‘Worrying’ Sign in Golf Club Membership Trends

Picture by Darren Carroll/USGA.

London, England: While golf club membership in the United Kingdom grew significantly in 2020, the number of rounds played plummeted.

Those were the headline findings from an annual survey of more than 80 golf clubs that has been published by accountants Hillier Hopkins in a report titled ‘Members and Proprietary Golf Clubs Survey 2020/21’ in partnership with the UK Golf Federation and the Golf Club Secretary Newsletter.

Worryingly for the long-term future of many clubs is the continuing trend towards older members, with fewer under 30s choosing to join.

The main findings from the Hillier Hopkins Members and Proprietary Golf Clubs Survey 2020/21 include:

• 68% of golf club members are aged over 50, up from 63% in 2019.

• 13% of club members are aged under 30.

• 59% of clubs report increased membership in 2020.

• 45% of clubs now have a waiting list to join, up from just 22% in 2019.

• The average number of people on a waiting list is 34, up from 22 in 2019.

• 75% of golf club members are men, while just 17% are women.

• 92% of clubs retain a dress code, with 69% saying they are planning to modernise their rules.

• The average number of rounds played per year by golf societies dropped to 780 in 2020, compared to 1,542 in 2019.

• Average weekend green fees for members and their guests have increased to £27.20 from £22 in 2019.

Robert Twydle, a consultant at Hillier Hopkins, said: “We have produced this survey for the past 14 years, and the slow trend towards older male members continues. In 2020, a year defined by Covid, 59% of those clubs surveyed report a growing membership, up from 53% on 2019, but with just 13% of club membership aged under 30.

“Our survey reports members unsurprisingly playing significantly fewer rounds in 2020, yet costs remaining broadly the same – course wages and maintenance are typically £305,000 a year and clubhouse wages and maintenance £192,000 a year.

“60% of clubs are planning on increasing subscriptions and green fees in 2021, but that is unlikely to cover the lost course income and bar and catering contributions in 2020.”

The survey also found that:

• 49% of clubs now have an annual turnover of more than £1 million.

• Club PGA Professionals can expect to earn between £1,500 and £2,000 a month, with 71% of clubs paying their retained professionals over £2,000.

• Average subscriptions are between £1,000 and £1,600.

• Average weekend non-member green fees are £55.73, up from £54.01.

Twydle added: “Golf clubs have fared better than other sports clubs, but have still felt the financial impact of Covid, which is sadly likely to continue well into 2021. Clubs will continue to face more fundamental challenges, mainly related to attracting and keeping younger players.

“Clubs are not blind to this threat and are working hard to attract new younger members, with increased accessibility and flexibility for members. Improving clubhouse facilities to include indoor training ranges, and adopting more faster-paced nine-hole competitions is also making membership more attractive to younger players.

“All clubs need to capitalise on the membership windfall that Covid has brought and make sure they do everything to maximise retention of these new joiners for the future.”

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