Hannah Green is one of the big names set to star in the tournament at 13th Beach. (Photo: Golf Aus)

With the return of the Victoria Open after its cancellation in 2021 due to COVID-19, Golf Australia announced that the sport has seen a boost in popularity across the country.

As the Victoria Open tournament kicks off on February 10, a significant increase in club participation and total participation in golf has been seen across the country as underscored by a report released by Golf Australia this week.

The report prepared by Golf Business Advisory Services, which combines data from both Golf Australia and Sport Australia’s AusPlay initiative, saw an explosion of new members with a recorded 210,000 – a 21 per cent year-on-year rise recorded in the 2020-21 period.

Most notably, it was revealed that Victoria saw the largest rise in membership, with 8.9 per cent despite continuing COVID-19 restrictions impacting golf clubs during the period. 

This was followed closely by South Australia, which saw a 7.2 per cent increase in golf memberships and then capping off the top three was Western Australia with a seven per cent rise. Queensland saw the next highest rise with 6.4 per cent, while New South Wales saw a 4.8 per cent increase.

Tasmania and the Northern Territory saw the lowest increases with 4.6 and 0.5 per cent respectively. 

The recent report also shed light on the emergence of youth becoming prominent when it comes to participation.

According to the report, it is estimated that 60 per cent of new members coming into clubs were under the age of 50, with at least 34 per cent ranging between the ages of 15 and 34. This is slightly up in comparison to the 2019-20 period where only 25 per cent were from the age demographic.

According to the report, the average age for male members is 55.3 years, whilst the average age for female members is 64.3.

Female members were said to make up 19 percent of all golfers.

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Golf Australia Chief Executive James Sutherland was pleased about the reports’ findings, but pointed out that there was more to be done in making the sport more accessible for everybody. 

“Interestingly, these latest figures tell us there are far more casual golfers that are not members of a club than there are club members,” he said. 

“This suggests we have a fantastic launching pad to continue to grow our sport and bring new people to our game.

“We want to keep driving this by making the sport more accessible and creating more options to play to ensure golf continues to be a sport for all.”

The release of the report coincided with the week that the Victoria Open is set to kick off, with 144 men and 72 women competing in 2022.

The golfing tournament has attracted global attention for being one of the first mixed-gender events where all participants compete for equal prize money, and returns for the first time in a year after being cancelled in 2021 due to ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Among the stellar line-up competing this year is Hannah Green, currently ranked 30 and one of the favourites to take out the title, who will be aiming to win following a three-month hiatus from tournament golf. Alongside Green will also be her Australian counterparts Geoff Ogilvy, Su Oh and Jed Morgan.

However, neither Perth-born Min Woo Lee – who took out the men’s title – nor Hee Young Park – who claimed the women’s title in 2020 – will be on the field this time around.

The Victoria Open runs through until February 13, with $410,000 in prizemoney being played for.

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