Golf clubs lost members in 2022 but more than 90 per cent of those surveyed are still planning to increase their fees this year.
The annual Members and Proprietary Golf Clubs Survey, from accountants Hillier Hopkins, showed that waiting lists were also declining, while the number of clubs with memberships that cost more than £1,600 had increased by more than a third.
The report, which provides incredibly detailed figures from 82 private members’ and proprietary clubs across the whole of the UK, is seen by many as a bell-weather for wider industry trends.
It looks at every aspect of a golf club business, from membership numbers and green fee costs to staffing levels, practice facilities, and swing studios.
Their headline findings include:
– 92% of clubs surveyed intend to increase fees in 2023
– Golf membership remains dominated by older people, with 64 per cent of members aged 50 or over and 21% over 70
– 76% of members are men, with 15% women and 9% juniors
– Nearly a quarter of surveyed clubs reported more members leaving than joining and, overall, clubs reported fewer members joining last year – falling from an average of 90 in 2020 and 2021 to 70 last year
– The number of clubs with waiting lists fell from 60% to 52%
– Nearly three quarters of clubs charge membership fees of more than £1,000 a year, while the number of clubs with memberships costing £1,600 or more increased by 36%
– Visitors are feeling the pinch as well with the average non-member green fee increasing from £84 to £108
– Visitor numbers have also taken a hit, falling from 6,300 in 2021 to 4,500 in 2022
Matt Bailey, director at Hillier Hopkins, said the figures showed “golf clubs and their members are not immune to the tightening economic picture”.
“It comes at a time when costs are rising,” he said. “The average wage spend of clubs has increased from £154,000 in 2021 to £198,000 in 2022. It will come as no surprise, therefore, that 92 per cent of clubs say they plan on increasing membership fees in 2023 alongside the cost of a round of golf.”
Despite these concerns, though, 19 per cent of clubs reported having reserves of £1 million or more and the number of rounds played had increased slightly to 29,500 in 2022.
Jeremy Ellwood, editor of The Golf Club Secretary Newsletter, who are survey partners with Hillier Hopkins, added: “Last year, we were still assessing the impact of Covid. This year, it’s the cost-of-living crisis that is at the forefront of all our minds as clubs, members and visiting golfers grapple with exponential increases in energy and other costs.
“It’s not going to be easy as things really hit home during the winter months, but the good news is that golf is in a pretty healthy position – a strengthened position that may just help it to weather the current storm a little better than if the Covid-induced boom hadn’t happened.”
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