Northern Irish golf clubs see a 30% membership drop in 14 years

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir May 8, 2018 12:30

A BBC report has found that golf clubs in Northern Ireland have seen a drop in membership of nearly one-third since 2004.

While golf club membership has generally fallen throughout the UK in the last 15 years, the BBC states that this fall is ‘worrying’.

“Twenty years ago there were lengthy waiting lists to join many golf clubs in Northern Ireland,” it states. “Today, that trend has reversed to worrying levels.”

The figure comes from the Golfing Union of Ireland (GUI), which represents over 430 golf clubs with over 170,000 members in both countries.

“This is particularly concerning given that Northern Ireland has never enjoyed more global exposure on the golfing map,” it adds. “Most weeks on the European and PGA tours, an NI player appears on the leaderboard. Golf should be booming here – so why does that not seem to be the case at grassroots level?”

One of the causes is slow play, and the article quotes Kevin Stevens from the GUI, who says significant changes have now been introduced, including official nine-hole competitions and rule changes catered towards speeding up play.

Another issue is the lack of families that play golf together. Clubs like Tandragee in County Armagh believe targeting families, not just individuals, could be a solution.

Recently, the club launched family deals and a scheme to encourage mothers with children at the club to also join.

It has had some success, more than a dozen women have since become full members and will often play alongside their children, or with other members in club competitions.

The club professional Dympna Keenan also runs the junior section at Tandragee.

She says a thriving under-18 membership is clearly important to any golf club, but it is not guaranteed to continue to the senior ranks.

Good coaching and playing to a high standard, she says, is the safest bet that juniors will still be paid-up members into adulthood.

“Golf clubs have had to become more flexible and accommodating,” concludes the BBC.


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir May 8, 2018 12:30
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