Record golf participation but can you meet the challenges and opportunities in 2022 to develop new audiences?

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick April 7, 2022 10:32

by Roger Brown, chief commercial officer, Fairway Credit

The months ahead promise much as we look forward to lighter, longer days and more hours to play golf. There are going to be numerous opportunities for UK golf clubs and their suppliers to grow their businesses but with the influences of Covid-19 and the effects of Brexit still remaining, much needs to be considered. Here are a few of my thoughts.

Reasons to be optimistic

2022 will be a period of ongoing change with regard to ways of working and living. Being able to adapt to customer needs and trading conditions will present golf clubs with significant opportunities.

Over the last year the game changer in life has of course been the vaccine roll out, and more recently the booster programme, enabling golf businesses to reopen and full trading to be restored. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the scientists who have made these advancements and the medical staff who have helped to protect us but we’re not out of the woods yet. Huge credit should go to golf club managers and their staff who have modified operations where needed, allowing play to continue. We’ll all need to constantly be alert and adapt where necessary in the year ahead.

Growth

The number of registered golfers in Europe has risen by more than 190,000 from 4.1 million to 4.3 million, a 4.6 percent growth in the past two years according to the European Golf Participation report, 2021. People are playing in larger numbers – the industry needs to work together to capitalise on this opportunity and grow golf club membership further in 2022.

Grassroots

Developing grassroots programmes that get youth involved, creating a pathway to golf courses where they will develop into lifelong players, has never been more important. As with all sports, if young people aren’t introduced, the sport will literally die. There are more than 350,000 registered junior golfers in Europe, an increase of over 43,000 compared with 2019. These figures provide optimism for the future, we should never forget that the youth of today are our golf club members of the future. If we all continue to support youth development going forward, golf’s future looks bright.

Talent

The pandemic has led many to consider their career options and this will lead to a ‘war for talent’ in the golfing world. Employment news reports indicate that the sports and entertainment industry has been hit by Brexit-related job shortages. As a significant employer in this space, golf clubs, large and small will be similarly affected.

The importance of recognising good staff; retaining them; offering quality training and development opportunities and paying them a salary commensurate with their skills will be more important than ever for UK golf clubs. Any business’ success, whether in the golf industry or not, is determined by its people.

Staycations

Life may be returning to some level of normality in the UK but with high levels of Covid infection still seen around the world, holiday options overseas remain uncertain. Such restrictions continue to boost the popularity of the ‘staycation’ and create demand for outdoor leisure pursuits like golf.

We arguably have the best golfing facilities in the world, from those steeped in history to state-of-the-art facilities and everything in between. UK golf courses can accommodate a wide range of golfers providing the perfect opportunity to grow memberships as people continue to look for Covid friendly leisure pursuits more locally. We can expect staycations will remain popular in 2022.

Sustainability

We will see an increased focus on ‘Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG)’ topics, as golf club members, employees, businesses, investors and governing bodies all pay closer attention to sustainability initiatives. This is more than ‘going green’, other key areas are focussed on gender, diversity, data security and responsible procurement- to name a few. The golf industry has a part to play, and we, like many, have already set out a roadmap. I expect more businesses to follow.

Roger Brown

2022 – a year of opportunity

Despite the social and economic uncertainty, I remain positive. Those in the golf industry who adjust quickly and modify their approach to changing conditions are the ones who will succeed in these challenging times. I’m excited for the year ahead.

 

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick April 7, 2022 10:32
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