Golf is worth €540m a year to Irish economy

A new study reveals how much the average golfer spends each year on the sport...

Some €540 million is spent on golf every single year in Ireland, according to a new report.

Commissioned by the Confederation of Golf in Ireland (CGI) and The R&A, it found that the game is worth an annual €379 million to the Republic. A similar 2016 study of the UK found that the expenditure was €161m in Northern Ireland, amounting to a combined island total of over half a billion euros.

The new data shows that the top three elements of this consumer spending in the Republic are: the €94 million that goes to club membership fees, €46 million spent on food and beverage in clubs, and €39 million on golf equipment.

The industry generates €93m in tax for the Republic alone every year.

It directly employs just over 9,000 people on the island, with 6,800 of these in the Republic. Golf clubs are the most significant employers (34%), followed by the golf equipment and sportswear sectors (13%) and the tourism and accommodation industries (11%).

Golf is clearly outgrowing its old-fashioned "gentleman's game" exclusivity in Ireland, and is relatively far more popular here than in England.

Based on a combination of the participation and club membership data, 4.7% of the adult population in the Republic are members of a golf club. This is nearly one in every 20 adults, and compares favourably with England where the corresponding figure is close to one in 100 adults.

The ‘Satellite Account for Golf in the Republic of Ireland’ study found that there are 281,000 adult golfers in the Republic of Ireland (103,000 in Northern Ireland). Of these, 160,000 play the sport at least once every four weeks.

Figures show that the Republic's participation rates are higher than the UK as a whole, with 7.9% of the Irish population participating in golf on an annual basis compared with a 7.4% participation rate in the UK.

Over 380,000 people hit the course at least once a year.

Adare Manor Hotel and Golf Resort in County Limerick

Professor Simon Shibli of the Sports Industry Research Centre, Sheffield Hallam University, told Breakfast Business:

"It's a good news story. I think people will be surprised. We quite often think that golf is just a sport that people play and do in their spare time but when you look at it from a different angle – from the economic perspective – it's quite eye-opening material."

Prof Shibli explained that, when all the various channels of expenditure are taken into account, "it really is quite a sizeable business that interacts with the economy in a way that many other sports don't."

Looking at the participation and club membership rates in Ireland when compared with its neighbours, Prof Shibli said:

"You can see how golf clubs are woven into the social fabric of their communities."

"The only nation that we found where participation rates were higher is not surprisingly the home of golf, Scotland. But in relative terms, the golf industry is worth more to the Republic of Ireland – and the island of Ireland as a whole – than it is to the UK."