By James Crook

153119853February 23 - Golf is worth €15.1 billion (£13.2 billion/$20.2 billion) to the European economy, a decrease of  €300 million (£260 million/$400 million) from 2006, but is still "well placed to grow" according to a report by Sports Marketing Surveys (SMS) and the Professional Golfers' Association (PGA).

The value of the game in Great Britain and Ireland represents 41 per cent of this figure- worth €6.1 billion (£5.3 billion/$8.1 billion) according to the report.

The report also claims that across the 27 European Union nations, plus Norway and Switzerland, the sport provides 180,000 jobs and accounts for over €4 billion (£3.5 billion/$5 billion) in employee wages.

It goes on to suggest that the decrease in the sports value to the European economy is due to the ongoing worldwide financial crisis.

"The fall is due to there being less money around and to the need, therefore, for competitive pricing," reads the report.

"Therefore, with the economic impact not massively reduced and player numbers up, the game of golf is well placed to grow when European economic performance improves in the years ahead."

The report also identifies the potential for growth by expanding the sport to the female market, as the sport is currently heavily male-dominated- for example, in Great Britain and Ireland, 75 per cent of golfers are male, 14.5 per cent are female and 10.3 per cent are juniors, which is the highest rate of young players in Europe, and is also higher than the rate in the United States and Australia.

153122845European golf is 'well place to grow' according to a report by the PGA and SMS

'"The game continues to be heavily male dominated, even at junior level," says the report.

"This is particularly true in Great Britain and Ireland.

"Plainly if the game of golf in Great Britain and Ireland,  and in other heavily male dominated markets, could be made more attractive to women without being made less attractive to men; the potential for growth is enormous.

"There are, of course, a number of initiatives currently underway looking to achieve this and there may well be further lessons that can be learned here from the countries that have a more even gender split among golfers."

PGA chief executive Sandy Jones commented on the report, saying: "Golf plays a significant role both in its economic impact and also in delivering social, behavioural and sporting benefits with the PGA professional firmly at the centre of the golf industry.

"In addition golf is also a huge contributor to charitable causes in Europe and last year generated more than €85 million (£74 millilon/$112 million) supporting a range of good causes."

The full report can be found here

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]