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What Stops Many Golfers From Joining Golf Clubs

By: | Mon 21 Feb 2022

THERE are three main reasons why golfers decide not to join a golf club and, on the face of it they are pretty obvious - you tell us that it comes down to time, cost and accessibility.

For many of you, splashing out on an annual subscription that can easily reach £1,000 simply cannot be justified. And as we see inflation rising at its highest rate in years, that is something that is unlikely to change anytime soon.

Time constraints are an obvious issue, especially for individuals who have a young family. If you have paid for an annual subscription you are going to want to get your money’s worth and if you work full-time it is going to mean playing golf at weekends - they very time when there will be pressure to spend time with a partner and young children. 

Being a golf club member requires a proper commitment. It takes about four hours to play, and that is without taking into account getting to and from the course and spending time in the clubhouse with your playing partners. 

In other words, a round of golf on a Saturday or Sunday could mean being away from home for six hours. Many of you also resent having to fork out a 12-month fee, only to find that the winter weather actually means you cannot play every week.

In an ideal world, you would go out and play during the week but if you work full-time this is easier said than done, especially during the winter, when daylight hours are restricted.

Accessibility is also a real issue, with many of you concerned about the availability of tee times. At a busy golf club you are going to find it difficult to find regular early tee-times at the weekends. And the later in the day you are forced to start your round, the less time you are going to be able to spend with your family.

If, for instance, you have a young son or daughter you plays football every Saturday morning, how do you fit in playing 18 holes of golf with taking your children to and from their match?

It may also surprise some of you to learn that health and injury is an issue, especially when golfers get older. 

If you have an ongoing issue with, say back pain, you are less likely to want to commit to a golf club membership than somebody who is fully fit because you know that, at some point in the year, you are simply not going to be able to play. And back pain is more likely to flare up in the winter, when the weather is cold. When the temperatures rise, the sun comes out and the pain eases, you are likely to face more competition for decent tee-times from fellow members. 

And if you don’t believe you are going to be able to play for 12 months of the year then value for money becomes a factor that has to be considered. There are some clubs that will give you an “injury break” if you are unable to play but these are few and far between. 

With demand for membership at an all-time high, clubs are going to be even more reluctant to allow existing members to suspend their memberships.

Golfers at Golf Club

Golfshake Survey Analysis

Our most recent survey showed that 46% of respondents had been golf club members, with 12% hoping to rejoin a club soon. Given the huge surge in club membership over the past 18 months, this is not surprising.

Of the 46% who had been members before, only 9% were hoping to join a club soon, with many of you highlighting time constraints and cost as the main reasons for not joining.

Looking at the 54% of respondents who have never been club members, 15% said they now hope to join a club, with the majority saying they still prefer to play casually and have the choice to decide where and when they want to play.

Here are just some of the reasons you give for not joining a golf club:

“I want to play a variety of courses and therefore not pay club fees for not playing on a given week.”

"I like to be nomadic, playing a good variety of different courses throughout the year.”

Many of you cite choice as a key reason for not joining a golf club. You don’t want to play the same course week in, week out. But it has become more difficult to find tee-times, especially at weekends - and green fees for visitors are increasing, especially if you don’t play with a member.

"I am not interested in competitions or golf club ‘culture’.”

It is worth pointing out that just because you have joined a golf club it doesn’t mean that you have to play in competitions.

"I stopped my membership due to the golf club being run for high handicap players. Very little competitive golf and too many bandits winning major comps with ridiculous handicaps.”

And so here we have the polar opposite view. Most golf club members enjoy playing in competitions and the World Handicap System was introduced with the express aim of providing everybody with a level playing field. From the feedback we have received from you, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

"As a working person I think golf club fees are too high for someone who can only play at weekends when the courses are very busy.”

“I can only play at weekends and my local club would cost £130 a month. It is cheaper to play with friends who are members.”

"Clubs in Surrey don't offer value for money. Average club (£1,700), facilities not modern enough, restaurants not delicious (typical burger/chips English food), drinking culture too much, course quality not good enough. I now pay & play.”

With golf enjoying a boom in playing numbers, the sad reality is that annual subscriptions are not going to be coming down. Many clubs have now reintroduced joining fees and waiting lists.

"I contacted a local club and never heard back from them. Judging by the lack of tee-times they were swamped by new members who were on furlough. I'll stay casual as I'm newly self-employed and I'm not earning enough for local membership fees.”

In this day and age, there is no excuse for any golf club failing to communicate with a potential visitor or member. Clubs like the one mentioned above would do well to remember that the boom may not last for ever.

"Joining fees are ridiculous and often too stuffy although things have improved recently. I get bored playing the same course over and over. I like variety. And finally I’m not sure I play enough to get the value as I still work.”

“I don't have the time to make club membership good value for the money.”

“Signing up to a club that cannot guarantee tee times for the times I can play is a waste of time and money.”

“Courses are too busy, could not get good tee times.”

Again and again we hear that finding equitable tee-times is becoming increasingly difficult. 

Golf clubs may believe that the boom will last forever but with inflation now on the rise, many of those who returned to the game in 2020 may have some difficult choices to make as pressure grows on family budgets.

Related Content

There Is More To Golf Than Just Being A Golf Club Member

What Does The Future Hold For Nomadic Golfers

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