What state is the UK golf industry now in due to the pandemic?

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir May 31, 2020 07:28

March to May 2020 will probably go down as the most extraordinary period in golf’s history, but what state is the industry now in?

When all golf clubs in the UK had to close down due to coronavirus towards the end of March, following several years of declining participation in golf and membership falls that have seen scores of clubs close down, the future looked horrendous.

The lockdown could not have come at a worse time for the industry – it started just days before an estimated 40 percent of UK venues send out their annual renewal subscription forms to members, and also just before the start of the new playing season and when staff, mostly furloughed as many venues couldn’t afford to pay them due to the lost income, are especially needed to maintain courses due to extra daylight and warmer temperatures.

And then came the strange twist of fate: With most people off work and with little else allowed, golf courses were given the green light to reopen, leading to a surge in membership applications and unprecedented demand to play the game.

Some golf clubs have said the increase in members, plus their own management reviews during the lockdown, has meant that, even with clubhouses still at least partially closed, they are now in a financially healthier place than they were before the pandemic started.

Others have said that one of the unexpected consequences of Covid-19 has been an appreciation of two-ball golf, meaning that they will encourage this more moving forward, as it proves to be a useful tool in the battle against one of the main reasons why golf participation has slumped in the last 20 years or so: slow play.

However, the industry remains in a precarious position.

Some golf clubs, mostly in Ireland, were hit so hard by the lockdown that they didn’t reopen. It’s been estimated that clubs in Wales collectively lost £5.6 million due to the two months of inactivity. Venues in Scotland, particularly ones that rely on overseas visitors, fear that the damage caused may be irreparable. The R&A has launched a £7 million fund to help venues, while national golf unions have introduced schemes ranging from affiliation fee holidays to refunds.

It seems there isn’t a single lesson that the UK golf industry can learn from the pandemic except, maybe, that a golf club’s number one asset is its course(s).

 

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir May 31, 2020 07:28
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3 Comments

  1. Neil Sjoberg June 25, 23:21

    Yet again England Golf shot the industry in the foot. Golf lends itself uniquely to social distancing and should have been a healthy and safe activity in the lockdown.
    Golf course rose to the challenge and quickly introduced measures that gave safe exercise space for golfers and walkers but their impressive efforts were quickly frustrated by EG .
    England golf should hang its head in shame that instead of guiding our industry to helping England through the pandemic, forced us golkf clubs to”hide under the table” .EG bossily exceeded their role and sent out the message “Golf Courses MUST close”
    Although they have no right to issue such instructions no business could go against the flow: any golfer who caught Covid 19 could cite a breach of EG instructions as a cause of ftheir illness.

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  2. djm June 5, 13:24

    The extent of the financial hit has yet to emerge & will begin to impact 2021 going forward. The vast majority of clubs will be unprepared for this & suffer accordingly.

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  3. Wayne May 31, 18:57

    Alistair, next up will be the impact of lost North American golf tourism dollars, especially American, for their longer stays, more spent dollars and getting their links fix. So many top golf courses in the UK need this revenue to thrive and survive. 2020 will be the lost year for this market segment as the 14 day quarantine probably marks 2021 as being the year these golfers return.

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