Golf ‘desperately needs to change its image’

Tania Longmire
By Tania Longmire April 2, 2014 10:37

Golf ‘desperately needs to change its image’

A golf conference on participation has concluded that the game urgently needs to change its image – as a new survey finds that infrequent golfers are deserting golf and not being replaced.

women horizon league

Golf needs to change its image to attract more women, according to commentators. Image by Horizon Golf

Representatives from a number of clubs have attended a golf partnership conference at Brocton Hall Golf Club to discuss how to encourage more younger people, women and people with disabilities to take up the game, as participation and membership levels among traditional golfing profiles is dropping.

The survey finds that participation in golf in the UK in the first quarter of 2013 was down a staggering 32 percent compared with 2012, putting it at its lowest level in over a decade.

In total, Britain lost 150,000 golfers in 2013, meaning that overall participation has dipped below 3.5 million golfers for the first time in the last ten years. The loss is almost entirely down to ‘infrequent’ golfers, who play less than 12 times a year, giving up the game in 2013.

Professional golfer Richard Challoner, from the Mark Butler Golf Academy in Dudley, said golf needs to break down barriers and pull away from the stigmas the game is associated with.

Co-organiser of the conference, Gareth Shaw, added: “I think a lot of people have the viewpoint that golf is still in the dark ages.

“It’s not all about guys in diamond jumpers and Mercedes sitting in the car park, it’s about anyone being able to have a go and anyone being able to play.

“We have got to break down the barriers in golf and embrace the sport to let everyone engage as they should.”

The SMS INC research found that if infrequent golfers are taken out of the equation the industry actually had a good year in 2013, however.

The number of ‘avid’ golfers (who play at least once a week on average) increased by nearly 89,000 players.

More golfers also used a driving range and a par three course in 2013 than 2012.

“This offers signs that golfers are ‘coming back’ to the game by making use of arguably more practical, less time-consuming facilities,” said a spokesman for SMS INC.

“After the disruptions caused by the weather and sporting events in 2012, it seems that these infrequent golfers have not yet made it back onto a full length course though.”

Richard Payne, senior manager of Sports Accounts at SMS INC, added: “Trends over recent years have highlighted the habitual nature of the casual golfer.

“Whilst the die-hard golfers will fight tooth and nail to play, infrequent golfers, many of whom have several demands on their time, make their decision as to whether golf will be a part of their year very early so it is the challenge of the industry to ensure clubs are dusted off considerably before the Masters.”


Tania Longmire
By Tania Longmire April 2, 2014 10:37
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  1. Frank Clapp April 3, 11:45

    Has anybody considered that maybe with the recession continuing this is down to reduced “discrtionary spend” available to those golfers?

    Reply to this comment
  2. Ian Mullins April 3, 12:01

    unless Golf Clubs improve their customer service and start treating Pay & Players as potential repeat customers (rather than interlopers) the game will continue to falter. I myself (a non club member) have received dreadfully poor service from more golf clubs than I care to name and I am in the industry, the future is providing gold standard service, as good as I receive in any other industry…. Help us to bring them back!

    Reply to this comment
  3. Patrick Shanahan April 3, 12:35

    Not before time. Reform is needed in the game. First and foremost it is a sport and people have to be able to participate. Consider that young people see the superstars of the sport (Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods et al) and want to emulate them, as people do with all high profile sports… and then they get a reality check when they eventually get to their local club! Imagine what it might be like for a 22 year old to want to join a club and be told they operate an interview process!

    Reply to this comment
  4. alwyn Brooks April 4, 06:28

    Both are right need value for money,access,great service,more welcoming reception,more tolerance from members to visitors and of course great golf course.

    Reply to this comment
  5. Anon April 4, 09:44

    “Golf needs to change it’s attitude” – So what’s new. We have seen this statement for years, nothing changed then, nothing will change now.

