Let’s park slow play and dress codes for a moment – club golf has got other issues on its plate as it looks to equip itself for this confusing age. If your membership is booming and the tills are ringing at your club then keep calm and carry on. But if they’re not, here are a quartet of the issues that might be proving a barrier to success…
Struggling golf club problems: Price
Nothing good ever comes cheap, or so the saying goes, and golf has definitely hung its hat on this peg for way too long – and that’s despite the emergence of tee time websites and flexible membership options.
Combine this with equipment, which seems to have been on an exponential upward curve over the past few years, and the outlay can start to spiral.
Yes, you can navigate your way round eBay and no one is saying that you have to splash out every 12 months on a new set of PXGs.
But even if you’re looking at new clubs that aren’t straight from the ‘latest collection’, if you’re going through the bag and don’t want to appear on Bargain Hunt you’re looking at the better part of a grand.
That’s before you start talking balls, tees, shoes, clothing – the list goes on.
When you’re looking to get into a sport and you perceive it to be a never-ending list of till receipts, it shouldn’t be a surprise that some balk at the idea.
It’s also hard to keep them in when, once they reach a better level, they’ve got to fill out a loan form again if they want to indulge in some new equipment that matches their emerging talents.
Add in membership fees that can be prohibitive depending on the part of the country you live in and it just feels like a constant money drain.
What can be done about this? Golf’s a business, after all, and it costs a fortune to maintain a course and run a club.
There’s no doubt, though, that price causes second-guessing in a way few other sports can match.
Struggling golf club problems: Time
I live in an area with 12 golf courses. Most of them don’t even offer a nine-hole rate.
Now if there isn’t two easily accessible loops I accept this can be a bit tricky. But for those where there is then, really, what’s the problem?
Let’s accept, for just a moment, that not everyone who arrives on a course is looking to rob the club blind.
Why not cater for those who are time limited and might only have 90 minutes to two hours to get in a few holes? Isn’t some revenue better than none at all?
Of course there will be those who take the proverbial but plenty of others will come, have a quick spin and a drink, and get off the grounds – because that’s all the time they’ve got.
I have a three-year-old and fitting golf in around family commitments takes planning and peace treaties.
It’s getting harder to justify spending the best part of a day at a club when a doe-eyed toddler is pleading with me to take her to the park.
Two hours sounds much more reasonable but would I pay £30 for a quick nine because that’s the day rate? Unlikely.
Struggling golf club problems: Atmosphere
We’ve all had the thousand-yard stare as we’ve walked in through the door, or had to bear the member who sprinted over to read the riot act because there was a corner of our polo shirt that wasn’t tucked in, but this is more than that.
Frankly, some clubhouses look more like care homes than a place you would want to spend an hour relaxing after a round.
It’s not about history, either. Some of the most traditional clubs I’ve visited also have the most modern-looking clubhouse interiors – because they embrace their past but also look to the future.
If your club’s carpets haven’t been changed since the early 80s and your bar manager is scowling because they’ve had to put down a paper to serve a pint it’s probably no surprise people aren’t flocking in after their round.
Struggling golf club problems: World Handicap System
Finally, one for the future. I like this scheme a lot but it’s going to be a tricky sell next year as the reality of our new handicaps dawns and some players see fluctuations – both up and down.
I know, from my limited experience of dealing with the annual handicap review, how even minimal change can elicit blind rage.
So those who, for whatever reason, haven’t got their playing records up to date and see some significant rises and falls are going to be knocking on the manager’s door.
- News: England Golf propose nomad handicap
- Interview: England Golf allay fears in handicap drama
- Opinion: Is this the death of club membership?
Some of those running golf clubs are sceptical about the changes, believing it’s a system being introduced largely to cater for elite players and will only bring more administration, more confusion, more work and more hassle.
Add in that, as a species, we generally hate change and the most fundamental alteration to the way we play competitions in decades is bound to have some growing pains.
How many of these chime with your own experiences, or have I just got it completely wrong? Have your say in the comments or come find me on Twitter.
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