The UK’s cost-of-living squeeze represents a “threat” and a “challenge” to golf’s pandemic gains, according to England Golf.
The governing body’s chief operating officer, Richard Flint, said the Woodhall Spa-based organisation was focused on retention and helping clubs keep their members with huge energy bills set to hit disposal incomes over the coming months.
Speaking on the From the Clubhouse podcast, Flint noted the strong position of membership in the country – with most recent figures showing a 14 per cent increase to 737,000.
But with energy costs now passing £3,500 per household and expected to increase, and clubs facing rising prices too, it’s feared some members will be forced to make a choice between their club and their bills if they find themselves struggling.
“It is a threat,” said Flint. “It is a challenge – not just to golf but to society. We see the challenges every day in terms of the news and the media.
“We can’t sit here and say that we should ignore it and everything’s going to be all right. It will be a challenge. So let’s understand what those challenges are – for us an organisation and an industry but, most importantly, from a golf club and a golfer’s perspective.
“Let’s understand that and try and support, and guide, and address what’s coming.”
Flint said that while membership numbers were good, and clubs were thriving financially on the back of full houses and membership waiting lists, the game could not rest on its laurels.
“The cost of living and the squeeze on disposable income is already here,” he explained. “If we listen to the press and the media, it’s only going to get worse.
“Going forward, that could well have an impact on whether individuals choose to renew their membership. If we fast forward to next year’s January and April renewals, that’s going to be tough in terms of the winter and particularly what’s coming with the energy costs.
“It has been quite a smart move for those clubs that have put their renewals to spring or summer, when people are playing on a regular basis and obviously can see the benefit they’re getting from membership.
“Our focus in terms of supporting those golf clubs, those that want it and work closely with us, is around retention.
“We know that retention is absolutely key now going forward over the next six to 12 months and the resources, support, and the club officer network that we have, along with the Membership Give it a Shot campaign, is very much focusing on that retention piece.
“Golf clubs obviously have to be wary, not rest on their laurels and, hopefully, we can get through what’s coming with the cost of living.”
Listen to England Golf’s Richard Flint on the From the Clubhouse podcast
On the From the Clubhouse podcast, Richard also chatted about the success of iGolf, which hit its 25,000-subscriber target in its first 12 months, talks more about the governing body’s Give Membership A Shot programme, which has helped to underpin some of the successes in the sport following the Covid pandemic, and revealed some interesting news about the World Handicap System.