Here’s the top three golf industry developments from November 2019

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir December 2, 2019 15:21

More golf clubs closed down in November – but the relatively small numbers that have gone, plus positive data from many other venues, suggests the industry is actually performing well at the moment.

The argument that golf clubs are men-only institutions is no longer applicable

While golf in the UK remains a male-dominated activity, only a tiny minority of golf clubs operated men-only membership policies. Yet this still damaged golf’s image – and hurt hundreds of clubs that were trying to attract women to their facilities.

© Tristan Jones

Today the argument no longer applies. In recent weeks Glasgow Golf Club, thought to be the last men-only golf club in the UK, announced it has changed its policy, while the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers admitted its first female members this summer*.

It’s been a tough couple of months for the industry

Between September and November, at least 12 UK golf clubs closed down or announced they will close, including Letham Grange, Carswell and Dollar golf clubs.

Three more golf clubs to close down

It is worth remembering, however, that there are more than 2,900 golf clubs in the British Isles (2,988 as of 2018), and England alone has lost a quarter of a million members of clubs in the last 15 years to less than 650,000 members today (a drop that has steadied in recent years).

While each loss of club is devastating for those involved, that the losses are small relative to the total number of clubs – in the face of these membership drops from about 2005 to 2015 – this suggests the industry is actually responding well to these new challenges via diversification and modernisation.

It’s also been a good year for the industry

Reports of growth don’t get the same attention as golf club closures but they are no less significant. And there have been several lately.

An operator of Palacerigg Golf Club and Lochview Family Golf Centre has said the business grew by 50 per cent this year due to offering shorter versions of the game, attracting children to the venues, offering affordable golf and investing in the facilities.

St Mellion International Resort in Cornwall said it saw a 20 per cent rise in group golf throughout 2019, suggesting more UK-based golfers are taking their holidays on home soil.

St Million International Reort

Four Merseyside golf clubs were at risk of closing but all have had their futures secured because Wirral Council has concluded that, with investment, “all four courses have great potential to attract additional players.”

Charnock Richard Golf Club closed down in 2013. Recently it reopened as a nine-hole facility, The Laurels, and now it plans to revert back to 18 holes.

And a club in Ireland that was bought for £24 million on 2014 and had more than £4 million invested into it, has been sold for £43 million in a move that one analyst describes as ‘a significant vote of confidence in the Irish golf market’.

* We originally reported that the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers changed its policy ‘in recent weeks’ – it was actually changed in 2017.

 

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir December 2, 2019 15:21
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