Tough Times For Nomadic Golfers But Should They Be Surprised
When golf resumed in England at the backend of March, golfing fanatics were overjoyed with the announcement. For nearly three long months, we were without our favourite activity - even our livelihood for some.
Off the back of the resumption, tee times were effectively like gold dust. The majority of clubs were only opening for members and on some occasions, strangers would be paired together in an attempt to manage the demand.
Considering that some members weren’t able to book tee times through their own club, the nomadic golfer was truly stuck in limbo. If members weren’t able to get out on the course, how on earth would those who belong to no such establishment possibly play?
It was tough but it was also important that golf clubs rewarded members who had continued to pay into the venue without being able to utilise its services. Considering this, is it surprising that nomadic golfers were left out in the cold?
Through our recent survey, we have asked the Golfshake Community to share their thoughts on the past 18-months that have shown signs of turbulence to say the least.
We received thousands of responses and several highlighted the issues for both nomadic golfers and those who belong to a club. Below, we will explore these topics while including thoughts from the community.
I, for one, could not wait to book my first round in. The problem was, as I didn’t belong to a club, that was no easy task. I rang clubs, I emailed, I tried to book online - nothing. It ignited a thought.
‘If I can’t book tee times, then I shall join a club’. Voila, I had instant access to a tee sheet that would be uploaded 10 days in advance. I think during my first week of joining I played on four occasions.
This appears to be the future, with many clubs who trialled advanced online booking seemingly staying with the concept. One survey response supports this: “They introduced a tee booking system at my club for the first time, as a result of the pandemic. While there was resistance at first, the majority now prefer it.”
That seemed to resolve the problem for myself and other club members. However, not everyone can commit to golf membership; it’s expensive and you typically sign up for the year, regardless of your availability throughout that 12-month period.
This was a dilemma that the nomadic golfer faced. Could they afford to commit to a year if that would secure a tee time for them? As the nomadic golfers will understand, the first few weeks of golf’s resumption was stressful and frustrating.
One comment noted: “As a non-club member, when courses re-opened I found great difficulty in obtaining a tee time. Even when the booking sheet was open I was unable to access it!”
This directly correlates with my early experiences of the resumption. When there were evident accessible tee times, nomadic golfers still had no access to booking these ‘available’ slots.
Tee bookings became difficult to secure and, for 95% of clubs during the early stages of reopening, you needed to be a member. However, it’s also understandable. As aforementioned, members needed to be recuperated for so much lost time.
For almost four months, members were pumping money into a club exclusively to keep it afloat. There were no tee times to squabble about, considering that the country was in lockdown and no-one was playing.
Therefore, it is only right that those who paid for these services should be the first to be rewarded. After all, some clubs are still in business due to the selflessness of members.
Some golf clubs decided to raise membership prices when they realised the issue that was self-caused. If golfers could only get out on the course through membership, then it was inevitable that the sport would see an influx of signed up members.
The problem that many had was the decision of some - but definitely not all - clubs to raise prices. Of course, they had lost out on so much revenue during that 3-month period but everyone had struggled through COVID-19 - not just golf clubs.
One comment revealed that his local club acted unethically. “I do believe some are taking the opportunity to profiteer by hiking their fees up and now reintroducing joining fees - one club in my area increased its costs by 44% & 49%!”
That, as I’m sure many will agree with me, is shocking and it brings me back to my previous point: everyone had struggled through COVID-19, not just golf clubs.
Was the general price hike justified? That’s difficult to answer. Yes, we want our local courses to flourish and continue to be played by as many people as possible, but during a time of national unrest and unsteadiness, the price hike was probably not justified. What certainly isn’t vindicated is raising prices by almost 50%!
Alternatively, some venues decided to freeze membership prices but raise green fees. It is evident that they were rewarding those who stuck by the clubs but ‘visitors’ would not share the same fate.
Similarly to the previous comment, many green fees did not solely rise - they increased exponentially. One golfer was in disbelief at the extravagant soar. “The green fees are extortionate. Clubs who were charging £20-£25 last year have now increased prices above £35 and in some cases £50-£100 - it’s unacceptable.”
As we have discussed, it may have been naïve of us to think pricing would not rise once resumption was underway. As golfers, we would be willing to pump a little more money in to secure the long-term future of our sport. However, charging almost double for the same service? That is hugely disappointing and greedy.
Both members and nomadic golfers have lost regarding increased prices. The difference was, members were actually able to get out on the course - which made a nice change after losing out from both a financial and playing perspective.
Now that clubs are back to full operation, members have finally been given their social circle back. Obviously, this is fantastic news and I know that the unofficial Friday medal at my club is thriving with the bar absolutely stacked before I tee off in the early evening.
One comment was happy with the return of golf, as their social situation has drastically improved alongside it. “The resumption of golf allows people to get outside and engage in social activity - something that was sorely missed.”
While it is established that members are reaping the rewards of socialising through golf, nomadic golfers cannot say the same. Some bars are functioning purely for members, which leaves nomadic golfers to head straight home after their round.
It is important to note that not all golf clubs have deployed this policy but the point still remains. While nomadic golfers, prior to COVID-19, were able to attend the bar and have a well deserved drink with their playing partners, that quickly halted after the resumption.
A survey response detailed that some areas of his golf club are still not in full operation. “Some clubs have not been able or willing to reopen bar facilities yet which impacts the social aspect of playing.”
Golf is more than just playing; it encourages social interaction and to stay and review the afternoon’s play. Without the bar or other seating facilities, this enjoyable post-game activity ceases to exist.
Fortunately, we appear to be entering a realm of normality again and as a consequence, facilities will start to open its doors to members in addition to visitors.
Golf is a sport that should be enjoyed by all and not just members of a club. However, for those who paid fees during lockdown, it is and still remains important that they are treated fairly and given rightful precedence.
Considering the increase of green fees alongside all of the issues that we have explored, the nomadic golfer is certainly losing out as a result of COVID-19. Yet, through everything we have discussed today, should they be surprised?
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