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Relative success of the world’s top golfing nations

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The United States is still a powerhouse in the world of professional golf. As we witnessed during the 2013 President’s Cup – when American players are on their game, they’re as hard to beat as anyone. However, golf’s top players are trending toward more diversified backgrounds. Twenty-five countries have at least one player in the world top 200, and smaller and smaller nations are producing players capable of competing on the world’s biggest golfing stages.

Of the top 200 male golfers in the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR), 83 are American, 25 are from the U.K., 15 are South African and 11 are Aussies – the usual suspects. From a pure numbers perspective, the classic golfing nations are still incredibly strong.

What is surprising, however, is the success of many smaller nations. Sweden has nine golfers in the top 200, while Denmark has four. That makes the success of the Scandinavian countries astonishing from a per capita (per person) standpoint. Hey, maybe Henrik Stenson’s play in 2013 wasn’t much of a surprise after all?

Only Fiji finishes ahead of Sweden and Denmark in the per capita ranking, and it’s likely that as Vijay Singh ages Sweden and Denmark will overtake Fiji.

Men Top 200 per capita

Men: Top-200 golfers per capita.

This is not to say that there is a shortage of top professional golfers in the United States. In fact, the U.S. is still far and away the powerhouse on the men’s international stage. And with 83 players in the top 200 and hundreds more to follow, that will not change significantly any time soon.

The shift on the women’s side in professional golf has been even more remarkable. Many of the same countries that are strong in the men’s rankings are also emerging on the women’s side. The women’s side is also more geographically spread, however, with 22 total nations represented among the top-200 golfers.

Behind the Asian success lead by South Korea and Japan, the Scandinavians are again relevant as well. Sweden and Denmark are represented, and Suzann Pettersen even brings Norway into the mix:

Women Top 200 per capita

Women: Top-200 golfers per capita.

Looking at the combination of the men’s and women’s rankings, we get a full flavor of where the world’s top golfers come from. The per capita success of nations such as Sweden and Denmark, as well as South Korea, is truly remarkable.

South Korea leads the way, largely on their success in the women’s game, but the country also has eight of the world’s top-200 men’s golfers. Japan also makes the list, promising continued growth of the game in Asia.

Overall Top 400 per capita

Overall: Top-400 golfers per capita.

The major countries in golf, Australia, the U.K., and the U.S., all still sit firmly on the top-10 list, and they aren’t going anywhere soon — the three nations alone make up more than 40 percent of the world’s top players. But the continued internationalization of golf’s major tours means that golf fans can look forward to great players from golf’s top nations being challenged by worthy competitors from smaller nations.

In case you didn’t notice, the world of golf is in good hands.

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Will works in Toronto, and as a hobby pursues sports analytics, specifically in the world of golf. He writes articles that use statistics (correlation, rather than causation) to bring (sometimes farfetched) insights and raise discussion about international golf. Will played college golf and competed internationally for Canada as a junior. These days, he’s a weekend player with a fondness for violent duck hooks.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Relative success of the world’s top golfing nations | PureStrike Golf Academy - Destin, Florida

  2. drewmin

    Nov 5, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    looks like you did the republic of ireland as “ireland” and northern ireland as the UK. if i’m not mistaken, the golf association is for the entire island of ireland. i realize that you’re talking about “countries” but given this fact and the devolution of the UK (northern ireland having its own parliament), this might be an interesting thing to consider. i’m no math whiz so i don’t know what the numbers actually look like, but that would boost ireland as a whole. and it’s also just plain remarkable how well northern ireland does alone (2 players in the top 11!).

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