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Golfers Describe Concern at Rising Cost of Club Memberships

By: | Fri 12 Jan 2024

At Golfshake, we're always keen to understand the views of everyday golfers, which is why our routine surveys have become such a useful resource to assess the current health of the game and the topics that are most resonant in the minds of the millions out there who are the lifeblood of the sport.

Over 4,000 of you responded to our survey late in 2023, offering your perspective on the state of club memberships, which has naturally unearthed a wide variety of concerns that you would like to see addressed. 

However, perhaps more than anything, the overriding theme was cost and the general unease around the rising expense that many are facing to maintain their current subscription at a club in addition to the lofty barriers that may prevent newer players from joining in the first place.

The Cost

Economic uncertainty has dominated headlines in recent years since the global pandemic, with rising inflation leading to greater cost of living pressures in households across the country and beyond.

Golf clubs themselves haven't been immune to this - they too have faced having to manage increased expenditure - but many golfers are growing increasingly concerned that this extra burden is falling on them.

Here are just some of the comments that we received: 

"I fear I will be priced out of my golf club in the future."

"I have seen some prices of other clubs and to be honest it's horrendous what the working adult has to pay."

"I believe golf is on the brink of overpricing itself, including my own home course, which has all the required facilities from its own full size practice driving range, practice bunkers and practice putting green. Our visitors fees have more than doubled their price in the last few years, as have most of the other golf courses in our region. I only play other golf courses when they have an open competition, I find this affordable."

"Cost is the single biggest impediment to joining a golf club. I feel a lot more social events are needed to allow people to get to know one another, most members turn up, play golf and go home with no social interaction."

“Golf stands to lose players like myself, I’m a 2.6 handicap over 60 golfer thinking about trying another sport, all due to the expense of playing in the current climate.”

Golf Club Memberships

Pressure on Golf Clubs

Last year, we looked at How Could The Cost of Living Crisis Impact Your Golf? Dramatic rises in energy costs, food prices, and other associated expenses have also affected golf clubs. Some of you believe that current membership rates are a reflection of that as venues look to balance their own books.

"We are reverting back to memberships being only affordable to a select few, like years ago. This is in part to material costs increasing for clubs, and massive increases to domestic bills."

"I have noticed that most golf courses around my area (South Essex) stopped discounts for seniors and juniors immediately after the lockdown and quite a few have still not brought them back. Obviously trying to recoup their losses from lockdown. My club lost a lot of part-time staff during that period and cannot seem to recruit new people, hence there is no longer food available in the clubhouse at the present time. Members are drifting away because they are paying more for less."

"Golf clubs have suffered a huge rise in costs across all of their activities from fuel, fertilisers, wages, clubhouse costs, etc. Generating income by increasing membership is extremely difficult as it seems there are too few new people coming into the game, consequently new members come from the existing pool which begs the question are there too many golf clubs? The 'supposed' better clubs have exploited the market situation by increasing prices beyond all reasonable margins and the aging players with disposable income have been prepared to allow them to do it. This will only lead to the collapse of the less well off clubs."

"I feel golf clubs believe there is a real boom and are trying to take as much money as they can in order to make up for the times they were closed due to COVID. However, in increasing fees I feel they are not realising that everyone is suffering due to inflation. I foresee many clubs losing members as choices will have to be made as to where to spend their money."

Looking For Value

Ultimately, everyone wants to get the most value out of their membership. Back in November, we asked Do Golf Club Memberships Offer Value For Money? And they probably do - if you get the most from it. For golfers who play regularly, multiple times a week, there is no doubt that being a member is a viable, likely preferable option. 

Should you play an average of twice a week throughout the year, then an annual membership costing £1,000 means that you're paying roughly £10 a round - and that doesn't take into consideration the other benefits of being a member. However, if you're falling short of that regularity, then it becomes a more complex situation.

"It's proving ever more expensive, but at which point it becomes too expensive I don't know. It can't be far off at present rates. I'd hate to calculate the cost per round as I would probably scare myself!"

"I understand the problem of ongoing costs, but it seems that we don't get value for money nowadays as the golf course is closed more now than it's ever been."

"If you play more than once a week, membership represents good value, less than that and it's down to how much you value the ability to reserve tee times, club comps and club social life, otherwise pay and play gives more options."

Joining Fees

These were once commonplace at golf clubs but had drifted away in the past decade or so. What changed was the pandemic - and the incredible demand that the game experienced once lockdown restrictions lifted. That was a game-changer and joining fees began to reappear - as described in the article How Waiting Lists And Joining Fees Made a Comeback at Golf Clubs.

"Golf clubs are exploiting members due to current demand. I have been a member of a club for over 20 years but feel my club is being run poorly so would prefer to move to another club. However, joining the club I would like to join would cost an arm and a leg having a joining fee of one and a half times the membership fee.”

"Golf clubs need members. The fixed income derived from members allows for budgeting and planning for infrastructure and course development. Too many clubs rely on income which is not guaranteed (visitors, private functions, etc) to balance their books. If members cover the majority of fixed costs with their membership fees then any surplus can be invested in the club. Using this model I can see a justification for joining fees as any new member is making a contribution to what existing members have developed by being members. If someone joins a club for a year then leaves, they will have paid for their golf but put nothing into the fabric of the club if the only fee has been their membership subscription."

Importance of Golf Club Membership

Despite your concerns around cost, there is no question that traditional club memberships remain an essential part of the fabric of the game. These institutions offer a place of belonging, an environment to meet others, improve your game and grow as a golfer - often for a lifetime. 

That is something to be recognised. While having a membership doesn't work for everyone, it does for many among you, and that is something to be celebrated and protected.

Related Content

Will You Be Renewing Your Golf Club Membership in 2024

Do Golf Club Memberships Offer Value For Money

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

How Could The Cost of Living Crisis Impact Your Golf

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

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