Golf is Cheaper Than You Might Think
Life is for living and when we are not working, we all like to fill our spare time with hobbies, pastimes, exercise and things we enjoy and there are limitless options for what we can do. People go to the cinema, they work out, they go bowling - even mini golf. Additionally, many people will fill this time with competitive and recreational exercise and sports; football, rugby, tennis, cricket and golf.
One thing all of these activities have in common is the barrier of entry. As adults, we are expected to pay for these endeavours, but do they all share an equal worth? Whilst this will be dependent on the interest levels that they promote for the individual, we take a look at how golf compares and assess the value of green fees and golf club membership.
Rising Green Fee Prices
We have recently seen a lot of controversy regarding visitor green fees and also increased membership prices.
The Revenue Club are industry experts in online sales and they work closely with golf clubs to help manage tee time bookings and green fee revenue.
Data supplied by The Revenue Club showed that in 2019, the average green fee price increased by 1.1% in comparison to 2018. However, the jump from 2019 to 2021 was exponential, rising by a staggering 11.5%.
While those figures may strike fear into you, is it really surprising? Considering that visitor fees failed to rise in alignment with general inflation, golf was overdue a restructure on pricing.
Rob Corcoran, Revenue Club Director, believes that the demand for the sport has enabled clubs to raise visitor prices.
“With the surge in demand, we are seeing a move away from the very cheap rates that were commonplace a few years ago and golfers may need to re-adjust their expectations of what it costs to play a round.”
A few years back, with declining golf participation, clubs relied heavily on visitor fees as a reliable stream of income.
However, following the pandemic and boom in participation numbers, this has resulted in an influx of golfers and increase in membership, meaning green fees are now less important in regard to revenue. Along with a simple supply and demand, this has resulted in prices rising and the re-adjustment mentioned by Rob.
The consensus from professionals within the industry is that golf membership fees are now a large proportion of annual income and therefore, will take priority going forward.
Rob Corcoran commented: “Some clubs now find themselves in a position where the membership is so buoyant that they are no longer dependent on visitor income.
“The increased demand and adjustment of green fee prices allows them to better illustrate the value and benefits of membership which is clearly a more stable financial model from their perspective.”
But regardless of the increases being seen, how does golf compare to other recreational and entertainment based activities in terms of value?
How Does Golf Compare To Other Activities
Swimming has long been used as part of a fitness regime and the benefits are remarkably clear.
The average price for an hour lane swimming Is around £5.
Swimming hourly cost: £5
Although it may be related to traditional golf, they are evidently different but a great fun way to experience something contacted to golf. The averare price for 18 holes of miniature golf is around £10. The pace of play is situational and dependent on several various factors - busyness of the location and skill of the group.
Typically, it would take no longer than 30 minutes to complete 18 holes of crazy golf.
Crazy golf hourly cost: £20
The Hollywood Bowl Group are the biggest operating in the United Kingdom; for an adult to book a game of bowling - which is stated as 20 minutes of entertainment by the company - it will cost £15.80 per person. If we were to round that up to the hour mark, 60 minutes of bowling would cost an adult £47.40.
We can even go further for this one, considering each game of bowling has ten frames. Unless you secure a strike, you’ll be bowling twice each frame. If you had the maximum of 20 bowls, then each one would cost you 79p.
Bowling hourly cost: £47.40
Cinema ticket prices have actually decreased from the height of 2017 (£7.49). In 2020, the average admission charge was £6.75 and when you consider several films pass the two hour threshold, this is good value.
What we mustn’t forget, however, are the amenities and snacks that come along with a trip to the cinema. Drinks, hot food and sweets are all overpriced and with strict rules around bringing your own food, it’s expected the visitor would pay for extras.
Vue Cinema have their pricing available and if we were to take one item from each category, the cost would rise exponentially. Small popcorn (£5.60), Doritos (£3.39), hotdog (£5.30), sweet bag (£3.89) and a bottle of water (£2.99). While the initial fee for the ticket may seem generous, there are other avenues to make up for that perceived kindness.
Estimated cinema hourly cost (with snacks): £13.97
The Value of Visitor Green Fees
Back to golf, finally! Our recent Golfshake Survey unearthed a few interesting points around the general consensus of increased prices. Simply put, golfers will not accept it willingly.
However, what’s interesting to understand is when you compare a typical hour of golf to other activities, it’s not as expensive as you might think.
