‘The golf industry must adapt to the needs of these new members’

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir April 25, 2021 08:20

Golf clubs must show flexibility and not assume the new participants will automatically keep playing at their venue, says an Irish golf club consultant.

Irish golf clubs can reopen this week after spending about half of the last year closed. Resorts that rely on foreign visitors have suffered significantly due to the pandemic, but there has also been a surge in domestic participation of late.

The chief revenue officer of Carr Golf, Ireland’s largest golf services company, Alex Saul, told the Irish Examiner: “We’ve seen the demand from the tee sheets since we reopened them and I think we have that to look forward to and we have an opportunity now in the coming months where golf will be in the vanguard of recreation opportunities and let’s as an industry put our best foot forward and provide a brilliant experience so that these golfers keep on coming back to us.

“Initially when the pandemic hit last March, the traditional business assumptions kicked in as to where would golf land and as people were pressured and economic concerns kicked in that disposable income would drop and that golf would be the first to fall prey to that.

“Actually, there was such a unique set of circumstances that combined to give rise to a great opportunity for golf and brought swathes of new entrants and returners to the game. In particular, the fine weather we had last year, people having more time on their hands, flexible working and working from home, an appreciation to be outdoors and breathing fresh air, being in open spaces and socialising within your community really brought golf to the forefront.

“The question now for us to reflect on is how do we harness this into the future because the pandemic circumstance will fall away, things will return to normal and travel, recreation, entertainment, cinemas, stadiums, will be full again. Parents will be doing runs to their children’s soccer and GAA matches and there will be more competing time pressures and therefore how does golf ensure that it stays relevant and harnesses this fantastic year into something really sustainable.”

Saul believes doing that successfully will require flexibility and adaptability, and abandoning the ‘this is the way we’ve always done it’ mentality with committee rooms.

“There is still arguably over-saturation and oversupply in the market here in Ireland. We still have over 400 golf courses so the clubs that adapt in the most relevant way at the most relevant price point are the ones that will survive. So unless we continue to increase the flow of new members and new players into the game, then clubs will only survive by eating others’ market share and therefore the ones that adapt, that make themselves the most relevant will succeed in that.

“I think what Covid exposed is the flaws in the commercial model of a number of clubs and the over-reliance on particular revenue streams.”


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir April 25, 2021 08:20
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  1. Athlone April 25, 19:57

    It looks like North American golfers will not be coming to Ireland in the numbers expected in 2021 due to the pandemic and travel restrictions. Domestic supply will need to feed the many golf courses. Golf courses have to “earn the right” in having new members re-join each year so it is important to engage them. There is lots of competition. 2022 should be a bounce back year for international golfers and we shall see how many domestic golfers “stick” in 2022 when many more opportunities and activities sprout again so people have choice Alistair.

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  2. PlayMoreGolf April 25, 15:34

    Couldn’t agree more and this has to be the attitude of clubs across the UK too.

    Invest in and adapt your product…✅

    Make it attractive to golfers who have no interest in your current memberships…✅

    Offer flexibility…✅

    Stop the ‘this is the way we’ve always done it’ attitude!⚠️⚠️⚠️

    #team #growth #sales #golf

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