English golf clubs are seeing a boom in new members

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir July 17, 2017 18:01

Nearly 17,000 people joined English golf clubs in the year up to the end of March 2017, making it one of the best years for the nation in recent times.

That is the headline story from the ‘Impact Report’, which has been published by England Golf.

The organisation has said that more than 237,000 people tried golf for the first time last year and, looking at the last four years, in which more than 640,000 people have played the game for the first time “growth was notably rapid in 2016/17” it states.

More than 44,000 people have joined English clubs since 2013, it added.

The data doesn’t state if clubs have collectively seen a net membership increase in that time as no figures for people giving up their membership is given, but both the large numbers and their increasing growth over the years is a cause for optimism.

Furthermore, 40 per cent of all new participants are female, highlighting the appetite for the game among women and girls.

Sharon Heeley, England Golf’s head of delivery, commented: “It’s very pleasing to report these results and we are looking forward to even greater successes in the future.

“We now have club support officers in all counties whose role is to listen to and understand the business needs of clubs and help them to achieve their aims.

“Our refreshed strategy to grow the game of golf in England puts the customer at the heart of everything we do and we’re encouraging clubs to take the same approach.

“We can help them to understand their market and the importance of providing their customers with the golfing experience they want, whether that’s competitive play, social golf, short format golf which fits into busy lifestyles, or the opportunity to meet friends and make new ones.”

England Golf’s business support has been used extensively, with over 1,300 decision makers from 750 clubs attending ‘Business Growth Hubs’ and demand-led workshops during the last year. A growing number of clubs are using resources to understand their market, including mapping tools which show where to find potential customers, who can then be targeted with effective marketing campaigns.

England Golf’s strategy also has an over-arching aim to increase the number of women and girls playing golf. Women currently account for just 15 per cent of club membership and the Impact Report details the success of initiatives to attract them to try the game.

In the last two years, over 10,000 have taken part in women-only Get into golf programmes which have created over 2,000 new members. Girls Golf Rocks, the recruitment programme supported by girl county players, was run in nine counties last year with 624 girls introduced to golf and over 230 joining clubs. This year Girls Golf Rocks is running in 15 counties. In addition, Family Golf Month was introduced last July and helped to get over 7,300 people playing, with almost 200 taking out memberships.

Other facts highlighted by the Impact Report show that over 180,000 people took part in Get into golf activities over the last four years with over 22,500 memberships created. The Golf Express campaign, which promotes short format golf, has involved over 32,000 golfers since 2015.


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir July 17, 2017 18:01
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  1. Paul July 27, 20:40

    What a shame then the R&A is doing its level best to lose this enthusiasm by selling their soul on television rights!! As somebody observed recently, strange that we will be able to watch the Masters and the USPGA on the BBC but not our own Open. The R&A should be ashamed.

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  2. Peter July 27, 20:14

    Ladies at my club currently make up 12.5% of the total membership, way below the 40% shown here. We have plans in place to promote golf more to women, as well as special offers for new female members, as growing that number is key to developing a thriving and welcoming club for all.

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  3. Paul July 20, 07:18

    While this is good news for the industry, my cautionary note would be at what value? The cost of playing has been driven down by supply & demand. In real terms memberships, new model memberships & green fees are at the same rates they were 25 years ago, while we have had to absorb the rising costs of maintenance materials & labour. Operators & clubs will still find it tough to make a margin, especially as customers will naturally demand value & quality for their money & the real crux of a successful property is capital expense & continued investment – often big bills for new irrigation systems, bunker & tee rebuilds, new machinery. We still need to be cautious & sensible in servicing the market.
    Try this for a comment – some people do & would now pay more money for a new driver than a year’s golf membership. How much would that driver be 25 years ago compared to the cost of a year’s golf or a green fee?

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    • Martin July 21, 10:31

      Bang on the button Paul, you can’t come back from a discounted rate and although continuing to grow ourselves in membership no’s yield is the important factor. I hear a lot about our membership is growing but what is the actual subs income received?

      Reply to this comment
      • Paul July 25, 18:27

        Absolutely – turnover is vanity, profit is sanity. Lots of weird things still going on out there. Some are getting in right, some still heading rather too closely to the ice berg. The market is also very fluid. Club loyalty is not what it once was.

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  4. Ivan July 19, 10:37

    Of course each time you play golf at a different club you are asked ‘Sir / Madam, is this your first time playing golf? We have to keep a register for the English Golf Union.’ Twaddle!

    Reply to this comment
  5. Kerry July 18, 21:36

    Great news

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