GOLF IN THE WORLD
How many golf holes are there in the world?
Thanks to a recent report just published by the R&A we now know that there are 576,534 golf holes in the world. However, given that there are 696 new developments in planning or construction, this number is already out-of-date.
These half a million golf holes are spread over 34,011 golf facilities around the world, giving an average of 17 holes per facility! What this means is that there are still a large number of 9-hole courses that are almost, but not quite, made up for by the number of facilities with two or more golf courses.
Although the report tell us little that is new, it does reflect the fact that golf is the product of middle class democracy, political stability and economic prosperity.
The report compiled by NGF in America shows the United States of America has, by far, the most golf courses in the world – 15,372 – although this is down from its peak of 16,052, reflecting the toll that the recession has taken. America still has almost half the golf courses in the world, though it is only 7th in rankings of population per golf course/hole.
Japan, Canada and England each have 2,000+ golf facilities, though with different land masses and population distributions. Australia is the only other country to have over 1,000. Of the 209 golfing countries, less than 10 countries have over 500 courses and 20 countries account for 89% of the world’s golf courses.
Asia is developing rapidly, but is handicapped by environmental and political restrictions. There is a ban on course development in China because of concerns on water shortage and in South Korea clubs are under particular financial pressures. At present Asia accounts 14% of golf courses.
Perhaps surprisingly, most golf clubs around the world are public. Private clubs only account for 29% of the total facilities. A century ago, by contrast, the game was dominated by the private membership clubs. While many of them have held on to their reputations, particularly as the scene of majors and prestigious championships, the sport has now been handed over to the daily-fee, resort and municipally-owned side of the ledger.
Scotland and Ireland lead the table in the number of golf holes and courses per head of population, and it would not take much for the Irish to overtake the Scots, a distinct possibility given their more proactive nature and the lack to political support for golf development in many areas of Scotland.
Scotland has one golf hole for every 568 people which is approximately one 18-hole golf course for every 10,000 inhabitants. It is believed that half of Scotsmen own golf clubs and about 10% of the women, which means one course per 3,000 potential golfers. At the other end of the table, China has appox one course per 3,000,000 people and India has one course per 4,500,000 people. They both have a ways to go yet!. The sport is geographically concentrated, with 78% of world supply of courses located in the top ten golfing countries: the United States, Japan, Canada, England, Australia, Germany, France, Republic of Korea, Sweden and Scotland.
NORTH AMERICA, CENTRAL AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN.
The total number of golf courses in the US and Canada has been slowly declining in recent years, following an explosive boom in new course construction in the 1990s and early 2000s. While closings have steadily outpaced openings, there is still development in the regional market, with 133 projects underway, including the US (39), Canada (19) and Mexico (13).
In an effort to retain golfers and bolster the appeal of the sport, many course operators are innovating with design features that entail less of a time commitment and more of an immediate reward. These facility adjustments include short-game practice areas, expanded ranges, par-3 courses of nine holes or less; family putting courses (ala the “Himalayas” course in St Andrews); and sophisticated tee-sheet management that allows for 3-hole or 6-hole loops on under-utilized stretches of the golf course. At the same time, countries in the Caribbean and Central America are relying on luxury golf resorts as an engine of economic development to boost local employment through international tourism.
The region’s amateur golf scene received a major boost starting in 2015 with the advent of the Latin America Amateur Championship, organized by the Masters Tournament, The R&A and the USGA. In one bold move, the region’s finest amateurs have a much-accelerated path into world class competitive circles.
Traditionally, the South American golf scene has been dominated by private clubs – 56% of all courses, more than double the rate for the world. Recently, the balance in South America has been tipping, thanks to the recent infusion of resort and public access facilities. The continent has added 18 courses since 2014.
Though Argentina embodies 16% of the South American land mass, it sports 49% of its golf courses. There is evidence of an impending shift, however, with the leading South American countries for golf development indicated as Brazil (10), Ecuador (3) and Chile and Colombia (2 each).