Over the last few decades, writes Colin Jenkins (Proprietor at Basildon Golf Course), there have been many changes in the way that golf has been administered and regarded by the public. Often the behind the scenes stuff has been considerably more tense than the serene image that the sport portrays to the wider public. And that is a good thing. But it has been obvious that there is a real change in the way the sport is now played, and those purchasing their golf have far more choice at better value than in years past.
The birth of the UK Golf Federation, which is a new organisation, descended directly from the UKGCOA (The United Kingdom Golf Course Owners Association), and is designed to unite all golfers, but especially pay and play golfers with courses, clubs and golf centres that really want to see more visiting traffic. In blunt terms, golf course owners know how to attract new golfers better than anyone, as they try all sorts of promotions and offers to get the best out of their venue. This ensures that they provide excellent customer service – as a happy golfer, well served by friendly, helpful staff, is likely to return. Grumpy and gruff, pompous and pedantic might have worked a treat 20+ years ago, but it will result in very low repeat custom today. These user-friendly golf clubs, courses and centres need not just be owned by a for-profit proprietor: any facility can join our merry band, providing they are genuinely welcoming of guests and not out to exclude the visitor to cultivate a culture of exclusivity, which might give them an edge in a ‘better than you’ game of membership pecking orders.
The truth about the largest category of golfer in the UK today is that they do not think that it is value to pay for an annual subscription at one particular club, as they do not play often enough to justify the investment, or they prefer the variety and flexibility of paying as they play.
These golfers are sometimes called nomadic, floating, unaffiliated, occasional, ‘pay ‘n’ players’, visitors and other names, not all of the most polite nature. At a conservative estimate there are 3.5 million and perhaps as many as 4.5 million. Wow. We will call these golfers independent golfers and they will find a natural home and a warm welcome at the UK Golf Federation.
The UK Golf Federation is here to help. We want to give these wonderful people a home, in fact we want to give them hundreds of homes. That is, hundreds of golf courses where they are genuinely welcome.
Joining the UK Golf Federation will always be free and we will always be encouraging and helpful to those who may want a little nurturing as they steer their way in the complex sport of golf.
An individual golfer, who is not a very regular player, will often feel slightly concerned at visiting a new club. We will provide an easy to navigate, regionalised list of facilities, where golfers are welcome. Some will also offer slightly reduced rates for golfers registered to the UK Golf Federation to play, and there will also be the opportunity to get great off-peak deals from UK Golf Federation facilities.
If you are not a formal member of a golf club, then it is very difficult to play competitive golf of any sort, because you probably will not have a handicap. Most UK Golf Federation venues will offer several competitions and events each year, which are open to UK Golf Federation members. The most popular format of golf is four-ball better ball, where golfers play 18 holes, with the best score out of the two on each hole counting. It is easy, inclusive and popular and there are already a growing number of UK Golf Federation meetings with such a format. The emphasis for these initial events will be up to the venue, but many will choose inclusive formats where participation and a little light competition are offered, but I am sure that this will develop over time, with member venues able to offer great variety in the type of events that they want to stage.
The UK Golf Federation will seek to bring all sorts of other advantages to their members, but a friendly welcome is the biggest gift you can give to anyone and if this is all that the UK Golf Federation succeeds in doing, then the Federation will be a wholehearted success.
From a course, club, or range owner’s point of view, there is nothing to lose in registering as a venue. Basic registration is free and this will have you added to our list of friendly facilities. All we ask is that you are open to visitors on more days that not. If you would like to get involved more fully, then we would love you to join us as Premium Members of the UK Golf Federation, which entitles you to use our branding, host events, vote at our AGM and help the Federation improve the golf industry, with fair handed logic, something sadly missing at present. This costs just £180+vat per annum. All venues joining as Premium Membership in the first 12 months will be able to use the term Founder Member of the UK Golf Federation – a genuine badge of honour for all of us trying to grow the game and make things better for our customers – the golfer.
There have been discussions at a high level as to the possibility of adding a levy of at least £1 to each green fee sold at clubs and courses across the country. The current wise thinking of the leadership of these bodies is trying to resist this stupid golf tax, but with a huge funding gap to plug, the temptation to tax green fee play will be huge and the pressure will grow as future deficits grow and government funding dries up. One of the guarantees that the UK Golf Federation make is to the golfer and the facilities is that a green fee tax would be ruinous for golf, and it will always be opposed by the UK Golf Federation. Any body trying to impose one will probably implode and wither on the vine. Golf needs encouragement and nurture, not taxes and obstacles to play.
Other golfing bodies may think that we are stepping on their toes and perhaps even getting too big for our boots. But the truth is that nobody is trying to help casual golfers with their pursuit of the sport. They may say they are, but in truth they are just trying to claim them to justify funding criteria and dominance. For years friendly golf facilities have been doing all the ‘heavy lifting’ when it comes to growing the game, but it is the exclusive clubs that continue to enjoy tax breaks, kudos and prestige events that still call the shots via the hugely outdated county representation system.
Golf does not need any more bodies, but this is not another, this is a big step forward for all who really care about the sport. We have reshaped one important Association into a new Federation for everyone. Inclusive, encouraging and free – it is a shame that other golfing organisations cannot claim that too.
Richard Haygarth, Director at Maple Leaf Golf and Chairman of the newly formed UK Golf Federation, said, “We are delighted to announce the launch of the UK Golf Federation. This is a new organisation, descended directly from the UKGCOA (The United Kingdom Golf Course Owners Association) and we will be continuing our very important work in ensuring that our courses and clubs get a good hearing in the wider golf industry. Lobbying government is difficult for an individual club or business to do, but en masse, concerns will be heard. We currently represent over 200 courses and we are sure that this number will grow rapidly over the coming weeks and months. The new Federation will also be looking to work closely with the individual golfer, who play at our members golf courses, who is not a regular player and membership will be free.”
Administration services for the UK Golf Federation will be provided by FSPA, Rural Innovation Centre, Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, CV8 2LG, Tel: 024 7641 4999. Main contact Jane Montgomery Jane@sportsandplay.com
Pictured above: ninth hole at Basildon Golf Course, which is set to stage the first UK Golf Federation event on Wednesday, 25th July
UK Golf Federation www.ukgolffederation.com