English golf 'more inclusive'


Sean Dudley

Golf clubs in England are more accessible and inclusive than ever before, according to new research.

Feedback from England Golf’s 2012 Golf Club Membership Questionnaire shows that clubs are becoming increasingly flexible and customer-focused as they strive to attract new golfers and to recruit and retain members. The main findings of the research are highlighted in the Results Booklet, which includes information and ideas for golf clubs. The survey also helps England Golf to direct national strategy and to show where resources will be best used in future.

Richard Flint, England Golf’s development manager, said: “These are very difficult times for golf clubs, both in terms of the economy and overcoming the effects of the wettest summer for 100 years. But it is encouraging to see clubs responding to these challenges in creative and imaginative ways and putting their customers at the heart of everything they do.”

In total, 25 per cent of golf clubs which responded to the questionnaire have experienced an increase in members in the last two years, despite an overall drop in membership nationwide. England Golf will be examining these golf clubs in more detail to establish how they are achieving success. According to the research, more golf clubs are offering a range of membership categories, including flexible, corporate, student and intermediate. They are adopting a wider range of initiatives to attract members and increasingly working with County Golf Partnerships to recruit and retain players. Over the past four years, the CGP network has introduced more than 154,000 people to golf, with 4200 memberships reported to date.

Clubs are also becoming more innovative in promotion and marketing, with a marked growth in the use of social media alongside established communication. Almost all the clubs that responded have membership vacancies and a growing number are abandoning entrance fees. More clubs are also staggering fees over the transition period from junior to adult ranks.

The encouraging trends are also reflected within clubs’ junior sections. More clubs (62 per cent) now have a child welfare officer – highlighting the importance of safeguarding within the golf club environment. More clubs are doing away with specific demands around junior playing standards and course restrictions, demonstrating that under 18s are increasingly seen as an integral part of the club. This is reflected by the number of clubs – now 600 – that have achieved the GolfMark Award from England Golf in recognition of their junior and beginner friendly facilities. In addition, a growing number of clubs now allow juniors to play in all adult/main competitions. Almost all clubs offer group junior coaching and this is increasingly available to both members and non-members.