One of the English Golf Union’s (EGU) responsibilities is to look for ways to attract more people into the game and clearly one of the avenues to achieve this is through municipal courses and their associated clubs. This was the general conclusion from a two-day Municipal Golf Seminar held at EGU headquarters in Woodhall Spa and attended by over 70 delegates from local authorities and golfing bodies.
It was felt that council-owned courses throughout the country offered an excellent opportunity by which youngsters and adults could be introduced into golf. Municipal courses offer accessibility to beginners at a modest cost, can be less restrictive than private and corporate clubs, and generally have vacancies for membership.
The gathering at Woodhall Spa heard a series of addresses from council representatives, heads of businesses within golf as well as officials from the newly formed England Golf Partnership, comprising the EGU, the English Ladies Golf Association, the Professional Golfers Association, and the Golf Foundation.
All were enthusiastic about attracting more people into golf, particularly youngsters and women who are currently underrepresented. It was stated that only eight per cent of golf club members in England are aged under 18 years of age while around 15 per cent are women, based on EGU and ELGA figures.
It was proposed that local authorities should use their clubs and courses as a service to the community rather than a means to subsidise other facilities; to adopt a child and family focus; and to bring a wider interest in golf within their population. This view was supported by the results of a recent EGU survey that showed that non-golfers cited barriers such as time, cost, difficulties presented by club memberships, and having no playing partner as reasons for not taking up the game.
Peter Howard, from the Birmingham City Council, told delegates that his authority had a history of promoting golf. He said a round on one of the city’s municipal courses costs between £6 and £12, is free to under 11s accompanied by an adult, while a yearly fee for under 18s is £75. He also stated that 10,000 rounds more than the national average were played over the city’s courses per year.
Richard Flint, the EGU’s Golf Development Manager, said that golf clubs must address the barriers that exist and should be made more accessible. He told the audience that 89 per cent of clubs completing the EGU’s recent survey had vacancies for membership, which represented around 47,000 places.
The survey showed that municipal facilities appeared to be addressing the low participation by juniors and women more so that private or proprietary golf clubs. The percentage of municipal clubs with an increase in boys and girls membership is 51 per cent and 15 per cent compared to the national average across all clubs of 44 and 34 per cent.
Municipal clubs are also less restrictive in requiring juniors to meet a certain playing standard. These are 15 per cent (boys) and 11 per cent (girls) against national figures of 49 and 47 per cent, while the percentages for municipal clubs with playing restrictions for juniors is 20 and 16 per cent against national figures of 53 and 52 per cent.
Roger Moreland from Sport England explained the concept of the ‘Whole Sport Plan‘ for Golf, which encompasses the development of the game from grass roots to elite level. If England is to reach the vision set for 2020 ‘To become the leading Golf Nation in the world‘ it appears that Municipal provision will certainly have a role to play in years to come. Presentations from the Seminar can be found at the following web address http://www.ilam.co.uk/ev-golf-review.asp.
English Golf Union www.englishgolfunion.org