Clubs urged to end bans on mobile phones

Jenny Yu
By Jenny Yu March 4, 2014 11:42

Clubs urged to end bans on mobile phones

England Golf is calling on golf clubs to relax their dress codes and restrictions on mobile phones, offer alternatives to traditional membership options and make golf affordable to try in a bid to address the problems the industry has faced in the last decade.


Golf clubs are being urged to end any bans they may have on mobile phones

English golf clubs have been badly hit by falling memberships since 2004, losing 169,000 members – more than 13 percent of the country’s membership. This crucial loss of income has been credited as the main reason why several golf clubs have closed down since the economic downturn started in 2007.

England Golf wants to stop the decline by 2017 and then reverse it so that English golf clubs have approximately 750,000 members by 2020, about the same amount they have now.

To bring that about the authority has interviewed 55 golf clubs, representing private members’, proprietary and pay-and-play, which have all increased memberships in the last two years, to see if there are any strategies that are broadly successful.

It found that many of the clubs have relaxed dress codes and allowed mobile phones to be used. In contrast, several struggling clubs have restrictions on the use of mobile phones in both the clubhouse and out on the course, and do not allow jeans or trainers to be worn at their venues.

There are ‘three key principles which our interviewees have applied that could easily be deployed across the country and could potentially reap rich rewards without profoundly changing the way the clubs operate,’ states the England Golf report Membership Recruitment and Retention, Key Themes For Implementation.

The three are friendliness, flexible membership packages and low-cost ways to get into golf.

‘A friendly, convivial environment, where it is easy to socialise and find people to have a round of golf with, was found to be hugely important in attracting new members. Some relaxing of the rules, for example concerning jeans, trainers and mobile phones, was common,’ said the report.

‘Flexible memberships recognise that one package no longer fits all and that the member who plays occasionally is still a member worth having. These schemes particularly target the younger golfer, aged up to 40.

’And the clubs sought ways to help people try golf without a big initial expense. These include ‘have a go’ days, involving existing members and offering an opportunity to enjoy the facilities, and trial memberships.’

The report added: ‘Many of the clubs also made use of outside help to promote their club, for example by achieving the GolfMark award for junior and beginner-friendly facilities, and by working with England Golf’s club services department and with their county golf partnership.

‘Most make their facilities available commercially, say for weddings or conferences, and many are seeking to build up a database of visitors’ details, often using electronic communication.’


Jenny Yu
By Jenny Yu March 4, 2014 11:42
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  1. PaulEalesGolf (@PaulEalesGolf) March 4, 14:11

    Removing barriers. May help but what about the time it takes to play?

    Reply to this comment
  2. @garethwynhughes March 4, 19:46

    Golf clubs have to adapt to the times and offer customers what they want!

    Reply to this comment
  3. Tim Coxon March 6, 13:09

    Im the pro at a club in Derbyshire. We dropped our clubhouse dress code 5 years ago and the clubhouse goes from strength to strength. We have recently (2 weeks ago) introduced our own flexible (pay as you go) type of membership and the response has been incredible so far, mixed with an aggressive and prolonged marketing campaign Im sure we are on a winner

    Reply to this comment
  4. Stuart March 6, 14:03

    Has England Golf lost the plot, smart casual and no mobile phones on either the course or in the clubhouse is not a big ask. I do however agree that there should be more flexible forms of memberships available.

    Reply to this comment
  5. Henry Smith March 6, 14:22

    A course I played at says ‘mobile phones must be on silent on the course and in the clubhouse unless you are a doctor’ and it has no WiFi in the clubhouse.

    Completely unwelcoming! I would simply never join a club that has signs like that.

    Reply to this comment
    • Stuart March 6, 14:38

      I am sure there are plenty of Municipal courses you could go and play instead.

      Reply to this comment
      • dave March 13, 10:25

        Sadly it is this type of attitude that has caused the problem of falling membership. There are only a few limited private clubs that can take that type of attitude in todays economic climate. The reality is that society has changed since the age of jackets only in the clubhouse and no tradesmen as members.
        Golf clubs need to change with the expectations of the changing society if they want to survive. Big venues such as open courses (Royal Birkdale etc) can keep certain rules in place because the demand outstrips supply. The ironic thing is these types of clubs are more open to change than your small suburban golf club, due to the pressures of foreign visitors who expect a much more relaxed environment.
        If golf clubs want to attract revenue they must look at all members and visitors as customers, not as people ‘lucky’ to play our golf course!
        Those in charge of golf clubs need put aside their petty rules and focus more on accommodating the members and visitors, not worrying about whether somebody is using a mobile phone three fairways away.

        Reply to this comment
      • Paul Warner September 9, 15:48

        This is the attitude that is killing the game

        Reply to this comment
  6. Peter Hadden March 7, 12:07

    As I understand it, the number one reason given by would-be golfers for not playing or lapsed golfers for giving-up is that golf takes too long to play. If players are allowed to use mobile phones on the course (other than in an emergency) that is only going to make rounds slower and exacerbate the problem.

    Reply to this comment
  7. Paul Warner September 9, 15:47

    The problem is historic having spent 45 years working in golf at a variety of style clubs. I have seen far to many incidents of potential members being put off.

    Working at one club I had a gentleman in come into my shop , enquiring about membership he was wearing jeans. With in 2 minutes the club member who never spent a penny in the bar , enter any competition , or purchased in my shop appeared . Why are you letting this man in your shop with jean you know the club rules. At this the enquiring young gentleman turn around told the gentleman both myself and wife have 4 handicaps and moving into the area because of my job but one thing is certain we will not be joining here.

    At another boys of 12 years of age with single figure handicaps being told they had to let groups go through because they were juniors.

    At municipal courses I worked at members of clubs that saw themselves as private clubs made new golfers feel they should not be on the course.

    We have a unusual game that can be played from about 5 years old to 100 by both sexes , players of different abilities.

    If the game is going to stop the decline it needs to re-invent its self and show it has a family game.

    Reply to this comment
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