The second issue of The PGA’s new golf business journal offers an all-encompassing view of how golf clubs operate. Specifically, it tackles the issue of membership, which underpins the whole structure of golf at grass-roots level.
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While golf is enjoyed by thousands of people on an ad-hoc basis in lots of different ways, club membership is how many people experience the game. For members, visitors and guests alike, golf clubs have a huge impact on what golf looks and feels like.
In Great Britain and Ireland, that often means balancing respect for centuries of history and tradition with the changing demands of a 21st-century audience.
As Phil Anderton, the R&A’s chief development officer, puts it in an exclusive interview for GBQ: “We need to have all of the constituent parts of golf realising that they’re in a competitive world of sports, entertainment and leisure.
“What we should do is come up with common programmes we know will break down those barriers, motivate people to get golf into the consideration set, and ultimately turn up to get those lessons, and then ultimately join a golf club. And that’s our end game: more people playing more frequently.”
As we emerge from the pandemic and last year’s record numbers, GBQ have compiled the latest data that paints the current picture in terms of participation and membership.
The magazine considers where we go from here and what would need to change to guarantee a prosperous future for our sport.
GBQ interviewed an array of experts including:
• Governing bodies
“There are always going to be clubs that just think, you know what, we’re okay, we’re going to get away with it,” said Richard Flint, “England Golf’s chief operating officer. “The reality is, where do you put your resources? We would rather work with those clubs that are looking to modernise and want to do things differently. That’s where we would like to put our focus.”
• A former chief executive of England Golf
“I always felt there was a number similar to the golf club membership number who, legitimately, were playing regularly and could, with the right offer, be connected to golf clubs,” said Nick Pink. “It’s a massive opportunity.”
• Owners of modern facilities
“We don’t have members,” said Anders Mankert PGA, owner of the Leicester Golf Centre. “Everybody is a customer. And customers need to have a good experience.”
• Managers of traditional clubs
“The fact we have 27 holes gives us the flexibility and additional availability needed to manage members and guests,” said Rob McGuirk, of Prince’s.
• Golf consultants who regularly work with the clubs
“Perhaps this is the wake-up call that elected committees needed to take a longer term view,” said Kevin Fish.
• Those working at public facilities
“We don’t have members at the Links Trust in the traditional sense, but we have a very close relationship with our thousands of Ticketholders, many of whom are members of local clubs in St Andrews or beyond,” said John Grant, of the St Andrews Links Trust.
• Those running top-end facilities
“It’s up to clubs to embrace the demands, to modernise their thinking and not have a 20th-century mindset,” said Dumbarnie’s David Scott.
There is also an exclusive, in-depth look at Lethamhill, the R&A’s proposed new golf facility in Glasgow.
“The main audience is the active family; those families with kids who would be likely to play some kind of sport,” said Jenny Brown, the R&A’s Director of Business Operations. “That’s 70 per cent of our target market. Lethamhill is probably the physical manifestation of our plan for the next 10 years. It’s about a lot more than golf,” she said.