The European Golf Course Owners Association looks back at a successful third edition of the European Golf Business Conference last week in Berlin. ‘The Big Change’ attracted a total of 240 people from 25 different countries.
An analysis of the visitors showed that 51 % of the delegates represented a golf course, 31% represented sponsors and suppliers, while 18% were press, golf bodies, and special guests.
Many speakers talked about The Big Change, the central theme of the conference. The overall conclusion was that the so called ‘Free’ or ‘Nomad’ golfer is the growing phenomenon in the current market and the supply side of golf must change to accommodate this new type of customer.
A number of speakers also highlighted environmental issues and sustainability in golf. Gordon Shepherd, director of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said that while golf can be very good at promoting environmental sustainability, the business has a lot of work to do before its role as a good environmental practitioner will be widely accepted.
Marcel Welling, president of the EGCOA and board member of the NGCOA, said that it was his strongly held opinion that the current structure of national federations does not fit the needs of the market and actually prevents growth in golf.
The conference also received presentations from some renowned experts including. David MacLaren of The European Tour, Laurence Pithie of Crown Golf, Peter Walton, CEO of the International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO), golf course designer Peter McEvoy, who presented his concept of ‘Powergolf’, and Bill Sanderson, the Golf Business Coach.
In a session which took a wide-ranging view of the golf market in several European countries (the Czech Republic, England, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, and Sweden) several speakers confirmed that club memberships are down while the number of ‘free golfers’ is increasing. Speaking for the English Golf Union, Paul Keeling, Club Services manager explained what his organisation is doing for all affiliated member clubs – whether proprietary or member-owned – and gave notice of the launch of ‘Golf Central’ with some important media partners becoming involved..
A highlight of the event was former European Tour executive director Ken Schofield receiving the 2008 EGCOA award for his outstanding contribution to developing the European Tour and for the positive effect this has had on the growth of the game. Commenting on the conference, Mr Schofield said: “The agenda was challenging and timely for golf – particularly in the current economic climate – and the contributors were first class.”
The EGCOA revealed that the fourth edition of the Golf Business Conference will take place in Copenhagen in 2009. The timing is once again likely to be the beginning of November but the exact dates have not yet been settled.
The European Golf Course Owners Association provides services to support golf course owners in their aims, represents their interests and improves the golf business on a European level. The EGCOA supports the owners by spreading and sharing knowledge. More than 600 golf course owners are members.
European Golf Course Owners Association www.egcoa.eu