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Why golf clubs must adapt with the changing world

Are golf clubs realising that people want to consume the sport in different ways? England Golf chief Nick Pink airs his concerns
 

England Golf chief executive Nick Pink has questioned whether people are prepared to accept the game is changing.

As he gets ready to leave the nation’s governing body later this month after three and a half years in post, the outgoing chief says the successful clubs in the future will be those that adapt.

Pink considered the role traditional memberships, those that form the bedrock of golf club business, now play in all of our activities – arguing the shift away from long-term commitment was a societal issue.

On that question, he said: “You look at traditional membership – I don’t have many. That generation has changed from [the days where] you join something and you are part of it for 20, 30, 40, 50 years.

“Golf is kind of on the edge of that and that loyalty or that connection is not going to be the same.

“I look at my kids, they’re quite young, and I look at the generation that sits just above them who have been born completely in that age of digital and who are used to ‘I want to do it and I want to do it now’.

“It’s not ‘I’m going to plan for this in the next three months and I actually want to get better over the next three years at this’. It’s ‘I want to get better now. I want it immediately’.

“That’s the culture and that’s the challenge for golf. It’s not so much of a golf issue, it’s that customer, societal, and it’s that wider issue. How do we adapt the service and provision we are providing to suit those people?

“Those are the questions we have got to be asking.”

Pink added: “Companies are going through this challenge all of the time and the ones that are successful are the ones that are adapting and changing.

“My concern, or my question, is that if we are not prepared to adapt and change well we could end up in a means that is not right.

“We’re in the place. We are all rightly in positions of authority, or administration, and so it is in our gift.

“One of the things I first said when I walked in is that we are all temporary custodians and we have got to leave things in a better place than where we are.

“I’m not interested in legacy but what I am interested in is how quickly people are prepared to accept that things are shifting and changing. My worry, or question, is that I don’t think people realise that.

“It’s not driven by England Golf. It’s not driven by counties or even the clubs. It’s driven by the people who want to play.

“People who want to play golf want to consume things differently – hence PlayMoreGolf, the GolfNow and the Teeofftimes. It’s not anything that we have done, it is just what has happened.”

Pink alluded to the deal culture now commonplace in all our transactions.

“Why do we have a loyalty to a bank?” he said. “We don’t any more. You flip and change as often as you want to and they even do your direct debits for you so you don’t have to worry.

“Sky and Virgin have their battles, along with BT Sport. It is the same people, it’s the same customers. You are just going to what the best deal is. I think it is exactly that.”

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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