Are These the Issues Golf Clubs Still Need to Address
Golf clubs have made significant strides during the past decade to address concerns raised by the wider community of golfers, working hard to deliver a contemporary product that reflects the times, but continuing analysis of the 2019 Golfshake Survey, responded to by over 3,500, there remain several key recurring issues that need tackled in the future.
There are a small percentage of golfers stating that they may leave their current club, but crucially, a far greater number noting that they are considering joining one, showcasing a potential opportunity for venues in the years to come.
Much has been considerably complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has placed an unimaginable scale on industries and society, golf included, but the fundamental areas for driving memberships are forever relevant.
This is a topic that has been covered in the past on Golfshake, but providing a broad overview from this audience of keen golfers, a mix between club and non-club members, the data from the most recent survey has highlighted five themes for clubs to reflect on.
The respondents were asked to comment on various topics, rating the importance of the issue out of 5, with the key areas being focused around membership, cost of membership, pace of play, attitudes, club structures and social ethics.
Interestingly, when golf continues to battle against its own perception outside of the game, it was surprising to see the pace of play with pro tournaments rated so highly. If those involved within the sport are looking at how we change some of the perceptions for the better, then could a lot be done by changing how the professional game is viewed outside of an existing golf audience?
Breaking down the data, we have presented five common topics featuring feedback and comments from golfers, but for a gist of what has been expressed, these two remarks largely sum up the findings of the survey.
"The costs are becoming prohibitive; hence memberships are decreasing, along with the time it takes to play a round."
"Not sure how clubs survive and/or maintain a quality product in terms of course maintenance/club facilities if they keep fees competitive and do not have access to other means of income. My club could not do it without the wedding business and/or hotel/food facilities which subsidise the overall business and helps keep the membership rates competitive."
How Big An Issue Is...
Growing The Game - Junior, Women & Dress Codes
The rather overused expression "growing the game" has been deployed for years, but if that objective is to genuinely be accomplished, there is clearly much work to be done. However, it's important to remember that the 20-40-year-old golfers of today will become the senior golfers of the future, a demographic that has and remains the lifeblood of membership income, but expanding that base is unquestionably the most pressing issue for clubs.
"Wish the club was more flexible re dress code, more receptive to juniors."
"Need to encourage juniors, attempts have been half hearted."
"I hate the gender segregation. I wish there was no separation into women's/men’s sections."
"Need to put more focus on getting juniors to play, they are not proactive in helping members."
"I would like to see more effort to encourage juniors and women - including multiple tee boxes/scorecards for ALL."
"Golf has priced itself out of the market. Too many hotel quality clubhouses, too many championship length courses (too difficult)."
"It is getting to the stage where it does not look great for golf clubs in the future, not enough "young" ones coming into golf (if it were not for seniors most/all clubs would struggle)."
"More needs to be done to encourage children into the game and make it more family orientated."
Organisation, Competitions & Rules
Competition continues to divide opinion and with such a complex game it will always be difficult to please everyone, but what can be done to make that element of golf more rewarding for players of all ages, enhancing the management structure and running of clubs?
"Publishing of winter competition results could improve. If you pay to enter a competition then you can reasonably expect to have full results published, not just the winners."
"Disappointed that handicaps in our senior section are not recognised as an official club handicap.
The golf amateur game is now useless; cheating is now rife because society is no good. To play properly you have to play in pro-ams or professional competitions."
"Too many clubs are run by committees who FAIL to run the club as a business (main aim to make profit)."
"Management more interested in hiring out rooms for social occasions. Using club as a front. Reluctance in spending money updating and improvements."
"I would like more inter-club competitions for the mid to high handicap players. All the inter club competitions are for players of 12 and below."
"Need to modernise! Get a professional in to run the club not a mature committee."
Pace of Play & Time
There is arguably no more discussed topic in golf than pace of play, but there is a reason for that, as many golfers still believe it is a major issue, particularly in this time-sensitive perspective of modern society. How can golf adapt to improve that experience for those already playing, but also to encourage new golfers into the sport?
"Golf takes too Long. The game needs to embrace a fully competitive 9-hole format. Not to replace the 18-hole game but to provide the 30-55 year olds with a way to play without getting divorced."
"Slow play in competition golf is the major issue for me and it's struggling for solutions. I’m not actually convinced there is one."
