Golf clubs must start welcoming the whole family if they are to survive says the SGU

Rosemary Ayim
By Rosemary Ayim March 11, 2015 13:00

The chief executive of the Scottish Golf Union (SGU) has said that struggling golf clubs need a complete change of mindset in which they must start welcoming the entire family to their venues, and not just men aged older than 50.

Hamish Grey said that at a time when many golf clubs are suffering from financial difficulties due to membership declines, getting families involved will secure their long term futures.

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Image from United Way of Broward County


“We need to retain youngsters better at club level. All the research shows that if you have the family involved – mum, dad whatever – and there is a great attachment on the social side then you are more likely to have those youngsters staying involved the whole way through,” he told The Scotsman.

“There’s no doubt that if we can get more adults involved through family participation then that will help with the financial viability of clubs. That’s critical. In Scotland, we have a golf course for every 9,800 people. In England, it’s 27-28,000. In France, they’ve got 112,000 people per golf course.

“We are more than well provided for in Scotland when it comes to golf courses. You could argue that we are over provided for in terms of viability.

“What’s really important is that all our research shows that by focusing on families gaining and retaining youngsters is going to be easier, which will be the lifeblood of the game going forward.”

Grey added that to get families involved, clubs need to offer flexible membership options to suit their needs.

“There’s only been a slight decrease in participation but there’s a more significant decrease in the people participating as members of clubs. They are choosing to participate in a different manner. That’s a challenge for us as a sport because all the financial models for clubs are based on a member model and that’s now being challenged by consumer behaviour.

“The real issue here is that the financial model clubs are based on is being challenged by changing individual needs,” he said. “People are looking for more flexibility. They are looking for something on the golfer’s terms not necessarily what the club says. The one-stop-shop of ‘here’s our membership, take it’ is increasingly under question.

“We’ve spent a lot of time researching and understanding that. It’s about getting governance right, business planning and training of club managers. That’s all a key part and we are three or four years into that now. It is starting to make a demonstrable difference with the clubs. They are being given the tools to understand what flexible means for their situation. I’m really encouraged by their response.

“In the end, it’s a bit like working with the elite golfers. We can only help the clubs to help themselves. It is over to them to do what they wish to do. We wouldn’t dare tell a club what to do, but we can help them learn by sharing good practice from other clubs.

“To me that is the most important thing we will do for the next decade and beyond. This isn’t something that can be changed straight away. It is a constant evolving of how the sport responds to a changing social economic environment. Our clubs are responding and I say that generically. There are some that don’t and some that do a huge amount. There are some that don’t need to change as they have full membership and more.”


Rosemary Ayim
By Rosemary Ayim March 11, 2015 13:00
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1 Comment

  1. Mentmore Golf & Country Club April 16, 10:08

    Great article and totally agree, families and youngsters are the future of golf. We have spent the past 2 years developing Junior Golf with Easter and Summer camps, Junior/Family get togethers and heavily reduced Junior membership categories. On top of these events and initiatives we have relaxed our dress code restrictions and entry into the main Club Lounge for children to encourage more families to come and enjoy our facilities.

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