England Golf launches its plan to save golf

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir July 24, 2014 10:46

The body that runs amateur golf in England, England Golf, has launched a far-reaching three-year plan to stop the decline in golf.

Weekly participation in the game has dropped by 12 percent since 2005, and the authority has now revealed that memberships at England’s 1,900-plus clubs have fallen from 882,640 in 2004 to 675,000 in 2014. This spectacular drop has meant that several golf clubs have closed down since 2007, while many more have struggled financially.

Launched at Moor Park Golf Club in Hertfordshire, Raising Our Game: The Strategic Plan for England Golf 2014-2017 aims to increase the number of people who play golf at least once a week from 750,000 to 910,000, stop the decline in membership numbers and provide an improved image of golf.

The plan calls on clubs to forge stronger links with schools, businesses and community groups, attract more women to their venues, carry out more surveys of their members and provide more flexible membership options.

The plan also has recommendations for both England Golf itself to change, which includes improving data collection and its relationships with clubs, and for county golf partnerships to change, which includes providing more programmes that introduce people to golf.

It is the result of over a year’s work by the organisation since its chief executive, David Joy, took over the position in 2013.


England Golf CEO David Joy

“It’s estimated that 2.8 million people play golf at least once a year,” he said. “But the sport is also facing significant challenges, with declining numbers of golf club members and a drop in overall participation. 

“We ignore these trends at our peril and we all need to work together to raise our game and make the most of the opportunities which exist for golf.

“What we are planning to do certainly isn’t easy, but it is important and by working together, by raising our game, we have a real chance of success.”

He went on: “We have much to do over the next three years, but we will be rewarded with a much better understanding of what golfers really want, whether they are club golfers or independent golfers, men or women, young or not so young. That knowledge will help us, collectively, to offer golf in the way golfers want it.

“This plan provides us with the opportunity to really work together, to combine our efforts for the good of the game.”

The strategy was introduced by TV sports personality Di Dougherty, who told the audience: “I really believe in the importance of this plan and in us all working together to promote and develop the game, which offers so much to so many people of all ages and abilities.”

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The event highlighted a host of success stories from clubs across the country including: 

• Cookridge Hall Golf Club in Leeds, which has links with 50 local schools and gives taster lessons to around 1000 youngsters each year.

• Stonelees Golf Centre in Kent has engaged with local disability groups to offer golf to over 100 disabled people.

• Tapton Park Golf Club in Derbyshire has launched a 50-plus golfing scheme designed to improve fitness through playing golf and linked to the local health and well-being strategy.


Warley Park Golf Club in Essex, which attracted over 80 ladies to the club in a six week period, with 40 ladies taking up further coaching and playing opportunities.

• Gaudet Luce in Worcestershire was one of the clubs featured in video footage, highlighting how they attract beginner golfers with the complete family environment, including a nursery, gym, hairdresser and beauty salon. The club’s memberships include a point-based package, over 160 juniors attend the golf academy each week, 120 people have been introduced to the game in six months through Get into golf and PGA professional Russell Adams works with blind golfers and a local special school.

Graham Yates, England Golf chairman, commented: “By working together in this way we will be better equipped to support golf clubs in these testing times, which is our principal concern.” 

Jennie Price, chief executive of Sport England said: “This strategy is very encouraging and will help to focus attention on the importance of increasing participation in golf.” 

Sandy Jones, the chief executive of the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA), added: “The PGA welcomes and endorses the launch of the plan. It is vital for the game that we do all we can to welcome new players to the game, entice lapsed players to return and also encourage our existing golfers to play that little bit more.”

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Colin Mayes, chairman of the UK Golf Course Owners Association, stated: “We’re delighted to work together to spread the message that golf is a game which is open to all and which has so much to offer the whole family. These are challenging times but clubs which listen to their members and visitors and act on their feedback will be able to take advantage of the opportunities which exist.”

The plan can be downloaded here.



Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir July 24, 2014 10:46
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  1. Pottsey July 24, 13:14

    Where were all of the external practice nets for non golfers to have a try, in Southport when the ladies Open was on ? or even at the Open for that matter. Plenty of golf exposure – but only to existing golfers. What’s being done to allow non golfers to have a go ?

    Reply to this comment
  2. Adrian Stiff July 24, 17:20

    The main thing in my opinion to get more people playing golf is too attract the Over 40s and SELL the idea of the fitness for 50 years that goes will golf. Doctors say playing golf will make you live longer, with the right advert/campaign that is a great reason to convince many. Ladies without doubt is another great angle. Juniors I am not so sure, yes it is great they play but they get distracted at 16 with other things more important and until they are financially settled with less a burden on family ties it is hard to retain them. Golf Clubs should encourage free taster/ learner sessions, groups of 8 at a time the club pay’s the pro say £20 per hour and work hard trying to give 3 or 4 sessions away as bait…..some people will be hooked and when they are hooking the pro can sort him out at the proper rate!

