Mainstream media warns that golf is still elitist

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick February 19, 2016 13:11

Two of Britain’s biggest media outlets have both reported on golf’s participation problems in the last few days, and both stated that the game is still elitist.

England lost more than a quarter of its monthly golfers between 2008 and September 2015, from 1.54 million to just over 1.1 million, and participation fell again in the last three months of 2015.

This month alone at least three golf clubs have closed down: Whitekirk Golf and Country Club in Scotland, West Chiltington Golf Club in West Sussex and Staplehurst Golf Centre in Kent, while also this month Beckenham Place Park in London announced it will close.

On February 17, Radio 4’s Today programme looked at the issues surrounding golf, including the fact that the land that many courses lie on is worth a ‘premium’ at a time when there is a housing shortage in the UK.

“Golf has been struggling with a drop in the numbers playing and courses closing,” said presenter Sarah Montague.

“There is a national trend of the declining usage of golf courses,” added Rob Bonnet.

When interviewing people about the decline, one member of the public said: “Access to golf is elitist.”

Sarah Montague added: “The problems include the time it takes to play and the perceptions that is an elitist game.”

Meanwhile, in a comment piece on the Guardian’s website, the former assistant editor of The Times, Richard Williams, gave his views on the current issues surrounding Wentworth, where the new owner, Reignwood, has proposed large increases in membership fees.

He too concluded that the game has an elitist image.

“Golf clubs have always been surrounded by an air of exclusivity and privilege,” he wrote.

“They are bastions of the sort of snobbery that takes offence at the manners of new money. The very existence of somewhere like the Wentworth Estate is predicated on exactly a kind of social cleansing that Reignwood seem to be undertaking now.”


Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick February 19, 2016 13:11
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  1. Peter Kook March 3, 17:51

    I don’t recognise this elitist image at all. The majority of members at golf clubs I have been involved in are ordinary working blokes from fireman to carpet fitters and every other trade in between. Interest in the game stems often from youngsters whose parent plays and introduces them to the game from a young age. The bulk of interest then comes from those same people returning to the game in their 20s & 30s but the most significant number of recruits being ‘sports mad’ types who turn to golf when they become too old for football, rugby, cricket or squash. Why worry about numbers of participants – no-one who really wants to take up the game and play will find that they cannot find somewhere to play. ‘Growing the game’ is an obsession driven by the equipment manufacturers who want ever larger markets to exploit. We have all experienced the joy of ‘millionaires golf’ at some time or another on a quiet Tuesday afternoon – long may it continue.

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  2. Robert Bardwell February 25, 18:30

    The other thing that is now apparent is the time factor, if I owned 18 holes of Golf I would split it into 3 times 6 holes, and create
    score cards for 6 holes, 12 holes, and 18 holes, depending on your time you play which ever one you want. The thing about this is
    you can still have competitions over 6-12- or 18 holes. With good Management you don’t have to play always the first 6 holes,mix them up so its not boring.

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  3. Robert Bardwell February 25, 18:23

    Robert Bardwell 40 years working and consulting in the world of Golf, In my opinion it is time for Golf clubs for Ladies.
    Every Golf club I have worked in, Ladies Golf is the strongest part of the club, they are organised much better than the men, that’s why we see women in the top jobs in Golf, They don’t take the game as seriously as the men, they are there to enjoy meeting
    and talking to each other about things that we men can not do.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Matthew Orwin February 22, 20:59

    Perception is reality and I strongly believe that there is still a perceived elitism about the sport of golf.

    Clubs aren’t doing enough to break this down. They need to be much more proactive in their local communities.

    Participation in town/village events, such as fetes and markets, really helps spread the message of an open and inclusive club.

    Also, inviting the community into the club itself is an important initiative. Open weekends, or even open weeks, with activities for young and old, golfer and non-golfer.

    It’s a win-win. Clubs WILL generate more business and they’ll also help the industry as a whole reduce these harmful perceptions by the non-golfing public.

    It’s something we dedicate a whole section to in Promote Training’s “Generating Membership Leads” elearning course –

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