Golf clubs in Wales report increase in memberships
Golf clubs in Wales found 2016 to be their best year for years, according to new data from the Golf Union of Wales.
More than two in five golf clubs in Wales saw an increase in members, while visitor numbers and full-time employees have risen sharply.
The key causes have been a five per cent increase in girls joining clubs, plus a marked increase in the number of membership categories being offered so potential new members could choose a package to suit their lifestyle.
More than one in eight Welsh golf clubs said their memberships have now risen two years in a row, almost two thirds of clubs saw an increase in visitor numbers in 2015, compared to 2014 (the most recent figures available), while the average number of full-time staff employed at each club has risen to eight – twice as many as 2013. The number of registered volunteers has also gone up 20 per cent, to 600.
Most of the successful clubs have been working closely with Golf Development Wales, learning the lessons from best practice across Wales.
“Everyone at Golf Development Wales has been working incredibly hard, alongside some really inspirational clubs, to reverse the worldwide trends in golf club membership,” explained Hannah McAllister, Golf Union of Wales development director.
“While numbers of people playing golf have been going up, it is also important to convert that into club membership as the clubs are the key fabric of the sport. Even nomadic golf would not be possible without thriving clubs.
“We have seen some changes, more emphasis on women and girls joining clubs, families joining clubs, without forgetting the traditional demographics.
“Many golf clubs in Wales have embraced change and have seen a turnaround in their fortunes, in some cases a dramatic turnaround.
“Obviously the aim is to see golf club membership increasing at every club in Wales, but these figures show a good start and good progress. They also show there are certain approaches which can work in all areas of Wales.”
There are plenty of success stories from all round Wales. For example Mold in North Wales has seen an affiliation increase of 41 men, nine women and six juniors.
“The main success has been from New2Golf, as well as members helping out by taking new members out onto the course, taster sessions and beginners classes,” explained Mold PGA professional Craig Tudor.
“I am as busy as I have ever been in terms of coaching and the junior academy is thriving with close to 100 juniors. We could always do with more members but we are in the strongest position I have seen here.”
Abersoch have also seen figures improve dramatically, with 46 men, eight women and five juniors.
“The key in Abersoch to successful recruitment, I believe, is being adaptable to the circumstances and geographic location we are in,” said club manager Dai Davies.
“Our demographic changes throughout the year, from a sparse population in the winter through to a massive population influx in the summer.
“Winter memberships for those busy during the holiday season, low cost introductions for returning golfers, buddy schemes for new members – we have also introduced an introduction scheme through local estate agents for those new into the area and buying a new property.
“We have adapted the New2Golf scheme to suit our club. Our start of the schemes four years ago are now starting to bear fruit with a number of new members now paying full fees.”
Lakeside in Mid Wales has seen numbers increase by more than 50 as well, while Builth Wells has seen 28 new members.
“When many clubs are struggling to retain membership let alone increase membership, Builth Wells Golf Club seems to have bucked the trend,” said the Builth professional Simon Edwards.
“Membership levels have increased across many categories including Full Male, Colt and Junior/Primary, thanks to promoting golf in schools and festivals, New2Golf starter packs, open days and being involved in the community.
“It isn’t rocket science how we as a club has increased membership, we aim to be fair to each and every person that is or wishes to be a member.”
Pennard near Swansea has seen one of the biggest increases in women members with 19 out of 45 people joining the club.
“That’s down to our academy membership which we launched through New2Golf focussing on ladies getting together through beginners groups, playing the front nine at off peak times and getting continued support and coaching,” explained Pennard manager Huw Morgan.
“We have added a second year because people learn at different speeds and then they can become full members, three have transferred to seven day membership already. We have also added men to the scheme.
“Golf used to be about what you couldn’t do rather than what you can do, but we have changed that.”
The exact figures show 42 per cent of clubs across Wales increased their membership numbers in 2016, with girls’ affiliations increasing by five per cent.
The news was welcomed by Golf Union of Wales chief executive Richard Dixon, who added, “These figures show that the emphasis we have put on helping clubs to learn the lessons which help to attract new members has paid off.
“These increases go against the trends of recent years across the world, but particularly in the UK. It shows what a warm welcome, regular communication and being part of the community can achieve, alongside plenty of other measures.
“It also highlights the importance of welcoming all areas of the community, men, women, boys, girls, disability, ethnic minorities
“We are certainly not complacent, but it shows the start of what can be achieved. The Golf Union of Wales have some very ambitious targets in place for 2020 and these figure show we are on course.”