When glancing through the list of European’s best ranked playing golf professionals, one always has the impression it mainly contains golfers from the UK, Sweden, Spain and a few lost Frenchmen and Danes. Intuitively the explanation is likely to be found in the number of golf courses and the number of active players in these countries. The UK has by far the largest number of both and hence it should not surprise they are at the top of the list in both categories.  However, it would be nice to see  which country would rank first in terms of number of playing professionals vis a vis the country’s golfing population and number of courses. Would the UK still rank first? The following table (sources: EGA, KPMG, World PGA Rankings)  summarizes this relationship and the surprising conclusion is that Italy ranks first!

Country Players Courses Partici-
Golfers per
per course
Pros as %
of players
Pros per
Italy 100317 269 0,173% 373 216083 58,0 15 0,0150% 0,056
UK&Ireland 1369448 2993 2,206% 458 20744 62,1 147 0,0107% 0,049
Denmark 152622 201 2,775% 759 27366 5,5 12 0,0079% 0,060
France 410377 574 0,637% 715 112230 64,4 32 0,0078% 0,056
Spain 388160 345 0,834% 1.125 117464 46,5 27 0,0070% 0,078
Austria 104475 151 1,272% 692 54373 8,2 6 0,0057% 0,040
Netherlands 193350 192 1,158% 1.007 87062 16,7 11 0,0057% 0,057
Switzerland 76693 94 1,009% 816 80899 7,6 4 0,0052% 0,043
Finland 137282 126 2,615% 1.090 41669 5,2 7 0,0051% 0,056
Sweden 512407 456 5,656% 1.124 19868 9,1 25 0,0049% 0,055
Norway 125160 174 2,686% 719 26785 4,7 5 0,0040% 0,029
Belgium 53190 79 0,511% 673 131827 10,4 1 0,0019% 0,013
Germany 599328 700 0,728% 856 117614 82,3 11 0,0018% 0,01

The following conclusions can be drawn:

Italy; low participation rate, empty courses but relatively a lot of playing professionals. Italy is counting several very talented professionals such as the Molinari brothers and young gun Manassero. This is particularly surprising given that there are not that many courses and that the participation rate (% golfers vs total population) is extremely low vs the remainder of Europe. Moreover intuitively you would expect the temperament of the Italians vs for example the Swedes would work against them. Hence there must be other reasons why the Italians are doing so well such as possibly a very efficient teaching/talent system and the fact that they have plenty of room to practice.

UK and Ireland; high participation rate and low player density per course but still relatively many ranked playing professionals. It is not surprising that the UK is delivering the most ranked playing professionals in absolute terms. In fact it should given the enormous number of available golf courses and high number of players. However the UK is also doing well in relative terms. As can be seen in the table only Italy delivers more playing professionals as a % of the total golf-players pool. Hence the UK also manages to breed very good players. In fact this should be no surprise given that the country has a big golf heritage and hence has an enormous experience as far as education is concerned.

Sweden and Germany have low number of ranked playing professionals vs number of total players.
Both Sweden and Germany have over half a million golf players. Nevertheless, both countries do not manage to deliver many playing pros. Whereas Sweden has the highest participation rate (5,7%) in Europe, Germany scores very low (0,7%) in relative numbers. Clearly there is a big talent pool of good Swedish players on the tour. However given the total number of players, this is still a relative low number. As the Swedes have a very good teaching/talent system, one of the explanations could be that they cannot play the year around as a result of the weather. As far as Germany is concerned, this country should be considered as a sleeping giant. Not only is there plenty of room to attract more people to the golf sport, the country should also be able to convert a higher proportion of players into playing professionals. Reasons why this has not been the case yet could be the lack of tradition, the average age of the German golfer and the teaching/talent system.