One important thing to note, championship venues will always be triple - if not more - the cost of a standard pay-and-play. Therefore, it’s important we don’t include these revered courses for this argument. To play a major championship course will always be a special moment and for a lot of golfers, a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Earlier, we stripped down the cost of bowling to how much it would cost per bowl thrown and it equated to 79p per bowl.
Assuming the average golfer shoots a score of 90 playing as a visitor on a typical pay and play course costing £35. The cost of each golf ball struck during a round of golf is estimated at 38p - not bad at all.
Green fees, understandably, do differ around the UK and prices have fluctuated over the last five years. Below we look at how regions differ and what the cost of golf equates to by looking at the published visitor green fee pricing.
Stockwood Vale Golf Club, based in the west of England is well priced and held in high regard throughout the west country and a weekend green fee is £31.
Five years ago, a weekend green fee at Stockwood Vale would cost £25. Over the course of half a decade, the weekend pricing has risen by £6, increasing by 24%
Alderley Edge Golf Club in Cheshire have fantastic practice facilities available and the course itself is continuously kept in wonderful condition.
A green fee for a weekend round at Alderley is £35 during summer season. However, looking back at the green fees pricing five years ago, the cost has decreased over time having gone down by £5, decreasing by 12.5%.
Midlands located Leek Golf Club is highly rated among the Golfshake Community. The club list their weekend summer pricing at £40. In five years, the club have not raised or lowered their green fee pricing - in any category.
As golfers and consumers, we know that you pay for what you get and supply and demand will affect the price that we pay so golf course visitor fees will differ considerably. However, based on our research and brief information outlined above the average summer green fee price is around £35.
Applying the same logic as the other activities that we have discussed and basing a round of golf on four and a half hours of activity. This equates to:
Pay and play golf hourly cost: £7.76
The Value of Golf Club Membership
Within the last 18 months golf clubs have seen a rise in membership. Many clubs in the local area to me cannot accommodate more members and that’s directly linked to the boom that golf has experienced since 2020.
It’s good news that so many more people are playing golf but it’s also disappointing to hear that clubs cannot accommodate the demand for the sport.
While we have spoken extensively about the benefits of becoming a member to a golf club, it is still a financial commitment regardless.
On average, annual membership fees are between £800 and £1,600 for adults that do not qualify for an age bracket reduction.
Golf club members will differ in terms of their participation but based on an average price for membership of £1,000 and the average golfer playing once per week, this equates to a round of golf costing under £20.
Of course, the winter season will naturally deter some club members. However, during peak season, several rounds through a week would help bolster that average to once every seven days.
Club members will also be more likely to want to ensure a quicker round so for the basis of this analysis we have assumed an average round time of four hours highlighting the incredible value from being a club member who is able to play on a frequent basis.
We also cannot forget the extra benefits that come with membership: reduced range fees, discounts on food and drink, etc.
Golf Club Membership hourly cost: £4.81
Golf Really Is Cheaper Than You Think
Making the decision to become a golf club member clearly provides substantial savings for golfers who are able to fully utilise their membership and whilst for our analysis we have simply taken the published full visitor green fee, there are still courses available that offer reduced green fees, especially during off-peak times, with accessible venues such as municipals, 9 hole courses and visitor focused courses also bucking the trend.
Rob Corcoran commented: “There are still affordable green fees available but they now tend to be in the real off-peak times on weekday afternoons and evenings.”
One word of caution though from a recent comment on a Golfshake article. What will happen in the long term if green fee prices continue to rise for visiting golfers and in-particular society golfers?
"Green fees are going through the roof, and will soon become unaffordable to the majority. If clubs continue to increase these fees as they are doing, within the next year, the visitor/society section will collapse. As a society organiser, I can bring 35 players for £40 but none at £50."
This is something we will look to cover in a future article and how visitors and societies are balanced against the more financial sustainable membership revenue and what this may mean in the long term.
We must also remember when analysing the price is the cost to maintain the product we are paying for. Just stop and think for one minute the cost to maintain the land the golf course sits on and the work that goes into presenting the course for you to play with manicured fairways and pristine greens.
While golf will always be more expensive than other traditional sports, the price difference in contrast to other leisure and entertainment activities can be viewed as good value.
You could even say that, for now, golf is cheaper than one might think.
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