Club Golf: The biggest challenges facing our golf clubs

The Scoop

Bob Williams, CEO of the Golf Club Managers' Association, starts a new series looking at what our clubs can do to prepare for the future. Here is No.1...

There is a need for the golf club to understand the market place – how it is changing and how to adapt.

If you go back to the origins of the sport there have been the occasional periods within its history that have affected how the game of golf was either accepted or played. 

From the time that King James II banned the playing of golf and football in 1457 to the period when Old Tom Morris had such a massive influence, the game has meandered through history with very little disruption.

So if we skip back not so long ago to the 1990s when golf was beginning to enjoy a real upsurge, there were more and more people having access to sample the delights of the fairways than ever before. Golf courses were springing up all over the place as land owners tried to cash in on the golf boom.

Now if we move on to the present day, we can look at the state of the industry as we enter into the 2013 season. 

Ironically at this moment in time we have a real role model in the guise of Rory McIlroy, so one would think that with the advantage of having the Northern Irish superstar at the top of the tree would provide a springboard for all sort of reasons. 

Unfortunately it hasn’t quite worked like that, for the majority of golf clubs in the UK the market place is throwing up all sort of challenges. 
Unfortunately there are a number of ‘premier clubs’ who are losing members and not replacing them. Over the last hundred years or so golf has been enjoyed in the main by those who have been in a position to join a golf club. 

Now that has all changed – the game of golf is now available to almost anyone who wants to pick up a 9 iron and hit a ball.

While many people look at this situation and only see doom and gloom, my view is that it presents an opportunity to get more people interested in playing this great game – and if they like what they sample we have an opportunity to keep them in the game. 

It is true that there are a number of clubs around the country who remain unfazed by the present situation – and probably will do for the foreseeable future. 

But overall this is the time when the majority of golf clubs will need to sit down and take a long hard look at their individual business and re-assess the direction in which they are going. 

How often do I hear ‘we are a premier club’? 

Unfortunately there are a number of ‘premier clubs’ who are losing members and not replacing them. The result of this is that they are beginning to eat into the their cash reserves, but still don’t see the need to change or adapt to the present situation.

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