Global Edition

New report on Scottish golf

8.45am 21st May 2003 - Management Topics

The business management of Scotland’s golf facilities is put under the microscope by the distinguished specialist Dr Robert Price. The author’s findings will cause concern. Among his conclusions are that there are currently 50,000 vacant golf club memberships and that a downward financial/quality spiral is in place which could result in the closure of some clubs. Dr Price also argues that the dual roles of the R&A as a private, male, members’ club and an international governing body should be separated and the single sex, duplicate, expensive and inappropriate administrative structure should be replaced by a new Scottish Golf Federation.

This report has a wide target readership. Owners, operators, managers and committee members of golf facilities; golf administrators, developers and property agents; planning authorities, development agencies, tourist boards and council departments of leisure and recreation; golf course architects, constructors and consultants; and students in leisure and recreation management, tourism, golf management will all find immense value in ‘Golf Business Management in Scotland’ the latest research report from Dr Robert Price, (91 A4 pages, 21 maps, 13 tables, £26)

Scotland has 560 golf facilities (493 golf course facilities and 67 golf ranges) with combined annual revenues of £200 million. These facilities are managed by mutual trading members’ clubs (65%), local authorities (10%) and commercial companies (25%).

This report analyses the income and expenditure patterns of these businesses and examines the impact of governing bodies (SGU, SLGA, R&A) and government agencies (Sportscotland and Visitscotland) on the management of golf businesses.

The 21 maps show regional variations (19 local authority areas or combinations of areas) in: number of golf holes, percentage increase in golf holes 1980-2002, number of members’ clubs, population per club, number of club members, average club membership, percentage of clubs with no waiting list, percentage of vacant club membership, percentage of clubs with equal male and female annual membership fees, percentage of female adult members, percentage of junior members, average annual income of members clubs, average male adult joining fee and membership fee, average weekday green fee, average percentage of members’ club annual income from visitors fees, average annual spend on course maintenance, distribution of municipal golf facilities, distribution of commercial golf facilities, distribution of golf ranges.

The author is a pre-eminent specialist in these matters. After a career as a university lecturer and research scientist, Rob Price became involved in the golf industry following the publication of his book, Scotland’s Golf Courses (1989, new edition 2002). He has been employed as a golf consultant for 15 years providing reports on golf markets, the design of fee structures and the management and marketing of golf facilities.

The Report’s Main Conclusions

Scotland’s 493 golf course facilities are managed by businesses varying in size and quality. A classification system based on annual turnover, weekday green fees and standard scratch score indicates that 5% are class 1 (excellent), 39% are class 2 or 3 (very good, good) and 56% are class 4 or 5 (basic or very basic).

Since 1980 there has been a 25% increase in the number of golf course facilities. On a national scale supply now exceeds demand. There has been a 90% increase in the number of golf ranges over the same period.

Scotland’s golfer population is subdivided into two groups: 200,000 club members and 300,000 non-club members. The number of club members is static and may be in decline while the number of non-club golfers is increasing.

Fifty percent of clubs have no membership waiting list – there are 50,000 vacant club memberships.

83% of club members are males, 12% are seniors, 13% are juniors (only 1% female juniors).

Fee structures based on age and sex are likely to be replaced by fee structures based on levels of usage.

Some clubs are experiencing a decline in both membership fee income and visitor fee income. A downward financial/quality spiral is in place which could result in the closure of some clubs.

54% of members’ clubs operate on annual incomes of less than £150,000 and are unable to provide facilities appropriate to modern requirements.

Many municipal golf facilities require capital investment and improved management.

Sixty new commercial golf course facilities have been opened since 1980. Many are basic and very basic facilities in poor locations. New mid-market commercial facilities find it difficult to compete with existing members’ clubs.

Scottish golf administration consists of single sex organisations (county unions, SGU, SLGA, R&A). These organisations only represent 40% of Scotland’s golfers. The SGU only represents 30%.

The single sex, duplicate, expensive and inappropriate administrative structure should be replaced by a new Scottish Golf Federation representing all golfers.

Individuals rather than clubs should be affiliated to the National Federation and be given access to a simplified handicapping system.

The dual roles of the R&A as a private, male, members’ club and international governing body should be separated.

Inappropriate strategies have been developed for the development of golf tourism and for junior golf development.

Following a period of expansion and capital investment (1990-2000) Scotland’s golf businesses are now operating in a competitive market which may require rationalisation and modernisation of management systems if both the accessibility to, and quality of, facilities are to be improved.

‘Golf Business Management in Scotland’ Research Report 2003

by Robert Price PhD, DSc

91 A4 pages, 21 maps, 13 tables, £26

Available from: Dr. R.J. Price, 16 Northbank Road, Kirkintilloch, Glasgow G66 1EU

Tel: 0141-776-4282

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