Golf’s International Spread

In 1888, golf was introduced to the US by two Scotsmen, one of whom would set up America’s first golf club – the Saint Andrew’s Golf Club in Yonkers, NY – in the same year. Golf has since become a popular sport in the US, which hosts three of the four major championships: The Masters, the US Open, and the PGA Championship (the other being The Open Championship, mentioned above).

The US hosts by far the most golf courses of any country in the world – over 15 000, or around 45% of all golf courses globally. It is followed by Japan and Canada, which each host around 7% of the world’s golf courses, then England and Australia, each at around 5%. Germany, France, Scotland, South Africa, Sweden, China, Ireland, South Korea, Spain, New Zealand, Argentina, Italy and India each host upwards of 200 golf courses. 

However, these figures do not necessarily indicate the popularity of golf by country. Per capita, Scotland has the most golf courses of any country, followed by New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, Canada, Wales, the US, Sweden and England. 

Research suggests that the number of regular golf players in the US has declined in recent years, while the sport has expanded rapidly in China. 

In 1971, golf was tried off-planet by astronaut Alan Shepard, who secretly brought a golf club and balls on board the Apollo 14. He attempted two drives, with the second travelling more than 180 metres.