Don't Expect Senior Golfers to Solve the Game's Problems
GOLF is in crisis. It is a bold statement. It is also true. Memberships continue to fall, and golf clubs continue to close. All across the UK golf clubs are looking at ways to bring in more money and encourage more people to play, knowing that they cannot afford to fail if our wonderful sport is to survive.
There have been some pretty innovative ideas. Some of them have even worked. Thank goodness for reduced fees for men and women in their 20s, reduced winter green fees, reduced fees for nine holes and an awareness that there is a need for engagement with social media.
A more worrying trend is the idea that we should be milking the cow, that we should be charging more to those who play most. And that, of course, would mean that senior golfers would be targeted. It is a fact that the over-60s dominate the game. It has always been thus, of course, but it is more marked than ever now as youngsters walk away from the game, struggling to find the time to play and to find the money to afford annual subscriptions at private clubs.
Should Senior Golfers Be Charged More?
So of course, the game is dominated by men and women who have worked all their lives and are now enjoying their retirement. They have time on their hands and play four or five times a week but pay the same subscription as those who still have to go out to work and can only fit a round in on a Saturday or Sunday. In fact, in some cases they may even be paying less because they often opt for five-day membership. Not everybody wants to be subjected to five-hour weekend rounds.
And so, because they play more their annual subscription should be higher. Right? Wrong. And spectacularly so. If the plan is to kill the game stone dead then yes, let’s charge seniors more than anybody else and drive them out. But that is not the intention. We are meant to be looking at innovative ways of growing the game.
Just stop and think about this for a moment. Yes, seniors get more value for their money than most. Yes, they play far more often. But where on earth would we be without them? Almost without exception, they visit the pro’s shop most days, where they buy golf balls, new equipment and book lessons, keeping the pro in a job. They then head out to the course and when they are finished, they visit the clubhouse, where they spend money on food and drink. Four or five times a week, 52 weeks of the year. And yes, they do play all year around. In all weathers.
They will also have their own dedicated sections, which means that on at least one day a week almost the entire senior section will gather at the club for their weekly competition. And then head to the bar en masse. Oh yes, and then there are the matches against other clubs. These are usually 12-a-side encounters which end with all 24 players sitting down to a meal - a PAID meal. And don’t forget that the senior captain will have a charity and will spend his year in office raising money for that cause - money that would not otherwise be raised.
Seniors also introduce visitors to their clubs - men and women who bring in more much-needed revenue by paying visitors’ green fees. And who may even decide to join the club if they like what they see.
So yes, we do need to find a way to bring in more revenue and introduce more people to the game. But no, the answer is not to penalise senior golfers unless we want to drive them away from the game. And it should be remembered that not all over-60s have large amounts of spare cash. In most cases, golf will be their one and only luxury.
Defying the Stereotypes
It is also widely assumed that if you are over 60 years of age then you are a technological dinosaur. Nothing could be further from the truth. Almost every ancient golfer of my acquaintance owns an iPhone and a laptop. They subscribe to Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram, which are all great vehicles for promoting the beauty of golf. Every time I play a new course, I take pictures and I post them on social media because I want everybody to understand what a wonderful game this is.
Most golf clubs now communicate with their membership (all their membership) through email and social media - the ones that fail to do so don’t deserve to survive. And those who believe that taking advantage of their seniors don’t deserve to survive either. And won’t.
We should rejoice in our over-60s, and we should embrace them. And yes, I admit that I am biased since I will not see 60 again. But guess what? I have an iPhone and I have an all-singing-all-dancing laptop. I buy concert tickets online. I buy train tickets online. I book tee-times online. I even buy some golf equipment online. And, shock, horror, I use the new-fangled internet to research many of the articles I write for Golfshake.
I am not a dinosaur. I am a golfer, I love this game, but I refuse to be victimised because of my age. I have paid plenty tens of thousands of pounds in annual subscriptions over the years and I feel no guilt whatsoever about the fact that I get better value for money for my fees than the 30-year-olds I often play with. And when I was 30 it didn’t once enter my head that the “ancients” should be paying more than I did.
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