Golf club membership, and how it fits into modern golfing habits, remains one of the game’s biggest questions for amateurs. So is it all worth it?
Few clubs have kept their numbers up by simply posting the fee for full membership on the notice board and watching the money flow in come January or April and we, the buyers, have a range of options at almost every club.
Five-day options, flexi-memberships with small additional green fees per round, paying over 12 months, and taster memberships – to name a few – are all out there to ensure you get your golf in. England Golf’s Membership Questionnaire found that two thirds of clubs now offer a range of memberships beyond the seven and five-day options.
When you’re a serious, or reasonably serious, handicap golfer there are few better ways to spend your golfing pounds are there?
I’ve grown up at my home club, starting off by getting off the school bus outside the gates and playing 36 or 54 holes most days of the summer holidays. As a junior, with so much time to play and practice, membership really is a must. The unlimited access to the putting green and course, and a steady supply of chip butties in the clubhouse was one of the best parts of every summer holiday wasn’t it?
But as you head off to university or start working, around the time your fees start climbing; keeping your membership can be tough. Playing less due to work and family commitments, it’s understandable that the growth in junior participation is not being transferred into members in their 20s and 30s.
In the most recent Membership Questionnaire, England Golf reported that average golf club membership in the last two years has remained roughly the same with clubs having an average of 460 members (466 in 2014).
The report found that this figure has been kept steady due to a 13% increase in members over the age of 65, which means membership between the juniors and vets are falling.
The report also found that clubs which have been able to provide initiatives which fit with the pressure of lifestyles – such as nine-hole golf and faster formats – have enjoyed an increase in younger membership categories.
While many clubs have supported retaining members, more needs to be done by every club. Making membership flexible is the key to retaining players and creating a diverse club where an active membership entices more players of all ages to join.
Having been a member of a club for 10 of the last 11 years, missing a year while at university when I wasn’t playing, I can’t throw enough support behind being part of a club. From playing five in the evening to spending hours on the practice green, to being able to join any group for a roll up on a Friday night, there is simply no better, or more flexible, way to enjoy your golf.
Phasing fee increases is a great initiative to keep players active in membership, while reduced fees for students and ensuring there is the option to pay fees monthly all make golf club membership more manageable for younger players.
For us all, clubs and members, to benefit from junior programmes and initiative like Get into Golf, membership has to be as open as possible. The more flexible golf is, the more people will be able to play the game.