    For as long as the management “chaos” at most clubs exists it is bound to continue. The days of having considerable excess annual income from subscription payments alone began to disappear 20 years, the average club member should be paying £1500 to £2000 to maintain the exclusivity they seem to expect.
    The trouble is those running club’s refuse to recognise that significant change is required, and even if they did don’t have an iota of an idea as to what to do about it and are frightened that they may lose their “power” or have their own benefit agenda disrupted. They will do everything in their power to scheme against properly qualified personnel being appointed.

    I have managed two clubs where I have made considerable financial difference, at the AGM of one, the Chairman of Finance announced to the meeting that had I not gone to the club when I did, they would not be holding that meeting. I managed the change despite the committee, a group of people, responsible for making important decisions about which they don’t have a Scooby !!
    I managed to achieve what I did despite the committee by ignoring them.

    “300 courses need to close”

    Well of course they do, so long as everything has been done to make them profitable, (see my comments above).

    Any mismanaged business in these changing times is bound to fail, simple. If a group of either retired or failed business people with too much time on their hands, working to their own ends are given the opportunity to bolster their ego’s and self importance as a “committee member” or even “member of the board”, clubs are bound to fail, & nobody knows what to do about it. If they are told what is required, they ignore it as it’s not their idea and they are losing control if they were to. The control freaks run the asylum !!

    At the two clubs I have managed there have been significant examples of corruption, many thousands of pounds being leaked away by corrupt individuals all because those running the club don’t understand the business. If this just happed to exist at two separate courses many miles apart, how many others? This was happening at all levels, even involving a director at one club !

    I can assure you, there are millions of pounds being misappropriated !

    It is only someone who knows the business and understands how these theft’s occur that is able to identify them. Would you or any of your fellow members know if income to the club is being redirected ?? Thought not. A golf club is the easiest place in the world for the corrupt to ply their trade.

    Close the courses, but apart from reducing massive fraudulent losses, has golf really opened up to more people playing the game ? Not even close. The sport is even more elitist now than ever.

    There is a whole group of society – 90% of the population, who never have the chance to try golf !! That’s dreadful.
    The golf industry is trying to make it’s way from just 6 million of the population whilst turning it’s arrogant back on the other 54 million. The golfers are their. it’s simply that they are not allowed to be.

    I am aware of an attempt to find a local facility where those who have never tried hitting a ball could do so, with qualified tuition, for free ! Nothing but knock back after knockback, councils simply aren’t interested, even if the facilities are available, lying unused whilst continuing to be maintained. No response from headmasters with school playing fields that are often lying unused and did you know that grants for golf coaching is only available to “accredited” golf clubs ! This is spent on teaching youngsters who are already members and quite capable of having their instruction paid for by wealthy parents or grandparents. What about those who can’t afford ?

    If golf is not prepared to wake up, which those in a position of responsibility will fight tooth and nail against, then I am afraid it is bound to continue to fail. Sadly.

    Reply to this comment
  6. Reality Check April 7, 12:08

    All are right as far as i can see ! BUT give members a break because without them lets NOT forget that the club either wouldn’t be there or in such a state as to be unplayable !!
    I read a lot about Golf and many are saying it needs to change BUT what too i think it has been dumbned down already by things like the handicap system that seems to make it easy to win off a high handicap .Where has the incentive to lower your handicap gone .By no enforcement of active or non active handicaps or in fact the rules when playing !!!!

    The club i am a member at has done loads to promote its self and to open up to the wider community .The only new members we are attracting are coming because the new members rate is less than 50% of what existing members pay and thats whether they are a member of another club or not so NOT even NEW to golf!!! Yes por full playing rights .How would you feel as a member of 20 years . As for the 20/20 cricket argument i dont know if anyone in golf has noticed yet that the first cricket match 99.95% of people play is 20 overs .T20 is in crickets blood !! 9 holes of golf or playing with giant holes is not in anyones blood .
    sSo how should golf change ???????

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