whole in order that we continue to build and grow the industry in future.”
A spokesman for KPMG said: “ In 2011, golf tournaments and endorsements generated total revenues of £46 million. However, the Open Championship was not played in Scotland in 2011. The R&A forecasts the 2013 Open Championship at Muirfield will deliver an economic benefit of approximately £70 million to the East Lothian and Edinburgh region.”