Sydney, Australia: The 2016 Australian Golf Club Participation Report contains several positives, but also identifies key challenges the sport must tackle.
Approximately 14.85 million rounds were recorded by GolfLink in 2016, a 2.1% increase over the previous year, which continues the positive trend.
Membership decline has been stemmed in recent years and remained small at 0.8%, equating to a nett loss of 3,132 members.
However, there were a couple of areas of concern, including golf’s performance in attracting female members. Of new members in 2016 only 15% were female, meaning only 20% of members are female, down from 21% in 2012.
Additionally, the rate of decline in female membership was 3% in 2016, far greater than the 0.2% decline in male members.
Another area of concern was the decline in Queensland (2.4%) and New South Wales (1.9%). Since 2006, NSW has endured 11 consecutive years of decline and a cumulative decrease of 19% which has seen 34,409 people leave golf clubs in that state.
While several states had a decrease in membership, two states – South Australia and Victoria – had increases of 912 (3.4%) and 966 (0.9%) respectively.
Also positively, 36% of clubs across Australia experienced growth and more than a quarter of new members were aged between 18-34.
Golf Australia Chief Executive Stephen Pitt said all information in the report was critical as the industry assessed the sport’s future pathways.
“Obviously we’re delighted that more than a third of our clubs expanded their membership base by more than 2% in 2016 and that social clubs have enjoyed a substantial increase,” Pitt said.
“But we fully understand that clubs are facing more challenging environments and there are 47% of clubs who suffered a nett decrease of more than 2%.
“Clearly club health needs to remain a key focus for Golf Australia and the state associations and equally clubs need to improve their governance and review their approach, particularly if they are facing challenges.
“Similarly, another key figure the report points out is the on-going decline in female membership rates. The number of new women coming into the game is not at all where we want it to be as we try to arrest the slide in female membership.”
Pitt said the most pleasing aspect of the 393,975 club members was that it kept golf near the very top of organised sports in Australia.
“That there seems to be a lift in the percentage of new young members is great, but if we want to maintain our numbers long-term, the industry needs to act decisively and in unison,” he said.
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