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The 2018 Ryder Cup was held between 25th and 30th September 2018, at Le Golf National course the French city of Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines. This prestigious competition, the largest golfing event in the world, is contested between Europe and the United States, the two continents each being represented by their twelve best professional players. Tiger Woods was among the players representing the stars and stripes; while Team Europe was led by the Englishman Justin Rose, the current world number 1. This competition ended with a resounding victory for the Europeans. We will now see how this major sporting event provided a boost for the French golf industry.
Golf, the world’s number one individual sport with 90 million players worldwide, has, over the last ten years or so, seen a drop in the number of club members in the main golfing countries (United States, United Kingdom, Sweden…). For the first time in 30 years, France experienced a decline in the number of people playing golf, this downturn being subsequently halted to a certain degree, partly as a result of the Ryder Cup taking place. France now has 419,261 licensees and the number of people playing regularly is put at 800,000.
The other major countries have witnessed an almost identical scenario: the number of people playing golf dropping from 2010 onwards, and then stabilising or even increasing slightly over the last 2 years. Only the United Kingdom has continued to lose members.
This period of transition can be explained by successive economic crises. There has also been a drop in the number of people playing football and tennis over the same period. In the face of this decline, the French Golf Federation has reacted and developed a strategy for increasing membership numbers in parallel with organising the Ryder Cup.
One hundred new mini-golf courses of the compact and pitch and putt type
France now has a total of 732 golfing facilities, which include 604 traditional golf courses (9 holes or more). 60% of the golf courses were built more than 25 years ago and some of them now need to undergo renovation work. Furthermore, since 2007, many local small-scale structures (of the compact and pitch and putt type, close to the city centres)) have sprung up, mainly addressing changes in the modern concept of the game of golf. In fact, the practice of playing golf as a recreation has tended to become popular, with more individual golfers playing less intensively and less often, with less time on their hands. Many players are charged a daily green fee to play golf. These small facilities aim to respond to these latest demands. There are now 128 of them and 100 are currently being planned.
Furthermore, during the Ryder Cup, the French Golf Federation put a lot of work into popularising golf through a number of different promotion campaigns.
There have been free introductory sessions for beginners offered nationally. Each year since France was named as the host for the Ryder Cup, more than 350 clubs have opened their doors to aspiring golfers hoping to take their first swings of the driver.
Paris has on many occasions been turned into a massive driving range, accessible to everyone. Since 2013, FFgolf has set itself up for two and a half days in the very heart of the capital with its swing operation at the Trocadero. A few days later, the Eiffel Tower hosted a novel initiation session for beginners, which was free and held during the La Toussaint holidays (All Saints Day). In 2018, FFgolf launched the Ryder Cup Golf Tour, a grand nation-wide tour, where golf events will be hosted by the city centres of 11 large urban areas (Marseilles, Montpellier, Bordeaux, Lyons, Lorient, Rouen, Lille, Metz, Nantes, Dijon and Orléans). Finally, in 2018, in close partnership with the Paris City Council, the Town Hall will take over and, from 20th to 30th September, on a surface area of almost 3,000 m2, host the Ryder Cup Spectator Village, a fan zone with live broadcasting of the competition. And we can add to that the activities taking place in the schools, to educate young people about golf and numerous press articles.
Work to the value of €7.5 million carried out on the Golf National
Finally, and most importantly, hosting the Ryder Cup incurred a cost of €7 for Golf National so that the courses would be capable of accommodating the world’s most publicised event (see article in Irrigazette September/ October 2016). The aim was to meet the demands, quality-related in particular, of a major event such as the Ryder Cup and also to make Golf National one of the most modern and exemplary facilities in terms of environmental management. The main work carried out relates to: the adaptation of the Albatross Course; repairing and creating new paths, tracks, flooring and platforms; improving the drainage system of the Albatross; replacing the irrigation system (Albatross, Aigle/Eagle). The work has been funded by the FFgolf and subsidised in an amount of €4.7 million by the Government and local authorities. FFgolf is now the owner of a facility that meets the very highest quality standards.
Golf tourism development
Whereas foreign players were only present in small numbers before France was awarded the Ryder Cup host, their presence has increased considerably since then. Golf is the leading sport in the global tourism industry. It is estimated that there are approximately 7 million European, American and Asian players who take golf-related holidays. France has not yet benefitted from this lucrative activity but things are about to change; with a steady rise since 2011; the number of green fees sold to tourists has increased three-fold in France over the last two years. Among the European clientele, British players have paid the most green fees (48%), followed by those from the Benelux countries (16%) and Scandinavia (7%). Furthermore, Golf National is welcoming more and more golfers from the Americas, Asia and Oceania. And this internationalisation of French golf is not restricted to the Golf National. This dynamic situation now involves more and more golf clubs and it is here to stay.
Although a study is still being carried out by the Ministry of Sports, it is predicted, as far as wealth creation in France is concerned, that the economic benefits from hosting the Ryder Cup 2018 will exceed 225 million euros. In particular, this applies to the construction of small local golf courses which will create economic wealth, both in terms of investments, contribution to GDP and job creation.