Are Increased Golf Membership Fees Justified
Golfshake's Liam Moore reacts to responses to the latest Golfshake Survey.
The age old argument of golf membership or nomadic golfer continues to rage on. The irony is that both sides have valid arguments and ultimately, it is determined by the individual and their situation – there is no right or wrong answer.
Having noted that, nomadic golfers are currently on the losing side of that argument due to COVID-19. Tee times are difficult to come by, green fees have risen exponentially in some areas and the social aspect of golf has been seriously hampered due to the pandemic.
We’re going to focus on golf membership however, and the perceived price hike. It’s important to establish that not all golf clubs have undergone an increase in membership yet enough have to warrant this discussion.
Through a recent survey conducted by Golfshake, we look at the responses and analyse whether increased membership fees are justified.
Lack of Revenue
This one is almost impossible to argue against. With clubs being closed for such a lengthy amount of time, it’s natural that the establishments will look to recuperate the funds lost as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, there is a fine line between looking to regain significant loss and ripping members off. It is a fine line, but clubs that are guilty of falling into the latter category is something that goes against the very ethics of our wonderful sport.
Nevertheless, revenue is significant for golf clubs for many reasons. Each facility is operated by wonderful and often thankless staff who keep the club running and enable us to have an environment to unwind, relax and improve at our favourite activity.
However, similarly to the exponential rise of green fees for nomadic golfers, increased membership fees hold the potential to remove the inclusivity label that golf has worked so hard on achieving in contemporary times.
By increasing membership fees, establishments are effectively pricing people out of the sport. While the system of cheaper membership bundles for younger golfers is excellent and will certainly encourage more to become involved with the sport, it is vital that does not come as a consequence of pre-existing members.
Golfshake survey comment: “The club I used to be part of didn’t offer any financial remuneration for the lost time over the lockdown. When we found out they still made a profit, we left immediately.”
Golfshake survey comment: “Although I feel that clubs have dealt well with the pandemic, some have increased their prices and trying to join a club as a member has become a lot more difficult and financially challenging.”
It’s all very well criticising club’s inflated prices but we must also remember that the sustainability of an establishment completely revolves around two factors: volume and profit.
Without people playing the course, the business would be deemed unviable. Moreover, without turning over a profit, it would be impossible to maintain the course’s condition or even further enhance it.
Considering this, and the lost revenue throughout the various lockdowns, it could be argued that it was inevitable that pricing would increase - taking into account that clubs had roughly lost a quarter of revenue.
Golfshake survey comment: “A number of clubs seem to be investing in their course and facilities, using the quieter periods to undergo improvements.”
This is fantastic news. It’s great that clubs are pumping money straight back into their ‘product’ and thus, increased membership fees would be softened if golfers are aware that their course is positively impacted because of it.
The issue, however, is when establishments are charging more and seldom reinvesting in their facilities.
Golfshake survey comment: “I’m not sure clubs have dealt with this well. We have noticed that the upkeep of the course has been poor and rough. I have noticed that since golf has returned, I have lost more golf balls just off of the fairway.”
If you’re paying more for membership, then it is right to demand better communication and improved service.
The community rely on golf courses and clubs and without them, golf simply would not happen. However, it is wrong to compromise on what was once available – especially if the level of delivery does not improve alongside it.
The Modern Economy
If you couple in the political developments over the last four years with the unexpected pandemic, then it is obvious that the modern economy will take a hit alongside it.
If the economy is losing money from the very top, it is only natural for it to trickle down and eventually effect everyone.
Considering this, the argument for increased membership prices becomes a catch-22.
On the one hand, clubs need our financial assistance to ensure their long-term sustainability. On the other, with reduced money coming into households, it becomes harder to justify exponential fees for recreational activities.
Tough, isn’t it?
There have been some reports of reduced tee times, which can cause problems for the speed of play but more importantly, from a health perspective too.
Golfshake survey comment: “Clubs are trying to claw back as much money as possible. My club has never been busier, offering only five minutes between tee times – oversubscribed.”
Five minutes between tee times leaves the golfer feeling overwhelmed, rushed and – especially for newcomers to the sport – uncomfortable.
While we have explored the rise of membership fees, please remember that not all clubs have gone down that path.
Many have put the interests of their members first and for that, we applaud those who do. It has never been so important to retain membership fees and personnel and the clubs that have acknowledged and value that will certainly prosper in the future.
Golfshake survey comment: “Thanks to the extra revenue generated from many more new members, that additional financial gain is being pumped back into the course, which was long overdue.”
If you are reading this article and you are contemplating whether to join a golf club or not, please conduct some research into the chosen club.
Try to understand if they are a community hub: Do they boast positive social aspects? Is there excellent communication between management and members? Is money being reinvested into the facilities?
If you find the answer is encouraging to these integral questions, you can be rest assured that you have made the right decision not to only improve and further enjoy your golf game, but you’re also investing and ensuring the future of golf.
As a whole, it can be argued that increased membership fees are justified. However, it is reliant on how those clubs manage the heightened costs.
If money is being reinvested, then it is justified. If not, then it’s difficult to agree with the exponential fees that some clubs are currently charging.
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