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The rising cost of living is posing a threat to golf – so is your club ready?

PlayMoreGolf’s Alastair Sinclair has issued a warning to golf clubs and urged them to tackle to the oncoming storm head on
 

Rising prices and the increased cost of living threaten to put a dent in the golf participation boom – and clubs need to be ready for it, an industry expert has declared.

Alastair Sinclair, chief executive of PlayMoreGolf, said increases in inflation, the rise in National Insurance, along with the expectation of an expensive Christmas, were all likely to affect the disposable income golfers would have to spend next year.

After the uncertainty of the first lockdown, golf clubs have largely basked in more members, more visitors, and more revenue through the tills.

And while Sinclair does not expect those gains to be wiped away by the economic uncertainty ahead, he said it was prudent for clubs to step back, think about what the golfer wants, and keep their products attractive as the renewals period approached.

Speaking to the From the Clubhouse podcast, he said: “Where we are very much minded is what is going to be happening next year when we look at all the economic factors that are being forecasted.

“It is really trying to ask that question: what is the disposable income going to be of the average golfer who is a member and how are they going to basically spend that next year?

“I don’t think there’s any great surprise here. I think Christmas is going to be a lot more expensive than we have experienced beforehand, with inflation coming through at the rates that we have seen.

“You look at some of the stats that are being put through and, recently, inflation rose to 3.2 per cent. That’s the highest it has been since 2012. It is only likely to get higher. That is a concern, definitely.”

“We have been doing a lot of work with our clubs asking them how they feel next year is going to pan out,” he added.

“Once you get beyond the initial, ‘We’ve had a great year’ and, ‘We’ve got a full membership, we’ve even got a waiting list and the bank account is the best it has been for a good amount of time’, and you start asking, ‘Well, what do you think is happening next year?’ Then all of a sudden a lot more questions start to emerge that a lot of people haven’t necessarily budgeted factors or thought through sufficiently.”

Sinclair said it was “not neccessarily doom and gloom by any stretch of the imagination” and stressed the clear opportunities that lay ahead for clubs that worked hard to think ahead.

“If we do nothing then, yes, that definitely would be a warning because don’t be surprised that you won’t get what you are expecting.

“All the markets are moving in the direction where it is going to be more expensive, there is going to be less money in people’s pockets next year, and there is a lot more competition out there for where people are going to be spending their money.

“It’s making sure golf keeps in step with the rest of the industries that are trying to capture that money.

“It’s very easy for us to make ourselves more attractive as well because there are lots of great benefits you can bring from membership and other programmes like tuition. Everything that a golf club has to offer, we need to be promoting it as much as we possibly can.

“We have seen that people have taken up the sport during the lockdown. It is capturing and making sure we keep that interest.”

The From the Clubhouse podcast with Alastair Sinclair

Alistair joined me on the NCG From the Clubhouse podcast to discuss this in more depth.

You can listen to the full episode in the player below, or search ‘The NCG Podcast’ in your preferred podcast platform.

Subscribe to NCG

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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