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  3. Anonymous manager July 25, 09:31

    Why do these golf “Authorities” over bluster and complicate everything, is it just to justify their being ?
    Now we have this “Strategic Plan”, bullshi*t baffles brains – again.
    30 years ago I wrote to all of the golfing bodies suggesting a “Golf Starter Pack” be produced, self funding, as it had crossed my mind that when I was asked by a potential new player what they needed to do, I had nothing to give them to read through to prepare them. I was ignored. There is still nothing to give to a complete novice thinking of taking up golf to start off their education. I thought it was essential then and am convinced it is now, even more so.

    Every member of every club should have access to these to hand to anyone they hear of who may be thinking of playing, they should also be in every sports shop & facility in the land.
    After all, lets face it, if they were handed the only real free publication, the Rules of Golf, it would be enough to put people off for life although a brief, simplified version should be included in the starter pack, just a taster.

    If someone asks you what to do if they want to start playing, what do you tell them ? No starter pack to hand them, so, go to a Pro, he hasn’t a starter pack to give them either.

    Golf is only in the state that it is in because of itself, nothing else. And the solution is staring them in the face and so easy to apply, without the need for strategic plans.

    I have said it before, 90% of the population don’t play golf or worse still, don’t have affordable access to it. My local Municipal is £15, because again it’s run by people who don’t know what they are doing ! It should be no more than half that ! Even if it were, new players shouldn’t be going there as there has been no preparative education, it’s dangerous.

    No wonder it’s all in such a mess !

    PS And the sad thing is nothing will change for all of the huffing & puffing. T’was ever thus !

    Reply to this comment
  4. Alan Walker July 25, 10:00

    Many issues to overcome and the ‘strategic plan’ does highlight many areas (and solutions) that are already known by golf clubs and golf club operators throughout the country. It doesn’t help things with the layers and layers of administration that are in place rather than one specific body to address the needs of growing the game and, importantly keeping people’s interest up. One area that I think needs looking at is this myriad of rules and regulations relating to handicaps and competitions – I’ve never seen anything so complicated for any sport. A lot of it is to deal with the new ‘in thing’ in sport – ‘fairness’. Why don’t authorities allow the PGA Pro to give a handicap ‘assessment’ to get people started. Most Pro’s in the UK can look at people make one or two swings and couple of putts and chips and say ‘this person is approximately a 24 handicap’ and away they go. Ok, sometimes they will get it a bit wrong but rarely in my opinion. That bypasses this 3 card 54 hole system, marked by a member, etc. etc. that is just fraught with irrelevant protocol all to play off 24 or higher. Another stupid ‘fairness’ new rule is stoke indices of holes. Why not go back to hardest hole – lowest index, easiest hole, highest index – simple.

    The problem we have with golf is that it’s layered with rules, etiquette and protocol that turns people away from the game. Why do you think Adventure Golf courses are so popular ? well its an easy answer – fun, enjoyment, no rules officials, no handicaps, no dress code, can be played with the family, mild form of fun competition, reasonably quick to play. But we (by that I mean most golf clubs) offer, plenty of rules, plenty regulations, handicap requirement, a dress code, lots of competitions, slow to play – and layers of committees made up of 65 year olds and above who are quite happy legislating for more rules and restrictions to playing what should be a fun experience.

    There are a number of issues but the above does highlight some of the reasons that individuals don’t see golf in the same light as other sports pastimes. The answers are there but it needs a bit of a radical overhaul at this time in the golfing cycle of life.

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  5. Rob July 25, 18:58

    From a golfers point of view all they want to do is to play golf! The game has forgotten that it’s supposed to be a sport and not a business or money making machine for the equipment manufacturers. To much pushing junk equipment etc.

    My second point is that rounds take too long. Four hours should be a maximum and then you have to finish. On the rules side it’s way too complicated and my pet hate is 5 minutes to look for a lost ball. That’s way too long for a poor amateurs. Ok maybe for the pros that loose one ball max a round, but not for the 28 handicapper that insists on looking for the full allocation for every ball they loose! It takes forever to get round.

    Reply to this comment
  6. Jimbo July 26, 09:45

    Golf needs more terrestrial tv coverage to make more people want to take the game up.

    Reply to this comment
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