The number of rounds played in Great Britain has risen for the fourth consecutive year, but experts say the sport must not become complacent... How embedded has golf become in the ‘lifestyle DNA’ of those who got into the sport in the pandemic? That’s the question experts are asking as they consider the pressures of rising costs and inflation on leisure budgets this year. Revealing the latest Sports Marketing Surveys participation figures, director Richard Payne welcomed a rise for a fourth consecutive year in the number of rounds played in Great Britain. He also added a note of caution because of the potential impact of increased living costs in the year ahead, but said he was "optimistic" people would stay in the game. SMS’s numbers showed that the number of rounds played last year surpassed that of both 2020 and 2019. There was some drop off against the peak months of 2020, when lockdowns ended for the first time and there was an explosion in the number of golfers playing or returning to the game. SMS said that “In October and December 2020 rounds played were well above equivalent levels in previous years. Although in 2021 quarter four could not maintain the strong 2020 demand levels, it still outperformed previous seasons. “When compared against the pre-pandemic period, 2021 surged past equivalent figures from 2019. Against Q4 2019, for example, 2021 was up 40%, contributing to a year-end 17% rise in rounds played against 2019.” Making direct comparisons with 2020 was difficult because of multiple course closures and tee time demand, SMS reported, but they concluded “the comparisons with 2019 do suggest an enduring uptick in the popularity of golf in the UK”. Overall, 2021’s annual rounds were up 12% against 2020 and 17% against both 2019 and 2018. Payne said: “First and foremost, it’s great to see rounds played growing, proving that demand for golf is strong as we head into an exciting 2022. Rising costs and inflation are likely to put pressure on leisure budgets this year and so, particularly for those who came into golf during the pandemic, the key question now is how embedded has it become in their sporting and lifestyle DNA. “Is it a core hobby that they will continue to play even if the costs of access and equipment rise in line with inflation in other areas of the economy? The strong results for Q4 do suggest golfers continuing to play through the inclement winter months, and so we are optimistic that people will stay in the game.” Phil Anderton, Chief Development Officer at The R&A, added: “We have seen full-length course user golf participation rise to over 66 million worldwide in 2021 and almost 11 million in Europe. “The rounds played for Great Britain in 2021 continue to support the evidence that more golfers are playing more often and realising the benefits of the sport for their physical and mental health. "Golf, however, cannot become complacent as a sport and the industry must...
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