"The senior generation do not understand the rule of letting faster players playing through."
"Too many older, slower players who would never dream of waving a faster group through, and most especially discourteous to solo players."
"Too many green fee/casual golfers getting on the time sheet and slowing down play."
"Like every other club, the pace of play is very tawdry, and nobody seems capable of changing things."
"Club introduced a tiered membership which has resulted in more weekend play/slower rounds and we still make a loss because members downgrade their full memberships. I find it once I do hit the 30-year-old mark, the cost of membership goes up."
Social Interaction & Attitudes
Golf is largely unique compared to other pastimes in that there are very few 'teams', membership numbers are often large and diverse, with golf being a game suitable for all demographics. How the game bridges those divides and alters perceptions and attitudes both within and outside the sport is a major challenge, but one that golfers believe needs addressing.
"Club are not interactive enough and do very little to encourage new members to join comps etc."
"My course is extremely poorly managed and is looking shabby. Although for a municipal it has good greens, the members can be hostile, pace of play can be dreadful, and the club shop is barren."
"My current club alienates all categories of membership and has destroyed the junior section that was vibrant, they state they have family members which has never been actively pushed into the local schools and the current council members are all bar flies and arrogant and spiteful"
"Would consider moving to a more proactive club who make more effort to involve members."
"Holes just yanked out the ground. No care at all. I have seen them being done and it’s painful to watch."
"Standards have most certainly dropped in respect of dress, observing rules of golf, membership priority against society and corporate golf."
"Course maintenance by the seniors section is very poor. Following behind their 'competitions' make finding the greens looking like a lunar landscape with little or no repair to pitch marks. Pace of play is also slow with no intention to let others through even though their 'competitions' are only weekly stableford affairs."
Membership, Course Conditions and Pricing
This is probably the biggest issue facing golf clubs in 2020 and beyond. The survey was originally conducted at the end of 2019, but now in the middle of a pandemic affecting golf clubs all around the world, it is an even more integral subject. How do clubs ensure golfers feel they are getting value for money from their membership in the UK when weather impacts and potentially limits playability for much of the year?
"With golf club membership declining, proprietary clubs need to ensure they still provide value for money and do not maintain profits by reducing the benefits they offer their members!"
"I might well leave my club and join the peripatetic fraternity of golfers. The fees at my club go up every year with no discernible improvement in any aspect of the club."
"The cost of golf membership should be reflected in the condition and amenities of the course and club and not what the club envisages their prestige to be."
"Prices are going up every year and the price does not warrant the course you're playing. Clubs that are having 9-hole courses with competitions seem to do better. In this country, we are paying for 12 months membership and only getting 8/9 months golf."
"Like a great many clubs, membership is becoming more nomadic, many clubs no longer have joining fees and have lost the loyalty factor which is very sad."
"Very prone to closing in the autumn and winter which is very frustrating."
"Full membership at my own club is too expensive for the number of times I can play. Neither am I interested in playing in club competitions due to the overly competitive nature of very keen to win golfers."
"Memberships are getting to expensive and in the UK on average we only get 8 months if we’re lucky."
"Course maintenance is really poor during winter meaning that conditions are incredibly hard - numerous temporary greens, fairways feel like you are playing out of rough, a lot of leaves on the course making finding balls hard (even on the fairway)."
"Not specific to my club but at a time of falling memberships a lot of clubs and members do not encourage adult beginners e.g. not keen for high handicappers to compete in competitions - sometimes setting rules on highest handicaps allowed, unwilling to go out with them on course and generally not include them."
"Poor quality during the winter too much time lost when we are unable to play."
"I can understand why some people are put off paying annual membership for what for many is seasonal game. Maybe more clubs need to offer flexible membership packages e.g. quarter year options with cheaper rates for the winter quarters. To attract new players including men, women and juniors, shorter courses (e.g. 6 par 3 holes) and of a target golf area might be a good idea."
"Due to the inclement climate I find winter golf impractical for 5 months of the year."
Those are the views of golfers who responded to the 2019 Golfshake Survey, covering a range of issues for clubs to address in the future once a sense of normality returns. Positive opportunities exist for clubs, but to unlock that full potential, there are several areas for improvement to consider first.
Let us know what you think is the most important question to be answered for the game, and whether any of the specific comments chimed with something in your mind.
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