English golf clubs have seen 20,000 new members since May

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir August 19, 2020 10:39

The CEO of England Golf has revealed that English golf clubs have collectively seen 20,000 new members join them in the three months since most venues reopened.

This almost certainly represents the biggest membership growth over a three-month period in history.

Speaking to The Sunday Times, Jeremy Tomlinson said: “Since May 13, there have been 20,000 new members across England. The number of rounds played in June and July was up 60 percent on 2019 and is trending towards the same increase for August.”

Jeremy Tomlinson

“I’ve played golf for a long time, at all levels, and I’ve never seen anything like what’s happened since lockdown ended,” said Ricky Willison, the former Walker Cup player who is now director of Ealing Golf Club in west London.

“The numbers playing, the inquiries about membership, the number of club fittings.

“We’ve taken in over 100 new members at Ealing since April. People from all walks of life, not just people from the traditional demographic but from families wanting to do things together. Neil Jordan, my colleague at Ealing, is booked up for lessons until August 30. That’s every half hour from 8am to 12.30pm five days a week. I have been flat out pretty much every day since we’ve come out of lockdown.”

Moray Golf Club in Scotland is another to report a membership boom. It has attracted the 320 new members and counting. The club is also seeing the course become extremely popular with nearly double the number of people playing on it this August compared with a year earlier.

Derek Ramsay, PGA professional, said: “When the country went into lockdown, we predicted that we would be out of money by July. However, things are even better now than usual, and it’s been amazing to see such a significant improvement in memberships – especially with young people.

“We’re seeing many new members who had never even played, and certainly had never been members of any golf club before. We had to figure out a new method of scheduling tee times to make sure everyone got their time on the course.”

The Sunday Times analyses why membership growth has soared.

‘During the early weeks of renewal, the weather was good and having been imprisoned in their homes for the previous seven weeks, people realised how much they enjoyed their game,’ it says.

‘Being forced to book in advance and play in two-balls eliminated two of the amateur game’s greatest bugbears: the 4½-hour round and time wasted hanging around a congested first tee.

‘With a significantly increased demand for playing time from their own members, clubs were no longer in a position to accommodate non-members wishing to pay and play. As a consequence, many non-affiliated golfers had to join a club to be sure of getting a game. [Plus it’s] a game that could be enjoyed in relative safety during this global pandemic.’

Colin Mayes, the CEO of Burhill Golf and Leisure, said the rise in people working from home due to the pandemic has also played a significant role in the increase in rounds played.

“A lot of our members at Burhill work in the city and because they’re not travelling into the office, they’ve got two hours of their life back,” he said.

Burhill Golf Club

“By being more efficient working at home, they’ve suddenly got four hours available. Instead of playing once a week, as they did previously, they’re now playing two or three times a week.”

Alasdair Good, the head professional at Gullane Golf Club in East Lothian, concurs: “People in Gullane travelled into Edinburgh and they didn’t get home in the evening until about half six. They then had their tea at seven o’clock and had no opportunity to get on the course,” he said.

“Now they’re at home, working until five o’clock, switching the computer off and they’re on the tee for quarter past five. We’ve seen a huge resurgence in evening golf.”

Mayes added that pay-and-play venues are also booming at the moment.

“There has been probably a 30 to 40 per cent increase [at our venues],” he said. “In July we had a 31 percent increase against the previous year at Hoebridge GC in Surrey. And here is another interesting stat: the short-course rounds, which is the beginner course, are double what they were last year. We did 32,000 short-course rounds in July compared with 16,000 the previous year.”

Tennis has seen a participation growth similar to golf’s in recent weeks. Image by Julian Schiemann

The paper also states that tennis, another sport that allows natural social distancing, has also enjoyed significantly increased participation since clubs and public courts were reopened. There has been a 372 per cent increase in court bookings from reopening in May to the end of July, compared with last year’s figures.


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir August 19, 2020 10:39
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  1. Chris C August 24, 11:19

    Great news, aligns with what I’ve heard anecdotally from speaking to golf pros in Leicestershire.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Cleaver August 23, 13:00

    Would be great to know the average age of those 20,000. Brilliant news.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Simon B August 22, 13:25

    I guess thats around a 5% increase in English participation. Incredible stuff!

    Reply to this comment
  4. Martin L August 22, 12:04

    Where there is a downturn there will always be an upturn. It’s important that new members are looked after and golf clubs move with the times. Before this GC’s were in decline. There needs to be restructure and new members asked what do they want the future to look like.

    Reply to this comment
  5. Simon August 22, 10:42

    I agree, with all the free time, good weather, extra money in peoples pockets and little else by way of leisure activities available to do I am not surprised at the increase in numbers. It should be way more in my view. Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out what the picture will look like in 12/18 months time. Tough times coming and we should all be aware, plan now and not be surprised as I am sure many will be saying “didn’t see that coming”.

    Reply to this comment
  6. djm August 20, 10:10

    “We’re seeing many new members who had never even played, and certainly had never been members of any golf club before. We had to figure out a new method of scheduling tee times to make sure everyone got their time on the course.”

    Pity the poor established player who comes up behind groups of people on the course who have NOT THE SLIGHTEST IDEA about pace of play, course & game etiquette, general safety, etc…

    Can only be detrimental for the future of golf clubs

    Reply to this comment
  7. Hartford GC August 20, 09:58

    20,000 over 3 months seems conservative, thats just an average of 10.5 new members per club and just 3 new members a month, also with 700000 affiliated golfers in total an increase to 720000 is less than a 3% rise. If this is the case it’s not worth getting too excited about!! Golf participation is definitely growing at a bigger rate than membership and although our golf course is busy the driving range has gone crazy in the last 3 months….

    Reply to this comment
  8. Brendan August 19, 11:41

    None of his dining all down to a Bat Flu

    Reply to this comment
  9. Steve W August 18, 12:21

    Great news for the sport. However clubs need to be wary of trying to claw back lost Covid revenue into the coming years fees as we are yet to see the full extent of redundancies. Don’t price these new and existing members out of the game, as there are almost certainly hard times ahead for your members.

    Reply to this comment
  10. Orchard August 18, 12:11

    Great news for the golf industry

    Reply to this comment
  11. Gecko August 18, 11:20

    Fantastic figures for sure. I can only hope that the majority are annual paid up Memberships and not just a direct monthly debit that can be cancelled when those furloughed have to go back to work, or when other sports get back to normal.

    Reply to this comment
  12. Santana August 18, 11:00

    Given what’s gone on and what some individual clubs are reporting, that sounds low, I’d have thought the figure would be much higher

    Reply to this comment
  13. Stuart C August 18, 10:27

    On average (1900 clubs) 95 members per club, impressive !

    Reply to this comment
    • Brandon August 18, 15:26

      I think your maths is a little out, Stuart. Based on 1900 clubs that would be 10.5 members per club…

      Agreed with Santana in the comment above that 20,000 sounds low based on what we’ve been hearing from the 100+ clubs we’ve had conversations with in the last few months, none of which have had less than 30 new members and many have seen more than 70.

      Either way, great for the industry to see participation up so much! I just hope clubs can put the processes in place to keep as many of them as possible in the years to come

      Reply to this comment
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