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‘Too many competitions is not healthy’: Golf clubs told to find balance or lose members

It can feel like wall-to-wall events during the height of the season, but are 'non-competitive' golfers being disadvantaged? This industry expert thinks so
 

There are too many golf club competitions held at peak times – but the solution isn’t to get rid of them.

That’s the view of industry expert Phil Grice who, speaking on NCG’s From the Clubhouse podcast, said clubs instead needed to make events more open and be careful of not excluding players who didn’t necessarily want to be competitive.

Grice, whose Golf Transition Management company advises courses all over the country, said he believed competitive golf was good for the sport. But he added: “Overly competitive golf is not a healthy thing for a club.”

It’s not unusual in the middle of summer to see some clubs crowd their calendar with competitions, with weekends a focus, and Grice said, while that would appeal to the ultra-competitive player, a balance also needed to be struck.

“My dealing with many clubs, and speaking to hundreds of general managers, is understanding that there is a minority of people who play in lots and lots of competitions,” he said. “Then a sprinkling of people who play in some competitions. Competitive golf is a good thing. Overly competitive golf is not a healthy thing for a club.

“That group of members will tell you it’s the be all and end all of the club. Everything is about creating balance. Pick one competition a month – your trophy or board competitions whatever they are called – and let’s make them a bit special.

“Beyond that, start to really investigate what proportion of your members truly play in these competitions. That’s not to try and get everybody into them, or out of them.

“Have fun competitions. Have mixed and open competitions that run all day. So if you want to play at three in the afternoon, that’s not an issue. We’re not excluded.”

Grice talked about the “huge number” of members he had seen leave clubs during his time in the industry because of the number of events that were staged meant they felt disadvantaged as they didn’t want to play competitive golf.

“There will be a percentage of people listening to this who will say, ‘Well, they should disappear.’ Why?”

He added: ” I think golf clubs do, as a rule, have too many competitions in too many peak times.

“I wouldn’t say get rid of them. I’d say review them, make them more open, make them more inclusive. Make certain things biannual, so it makes them a little bit more exclusive and better to do, and be as inclusive as you can. That percentage of the membership who don’t seem to take part? Give them a reason to take part.”

More on the From the Clubhouse podcast

As well as discussing clubs missing a trick by not freeing golf from gender-based tees, Phil Grice has his say on plenty of the sport’s biggest talking points. Do we play too many competitions at our clubs? Is fair use really fair?

We also covered points memberships and how golf is shaping up as we come out of the pandemic in a lively 40-minute chat, which you can listen to in the player below or on your preferred podcast platform.

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Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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