Key Factors in Long Term Family Participation – Lifestyle factors; 1) Time

Sourced from; R&A Women’s and Girls’ Charter.

Numerous research projects have identified family and work commitments as a factor that impacts on overall levels of sports participation. For Taniguchi and his team (2012), researching from the University of Louisville, there has been a knock-on effect whereby people’s work day has increased, their family time has lessened, with the direct impact of leisure time being substituted to make up for this. This indicates that there is a potential market gap which provides an opportunity to combine family time and leisure. Golf is perfectly placed to take advantage of this, where the golf club and course environments have the potential for families to take part in leisure, dine, and relax together.  

This said, it is important to recognise that Buer and colleagues (2011) found increased time constraints in modern life lead many people to pursue quicker and easier access activities, such as running. It is not surprising to hear golf has been described as a ‘time heavy sport’, where playing a traditional eighteen-holes and commuting to and from the course can take up a large portion of the day. It appears vitally important, then, that the golf industry have a coordinated approach to addressing the time required to play, given the speeding up of daily life means time is now at the ultimate premium for families.  

Traditionally, debates on improving the pace of play have centered on the conventional format of the game, rely on anecdotal solutions exist, and little research studies exist. One such exemption is a study by Tiger and Ellerbrook (2016), who analysed influencing factors of time on the green and tee box. It was found that increases in group size, playing competition, faster greens, and higher temperatures all increased time of play. Whereas age, handicap, gender, or green size were not significant in adding to the speed of play. It is clear from this study, however, that there is only a limited amount of time that can be reduced while golf exists in its traditional format, and various formats should be seriously considered if a wider demographic of family golf is going to be achieved. 

Industry expert analysis: Ben  

“18 holes, four or five hours, is just too long for most people, especially younger people”  

Action point: Consider alternative formats whereby golf can be played over shorter periods. 

Case Study;  

Golf Express, England Golf  

Golf Express promotes playing a 9 hole round as an experience consistent with the traditions of the full game format but over a shorter duration. This option is more convenient to ft a hectic work schedule and helps readdress the work/life balance while providing the opportunity to relax and unwind. England Golf’s Impact Report (2017) found that more than 30,000 golfers had engaged in Golf Express between 2015 and 2017. 


Action point: Encourage formats that increase the flexibility of golf in regards to reducing time, emphasising fun, in an informal social environment with relaxed rules.  

“I can’t say that I have ever said to my husband, “will you stay home with the kids so I can go and play golf?” (McGinnis, 2008)  

Seminal research undertaken by McGinnis and Gentry (2005, 2006, 2009), found that domestic and childcare expectations impact more on women’s ability to participate in golf, when compared to men, which is of even greater importance given the time required to play. As the cost of childcare has increased more parents have been required to spend more time attending to their children, which has impacted on amount of spare time they have and thus the ability to participate in sporting activities. 

More recently, research by Morton (2017) shows that family responsibilities still impact on levels of sports participation for women. Similarly, MacKinnon (2013) found family and personal commitments, which led to unsociable working hours and the lack of schedule flexibility, were primary reasons for low numbers of women participating in golf and even working in the golf industry.  

These sentiments are also supported by Reis and Correia (2014), who describe family obligations and household responsibilities as a ‘major limitation’ in defining women’s participation in golf. Importantly, as the family grows in numbers the time constraints become more of an issue, where women are much more likely to take part in physical activity with their family rather than apart. Golf clubs which restrict the times women and girls can play, to midweek ‘ladies days’ for example, provides an additional constraint to family golf participation (Jamieson, 2015) 

Action point: Golf clubs should explore how they can combine childcare and golf participation, whether that be via offering separate crèche/play facilities or junior camps in the evenings and weekends and place less restrictions on when women can play 

It has been found that work and family commitments are most significant restricting factors for families under 35 years old (Buer et al, 2011). Age is a significant determinant of family sports participation, and it is well established that participation rates decline when people get older. Research on patterns of leisure time and sports participation has found that when people are young their sports participation is relatively high, but when they reach working age it reduces, and as they get older and retire their participation rises once more (Ruseski et al, 2011). This is supported by Roberts (2014, 2016) who shows that the decline is most marked between the ages of 16 and 23, the period during which most individuals complete full-time education and take up work. After this period, it has been found that participation rates continue to decline but at a slower pace. 


Action point: Manage sports participation decline at various life stages, with particular focus on key points where participation declines more rapidly, by avoiding drop out.