The Slync Dubai Desert Classic takes place at Emirates Golf Club
Emirates Golf Club, built in 1998 is the first golf course in Dubai, UAE Image Credit: Supplied

The R&A have announced new global participation figures that show an additional ten million adult golfers are playing the sport worldwide since 2016.

According to new research undertaken by the governing body, there are now 39.6 million on-course golfers (9 and 18 hole) in R&A affiliated markets.

The research figures indicate that the growth trend began before the onset of Covid-19 and continued during the pandemic – up 34% from 29.6 million on-course golfers in 2016. The sport has since continued to increase in popularity post-pandemic, up 15% from 34.5 million on-course players in 2020.

The data is provided in a new Global Golf Participation Report, which, for the first time, collectively measures The R&A’s affiliated markets in Asia, Africa, Canada, the Caribbean, Central and South America, Europe, the Middle East and Oceania.

Over 42,000 golfers in the Middle East

Since 2012, 9 & 18 hole golfer numbers have risen by 62% compared to 2020, by 110% compared to 2016 and by 223% compared to 2012. There are now 42,000 total 9 & 18 hole golfers, including 16,000 registered golfers. With 38% of 9 & 18 hole golfers registered, the Middle East leads the world on this metric.

Overall, golf in the Middle East region is still in the early stages of golf participation development. While the Middle East continues to host multiple Tour level events and is often an aspirational destination for golf trips and holidays.

Sport - DP World Tour Championship - One Month To Go
Left to Right: Danny van Otterdijk, Chief Communications Officer, DP World. General Abdullah Al Hashmi, Vice Chairman, Emirates Golf Federation. Tom Phillips, Head of the Middle East, DP World Tour Image Credit: Supplied

Phil Anderton, Chief Development Officer at The R&A, said, “Golf’s popularity has surged in recent years, which is reflected in a notable increase in the number of people playing the sport in both traditional on-course and alternative formats.

Ten million more golfers worldwide

“It is significant that ten million more golfers are playing on the course since 2016, but it is also important that millions of others are engaged in golf through many other alternative formats, such as driving ranges, which are so vital to the growth of the sport.

“It also underlines why effective and impactful participation programmes are important for encouraging more people into the sport and retaining them in greater numbers. We are working closely with our affiliated national federations and stakeholders within golf to sustain this momentum. We thank them for their efforts as we aim to ensure that golf is thriving for years to come.”

The top five on-course adult golfer markets overall in 2023 are in Japan (8.1 million), Canada (5.6 million), Republic of Korea (5.4 million), England (3.4 million) and Germany (2.1 million).

R&A affiliated regions

Asia is the leading region for people engaging with golf among R&A affiliated regions, with total adult engagement of 22.5 million. Europe is next highest with 21.1 million adult engagement.

Women make up almost a quarter of adult registered golfers in R&A affiliated markets worldwide, demonstrating the positive impact of initiatives focused on promoting greater diversity and inclusivity in golf.

The R&A is continuing its commitment to invest £200 million over ten years in developing golf, including sustained work to encourage participation by promoting the health benefits of the sport through a global campaign.