According to the R&A and Sports Marketing Surveys (SMS), the number of total golfers globally has increased from 61 million to 66.6 million in a five-year growth period, surpassing the previous high mark of 61.6 million set in 2012.
The measure includes club members and non-member independent golfers playing nine or 18 holes and users of driving ranges in markets where course availability is limited.
The new figure reflects a positive trend in golf in which participation levels are now rising worldwide after a period of decline.
This was recently highlighted in the 2021 European Golf Participation Report, which highlighted that over 10.6 million golfers now enjoy playing full-length courses on the continent – a healthy increase from the 7.9 million last monitored in 2016.
Phil Anderton, Chief Development Officer at the R&A, said: “Golf is enjoying a real boom in popularity and we are seeing substantial increases in participation in many parts of the world, particularly in the last two years when the sport could be played safely outdoors during the pandemic.
“The new figures are very encouraging but we need to work together as a sport to make the most of this opportunity by retaining those people who have returned to golf or tried it for the first time.
“We can achieve this by offering a variety of attractive and flexible options that encourage golfers to play more regularly and enjoy its many health and wellbeing benefits with family and friends.”
Regions experiencing the largest rises include Asia (20.9 million to 23.3 million); Europe (7.9 million to 10.6 million – driven largely by Great Britain and Ireland 3.6 million to 5.7 million); and North America (29.9 million to 30.6 million).
In Great Britain, the number of adults playing a nine or 18-hole course began to gradually increase before the onset of Covid-19, rising from 2.5 million in 2017 to 2.8 million in 2018, then to 3 million in 2019, before surging to 5.2 million in 2020.
Following the easing of lockdown restrictions, the R&A sought to carry out additional research into this rise in demand and how different types of golfers were engaging with the sport.