The number of golf clubs with a waiting list has doubled

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir February 4, 2021 06:07

The number of UK golf clubs that have a waiting list for members has more than doubled in the past 12 months from 22 to 45 percent, according to a new survey.

Waiting lists – in which a membership category is full and people can’t join it until others have left – were common among golf clubs for decades, but in recent years became more rare as participation and membership numbers fell.

However, the last year has seen a surge in demand to play the game and join clubs, leading to a jump in the number of waiting lists, and the average number of people on a waiting list is 34, up from 22 in 2019.

Clubs that have introduced one in the last 12 months include Littlestone Golf Club in Kent and Thetford Golf Club in Norfolk.

According to Hillier Hopkins, which surveyed 80 golf clubs across the country, the number of clubs that said they have reintroduced a waiting list has more than doubled from its previous survey 12 months ago.

The research also finds that nearly two-thirds of clubs (59 percent) reported increased membership in 2020, with 68 percent of all golf club members aged over 50, up from 63 percent in 2019.

Despite many clubs reporting that younger members had joined, just 13 percent of club members are aged under 30.

Male members (75 percent) continue to outweigh female members (17 percent) and 69 percent of clubs say they are planning to ‘modernise their rules’.

Average weekend green fees for members and their guests have also increased significantly, to £27.20 from £22 in 2019.

Robert Twydle, a consultant at Hillier Hopkins said: “We have produced this survey for the past 14 years, and the slow trend towards older male members continues. In 2020, a year defined by Covid, 59 percent of those clubs surveyed report a growing membership, up from 53 percent on 2019, but with just 13 percent of club membership aged under 30.

“Sixty percent of clubs are planning on increasing subscriptions and green fees in 2021, but that is unlikely to cover the lost course income and bar and catering contribution in 2020.

“Golf clubs have fared better than other sports clubs but have still felt the financial impact of Covid – which is sadly likely to continue well into 2021. Clubs will continue to face more fundamental challenges, mainly attracting and keeping younger players.

“Clubs are not blind to this threat and are working hard to attract new younger members, with increased accessibility and flexibility for members. Improving clubhouse facilities to include indoor training ranges, and adopting more faster-paced nine-hole competitions, are also making membership more attractive to younger players.

“All clubs need to capitalise on the membership windfall that Covid has brought and make sure they do everything to maximise retention of these new joiners for the future.”


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir February 4, 2021 06:07
Write a comment


  1. FarriMarc February 15, 21:52

    That’s good news for the clubs after a difficult year.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Paixao February 4, 19:23

    What about in Portugal? What has been done to go for the National market?
    There was nothing to do! Why? Just because the market wasn’t there. There are not enough players to support the Portuguese golf courses, and it’s everyone’s fault. Industry and official entities are to blame. The courses economic support must come from the National Players and golf societies and tourism would be “the big bucks”.

    Not sure that everyone will be able to reopen…

    Reply to this comment
    • PORT February 4, 22:32

      Ive had 4 foriegn holidays (from Ireland (N.I)
      2 IN SPAIN in the younger days when i wasn’t playing, and 2 in Portugal. Always preferred Portugal the people and the food in my experience were better, but the golf.was expensive for the tourist that wasn’t on a package holiday. Dont know if there was cheaper alternatives, but i hope that through this pandemic golf clubs in your locall .. will see sense and see that if u dont have local club members at an affordable rate then u wont have any members at all, coming through the ages.
      Ps excuse the nickname no pun intended.

      Reply to this comment
  3. Ian S February 4, 18:45

    Now for the restructuring to Start. Patience is a Virtue.
    I propose all Clubs bring in ASAP the old traffic light system on the Fairways
    ReD Amber Green.
    We are all ready to Go
    But Not every one adheres to the
    Highway Code
    Some have have the foot down some doddle and unfortunately some will Drive through Red.

    At 58 I’m become very patient on the Course
    I also have a handicapp. 14 ouch
    I tend to Drive down the Right.
    When the Dormant Fairways open you will be confronted with New Drivers.
    Be Patient on your approach we don’t want any premature Collisions. ❤️

    Reply to this comment
  4. Peter February 4, 18:13

    Hate waiting lists !! Though I understand the need for some clubs, it does nothing but signal “replacement” member !! Not a good start !! Get them signed up, properly onboarded and immersed and experiencing your culture !!

    Reply to this comment
  5. Herbert February 4, 18:01

    Waiting lists were a thing in SA golf clubs back in the 1980’s when you had to interview before being allowed into the club plus an entry fee which kept the riff Raff out they said at the time….. both waiting lists (bar a few very private clubs) and entrance fees have disappeared.

    Reply to this comment
  6. MFDS February 4, 13:13

    No doubts golf is a safe and healthy sport and clubs provide a friendly and family environment.

    Reply to this comment
  7. MI February 4, 12:02

    I understand waiting lists but what are clubs doing for those who are waiting & ensuring they are still eager to join when the opportunity arises?

    Reply to this comment
    • ErnieLong February 5, 15:00

      Some golf clubs have oversold memberships during lockdiwn, and now they dont have enough capacity on competition days, which has really annoyed the existing members who now cant get a tee time. The golf club traditional model will have to change if they amount of uptake continues. Joining fees are not a deterrent are are normal at better courses in the North West. Friendliness and a welcome atmosphere to all has been an issue at golf clubs since day one, this is the thing that really needs to change, but it probably wont now because the numbers are back up. It should be the norm not the exception. Some golf clubs do a lot better in this department, but it often isnt the better golf courses. As Rory says the R&A should concentrate on making golf accessible to all.

      Reply to this comment
  8. Berry February 4, 11:44

    This is very positive news for the whole industry!!

    Reply to this comment
  9. PGraham February 4, 10:33

    Encouraging news for the future ️‍♂️

    Reply to this comment
View comments

Write a comment


Join Our Mailing List

Read the latest issues

Advertise With Us

For editorial enquiries in the magazine or online, contact:

For advertising enquiries in the magazine or online, contact: