‘Rory effect’ could grow UK golf

Rory McIlroy’s success could well grow UK golf, a leading operator of UK public pay-and-play golf courses has said.

A new, nationwide survey has revealed 39% of 18-24 year olds are inspired to try golf for the first time following 22-year-old Rory McIlroy’s success at the US Open Championship in June.

The one poll survey of 1,000 UK consumers, commissioned by Burhill Golf & Leisure, the UK’s leading owner and operator of public pay-and-play golf centres, has shone a light on the ‘Rory effect’ and the opportunities for golf to increase participation and attract new, younger people into the game.

However, 68% of the same age group (18-24 years) said they weren’t aware of public facilities where anyone can learn and play, or thought they had to first become a member of a private golf club before they could get involved in the game.

Across all ages, 56% said they were not aware of public pay-and-play facilities, raising concerns that golf is still perceived as an elitist, private club sport, when in fact there are many opportunities for people of all ages and all backgrounds to enjoy the game.

In total, 61% of all those surveyed said they were aware of Rory’s US Open success.

Colin Mayes, Chief Executive Officer of Burhill Golf & Leisure, and the current Chairman of the UK Golf Course Owners Association, said: “Rory’s victory at the US Open has undoubtedly raised awareness of golf on the wider stage and his influence is strongly felt in the younger age range.

“The misconception that exists among young people, and more broadly, is that in order to play golf you have to become a paid up member of a private club with a strict dress code and a long list of rules.

“That simply isn’t true. Anyone can turn up at one of our seven public pay-and-play facilities and enjoy our driving ranges, short courses or full-length 18-hole courses – and they can wear jeans and a T-shirt if they wish.”

While the UK and Ireland remains the largest golf market in Europe with approximately 1.4 million registered golfers and 2,993 courses, the number of golfers in England and Wales actually declined by more than 78,000 between 2000 and 2010 (KPMG Golf Participation Survey 2010).

However, Colin Mayes believes there are opportunities for golfers – and golf courses – to increase participation in the sport.

“We run school holiday fun days and golf camps for children and some of our centres are attracting 10-20% more juniors year-on-year. One of our venues now has more than 400 juniors registered to play on our 9-hole short course, which is a great place to learn how to play.

“What’s more these young people are learning the values of golf – honesty, integrity and good sportsmanship – the same characteristics that make Rory such a good role model.”

Mayes added: “It would be great for golf if Rory wins the Open.”

– For more information about Burhill Golf & Leisure, visit: www.burhillgolfandleisure.co.uk