Irish golf clubs have lost 26% of their members in the last 7 years

Jenny Yu
By Jenny Yu June 25, 2014 17:15

Picture courtesy of Flickr user hounddog32

More than a quarter of all the adult members of golf clubs in the Republic of Ireland have abandoned their membership since the start of the economic downturn.

The staggering figure has been confirmed by the country’s two golf unions, the Golf Union of Ireland (GUI) and the Irish Ladies’ Golf Union (ILGU).

The country had 229,000 members in 2007, which was made up of 177,000 men and 52,000 women.

Today it has just 170,000 members in total, pushing the country back to the same level it was in 2003, made up of 130,000 men and 40,000 women. The loss of 59,000 members equates to nearly 26 percent of the country’s total, and is one of the main reasons why many Irish golf clubs have suffered financial difficulties in recent years.

Ireland has 423 clubs affiliated to the GUI, having lost 10 last year.

The situation in Ireland has got so serious that Leinster Golf, which runs the amateur game in that part of the country, where six golf clubs closed down last year, has formulated ‘Roadmap 2017’, to help golf in the province to maximise its resources and meet the challenges it faces.

Ten areas are identified, from coaching to clubs and finance to membership, in which 44 initiatives are proposed for completion over the next three years.

These include a national recruitment drive for new golfers, to make golf as fulfilling and enjoyable as possible for those already playing, to improve communications between golf’s authorities and golf clubs, and to offer struggling golf clubs advice on effective ways of recruiting new members.

The executive summary of ‘Roadmap 17’ states: ‘Golf and non-golf income for members’ clubs is diminishing, placing many of them at risk of terminal decline.’

Leinster Hills, The Glebe, Tuskar Rock, Woodlands, Bodenstown and Navan GC have all closed down in Leinster in the last year, while other clubs are in receivership.

John Roche, CEO of Confederation of Golf in Ireland said: “Really, we are about trying to create a better awareness of golf and developing programmes that focus on getting men, women and juniors to play. But it also to make sure we bring those customers, if you like, to clubs that have good governance, good business structures and good coaching programmes.”

Roche said he intends to draw on the vast wealth of information Leinster Golf gleaned from an extensive survey of 8,300 golf club members, various other stakeholders and officials from other sports.


Jenny Yu
By Jenny Yu June 25, 2014 17:15
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  1. Kevin Markham June 26, 09:25

    The statistics are frightening – and the reasons for them – but there is a caveat: many of those golfers who have left clubs continue to play golf and, therefore, pay green fees. It is by no means a replacement for lost membership fees, but it does mean that some income does continue to flow into club coffers.
    Perhaps the biggest problem of all is the age profile, with membership continuing to be dominated by the over 50s and 60s at many clubs.

    Reply to this comment
    • Pudsey June 26, 12:46

      Frightening but not surprising. Golf is a discretionary spend so when belts are tightened an expensive membership is the first thing to be let go. I wonder if so many clubs would have been in difficulty if they had worked harder to tailor fees and packages for those who were finding cashflow tight?

      Fully agree that most people are probably still playing. Attractive green fees can be found. Also, some clubs such as Hibernian offer pay as you play fee structures which can be more attractive for less frequent golfer.

      Good article! Very thought provoking.

      Reply to this comment
  2. @LinksTimes June 27, 06:32

    Irish golf clubs have lost 26% of their members in the last 7 years

    Reply to this comment
  3. Peter Finnan June 27, 06:51

    Kevin hits the nail on the head, most are now green fee contributors. I have a lot of friends in this catagory that have given up membership at a club. Instead of spending over €1000 for membership they join or form a golf society but invest the savings in equipment . They have the best of gear and play 20 differant clubs a year and still works out cheaper than their old memberships.

    Reply to this comment
    • Peter G June 27, 16:35

      The pity here is the refusal of so many to envelope the club ethos, the club spirit and the benefits that follow from club membership. People are self centred and don’t care if clubs live or die.

      Reply to this comment
      • wr June 30, 10:47

        Peter, I’m not trying to be glib here and am genuinely interested in a response, as someone who plays every week but can’t see the justification in paying thousands of euro for membership can you explain to me “the benefits that follow from club membership”?

        On another point, I think “club ethos” and “club spirit” are overvalued as a selling point by existing club members particularly lifelong members. As someone with no connection to the clubs in my area, the spirit and ethos matter less than value and quality in the initial decision making process.

        Reply to this comment
  4. CIMSPA Yorks&Humber (@CIMSPA_YH) June 27, 08:50

    Irish golf clubs have lost 26% of their members in the last 7 years

    Reply to this comment
  5. Pro Golf Group (@ProGolfGroup) June 30, 12:25

    Irish golf clubs have lost 26% of their members in the last 7 years #GolfBusiness

    Reply to this comment
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