How Popular is Golf in Ireland
Friday, 13 July 2012
With many Irish golf courses considered some of the top course in the world, just how popular is golf amongst the Irish? Some countries are football mad, others are rugby mad, or cricket mad, or baseball mad, and so on. Is Ireland gold mad then?
Well, just look at the number of top class professional golfers from Ireland alone: Padraig Harrington, Rory McIlroy, Graham McDowell, Darren Clarke, Christy O’Connor Junior. The list goes on! These are guys who are and have been at the top of the game worldwide. You would think then that golf is a buzzing sport with an assembly line somewhere in Ireland producing the next Major Title challenging golfer of tomorrow.
Well, there are lots of courses here for starters. The island of Ireland has over 400 golf clubs. Some of those courses would be famous throughout the world. Courses such as Royal County Down, Royal Portrush, Portmarnock and our local Ballybunion Golf Course are renowned worldwide. Golf Digest ranked Ballybunion as the seventh best course in the world outside of the Unites States. Add in the fact that the type of golf courses you find in Ireland, you just won’t find them in America or elsewhere. These are “links” courses. There are 44 in Ireland, and only 150 true links courses in the world. So, with all these quality courses, how many Irish actually play the game in Ireland?
Well, if you look at the stats in Europe, the UK and Ireland claim 51% of all European golf courses and 43% of all registered golfers, but only 15% of the European population. There are so many golf courses in Ireland to suit all budgets. You get people who are not members and just pay as they play, and there are many public courses that facilitate this as well. Pretty much every golf course is open to visitors in Ireland. This gives Ireland the advantage over Scotland and England, where many courses are private. Therefore, it is cheap to take up golf as a hobby. There is something to suit every budget. This is why it is popular around Ireland. Golf in Ireland would be considered a “game of the people”. It is not so much considered a game of the elite in Ireland. Anyone can play it and has the opportunity to play it more importantly.
While many from overseas come here to tour around and play the best course, the irony is many Irish often go abroad to play golf, as much to play in constant sunshine more than anything else!
In terms of attendance, Gaelic football, followed by hurling soccer and rugby are the highest in Ireland. But huge crowds going to see games would not necessarily mean they are played by the majority. For example, you will always get huge attendances at international rugby games even though it wouldn’t be the most played sport in Ireland.
Golf is still very popular in Ireland, most would even combine it with other sports. The best thing about golfing in Ireland is you can avoid the crowds, depending on the time of year, and get to play on some of the best courses in the world surrounded by stunning scenery.
But, the population in Ireland is relatively small for the size of the country, so it’s never going to get too crowded. Combine world class links courses with top class hospitality, and no wonder Ireland is a golfing mecca.