Top Links:

Get A Golf Handicap

UK Golf Guide

Golfshake Top 100s

Find Golf Travel Deals

Golf Competitions


Community Forum


Tee Times | Search | Reviews


Gear | Tour | Industry Insider


Video Library | Tuition Sections


Join | Log In | Help | Useful Links


How Waiting Lists And Joining Fees Made a Comeback at Golf Clubs

By: | Thu 28 Dec 2023

Your response to our recent membership survey reveals that the landscape has changed in recent years for golf club members.

I have had first-hand experience of this in 2023 when I decided that, after an injury lay-off, I was ready to join a club once more. I have played this game for more years than I care to remember, and things have changed.

Back in the day, you had to attend an interview, possibly go on a waiting list and almost always pay a joining fee.

But falling membership numbers altered all of this. 

However, the boom that followed the COVID lockdown has seen things change again with both waiting lists and joining fees making a gradual comeback across the game.  This was evident in the survey when we asked:

Did You Pay a Joining fee? 

  • 47% said yes who had been members for 10+ years
  • 23% said yes who had been member 5 - 10 years
  • 17% said yes who had been member 2 - 5 years
  • 24% said yes who had been member less than 2 years

Did You Have to Join a Waiting List? 

  • 21% said yes who had been members for 10+ years
  • 6% said yes who had been member 5 - 10 years
  • 7% said yes who had been member 2 - 5 years
  • 12% said yes who had been member less than 2 years

The data clearly shows the shift 10 years ago and the steady shift back following the golf boom which can be visualised below.

Golf Course Membership Data

We also asked current members about the golf they played at their golf club and generally all respondents felt they could get a tee time when they wanted with only 4% saying that wasn’t the case.  

It was interesting to hear that just 8% of you who have recently joined a club have problems with the pace of play, compared to around 24% of those who had been a member for more than five years. That would indicate that new members are just happy to be out there playing the game.  

Newer members were also more likely to see greater value in membership when we asked:

Do You Feel The Subscription Fee You Pay Represents Value For Money? 

  • 70% said yes who had been members for 10+ years (no 17%)
  • 68% said yes who had been member 5 - 10 years (no 19%)
  • 74% said yes who had been member 2 - 5 years (no 13%)
  • 75% said yes who had been member less than 2 years (no 11%)

Do You Plan to Renew Your Membership?

Long-standing members were likely to be more loyal to golf clubs when asked if they planned to renew their membership.

  • 81% plan to renew who had been members for 10+ years (no 4% with 15% undecided)
  • 73% plan to renew who had been members for member 5 - 10 years (no 6% with 21% undecided)
  • 75% plan to renew who had been members for member 2 - 5 years (no 6% with 19% undecided)
  • 74% plan to renew who had been members for member less than 2 years (no 6% with 20% undecided)

Those of you who responded to the survey (around 4,000 of you) were largely made up of seven-day members who over the age of 55.

  • Members for 10+ years - 82% 7 day membership, 88% aged 55+
  • Member 5 - 10 years - 72% 7 day membership, 75% aged 55+
  • Member 2 - 5 years - 70% 7 day membership, 65% aged 55+
  • Member less than 2 years - 60% 7 day membership, 59% aged 55+

Golfshake Survey Data

So let’s look at some of the issues you feel most strongly about:

Joining Fees

You could be forgiven for imagining that everybody would be against paying a joining fee, but that is not the case at all.

"I can understand joining fees. I think a small amount to trigger a bit of loyalty/retainer to a club could be positive. Also, it would probably deter golfers who think they can stop their DD and then restart when they fancy. I've seen some clubs charging £50 - £200 which is about right. Anything more could probably be considered greedy."

"Joining fees are a necessary evil. At a previous club that didn't charge a joining fee many members became nomads, moving from one club to another. Joining fees maintain loyalty and improve budgeting, allowing forward planning for course maintenance and improvements."

"All clubs in my area have waiting lists and joining fees, these stop people joining for a year and then moving to different course, shows a commitment.”

But not everybody agrees…

"Joining fees are becoming unaffordable for ordinary people wishing to play, it seems some club want to be elite."

"My club has introduced a £500 joining fee. An alternative club I was considering to join wants a £250 joining fee. I am seriously considering just playing casual golf in future."

Golf Club Waiting Lists

Waiting Lists

This is a new phenomenon. Until recently, most clubs were crying out for members. Waiting lists and joining fees now seem to be inextricably linked.

“My golf club needs to look after those on the waiting list and see if it can reduce the wait. It should reduce its joining fee and think about the future. The number of women members is the lowest since records began and we have too many barriers to entry regarding tee times, restricted time memberships which have not been adjusted during my time of membership and we've collected so much more data partly due to COVID restrictions and employing more staff that I believe more could be done."

“There are hardly any golf memberships available in my area. All clubs with waiting lists and joining fees that are rising. Most are charging to be on the waiting list.”

This is a new one on me. In all my years in and around the sport I have never heard of any golf club charging people to have their names on a waiting list.

"Since COVID golf clubs have jumped on the bandwagon like all other industry in gouging their clients by raising their prices, because golf is one of the things you could still do during COVID and most clubs have waiting lists now so they don't care if you leave because of the price increase."

"Whilst I didn't join a waiting list or pay a joining fee, that was during the pandemic. The popularity of golf has now led to the club having a long waiting list and the reintroduction of joining fees. Being a member of a club opens up many opportunities. I have played many 'seniors' matches, which give you an excellent opportunity to play lots of other local clubs for the price of a meal. I gave up golf for 20 years due to family and work commitments. I have been struck on my return at the changes in golf, both technological (clubs, watches, the new handicap system) and social: golf is no longer the stuffy backwater it was. My club is open and welcoming and there are a surprising amount of young people enthusiastically playing golf.”

I guess that whether we like it or not we have to accept that the face of club membership has changed for ever.

Related Content

8 Reasons Why You Should Join a Golf Club in 2024

Will You Be Renewing Your Golf Club Membership in 2024

Did Your Golf Club Tell You Why it Increased Your Subscription

Do Golf Club Memberships Offer Value For Money

Which Type of Golf Membership Suits You Best

How to Choose The Best Golf Club to Join

One Third of Golf Clubs Must Improve Their Communication Skills


What do you think? post your thoughts and feedback on the Golfshake Forum: https://forum.golfshake.com/

Tags: Survey industry insider Golf daily picks

Scroll to top