The golf industry’s Gross Value Added (GVA) – measuring its contribution to the UK economy –increased to £2.6 billion – a real terms increase of 18% between 2014 and 2019. Golf's benefit to the accommodation and tourism industries (£412m) and construction and real estate industries (£374m) was also highlighted in the GVA analysis.
The growth of the sport since 2014 is reflected by a 20% increase in consumer spending on golf in current prices, which is real terms growth of 8% after accounting for inflation. The highest areas of consumer spend were members’ fees (£1.4 billion), golf equipment and clothing (£1 billion), green fees (£526 million) and accommodation (£484m). Overall, golf was responsible for 10% of £51 billion spent by consumers on sport in the UK.
The study reports that the UK golf industry employs 63,826 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees in the UK, which represents an 18% growth in real terms since 2014. Golf clubs employed nearly 20,000 employees (19,914 FTE), with notable golf-related employment found in tourism and accommodation (8,274 FTE), golf equipment retailing and manufacturing (7,591 FTE) and construction (4,994 FTE).
The direct effects of inbound golf tourism to the UK also resulted in £338 million for the economy, which is equivalent to a GVA of £139 million and supporting 3,328 FTE jobs. In 2019, The 148th Open at Royal Portrush was the largest sporting event ever held in Northern Ireland and generated over £100 million in economic benefit for the host region.
The tax raised from the UK golf industry in 2019 was £1.3 billion.
Golf is also the first sport in the UK to conduct a study on the social value of participation and to measure and value its wider contribution to the economy based on an updated literature review and using Sport England’s Social Return on Investment model.
The Social Value of Golf in the UK report, also produced by SIRC, states that the social value generated by golf in the UK in 2019 was estimated at £1.04 billion.
This value is driven by participating and volunteering in golf and consists of outcomes relating to mental wellbeing (£584 million), individual and social community development (£204 million), and physical and mental health (£169 million). Participation in golf is also estimated to have prevented some 49,000 cases of physical and mental conditions in the UK.
The reports were presented at an event in the Palace of Westminster today which was hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf. The Group brings together Members of the House of Lords and the House of Commons to support the sport of golf.
The reports were authored by Professor Simon Shibli and Professor Larissa Davies of Sheffield Hallam University. The data used in the reports are derived from the 2019 System of National Income Accounts, the most recent available in the UK.
Martin Slumbers, CEO of The R&A, said: “These results show that golf’s contribution to the economy is significant and continues to rise. We are seeing the benefits of a thriving club sector driven by the spending of millions of golfers and a growing influence on the success of other industries such as tourism and hospitality. Its increasing popularity in recent years means that we would expect the figures to be even higher today.
“Golf is not only good for the economy, it is also good for the health of the country. The positive health and wellbeing benefits from playing golf are already well documented and this new research shows that it can deliver social value and contribute towards making people healthier and happier throughout their lives.”
Sports Minister Stuart Andrew MP said: “Golf makes a fantastic contribution to the economy, supporting thousands of jobs across the country and having proven wider societal benefits too. I am pleased that golf's economic contribution has increased with the sport having a positive impact in local communities for those that play the game as well as for the tourism, hospitality and construction sectors.
"Whether it's playing a round at the local course, making a pilgrimage to St Andrews, or going to watch The Open, millions of people enjoy this great sport. I wish The R&A the best of luck for the future in its mission to continue to grow the game."
Professor Simon Shibli, head of SIRC at Sheffield Hallam University, said: “The Government’s strategy for sport, Sporting Future, asks sports organisations to consider how they contribute to the economy. The R&A has shown great leadership by measuring the economic value of the golf industry in both 2014 and 2019. The evidence shows that golf is a sizeable component of the sport industry and has grown significantly during the life of Sporting Future. Government benefits from the growth in the golf industry with tax receipts of £1.3 billion in 2019 from VAT; taxes on wages and profits; and business rates.”
Larissa Davies, Professor of Applied Sports Economics at Sheffield Hallam University, said: “Our research demonstrates that in addition to economic value, golf generates significant wider value to society, including benefits to health and wellbeing, and individual and community development. In 2019, the combined monetary value of these social impacts was worth over £1 billion, highlighting the importance of measuring and articulating the holistic benefits of golf.”