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club membership

Golf club membership in England continues to rise

On The NCG Golf Podcast, England Golf chief executive Jeremy Tomlinson revealed the latest figures on club membership in the country

 

Golf club membership in England remains on the increase – despite fears cost-of-living might burst the post-pandemic participation boom.

Speaking on the latest episode of The NCG Golf Podcast, Jeremy Tomlinson, England Golf chief executive, said membership numbers in 2023 stood at 722,000.

That’s an increase of around 2,000 players on 2022 and, while the increase was described by the governing body’s key figure as “fairly modest”, it shows the appetite for belonging to a golf club has not diminished.

Following a decade of stagnating statistics, clubs saw a rush of new and returning faces in the summer of 2020 with golf one of the few sanctioned sports following the end of the first Covid-19 lockdown.

Many industry pundits have since tried to predict whether a slowdown would occur as the novelty of membership wore off, or whether the sport would be hurt as people looked to reduce their leisure commitments in the face of soaring household bills.

But the numbers of rounds played, detailed by tee times companies such as BRS Golf, has continued to show record levels of play leading, last October, for the Golf Club Talk UK podcast to ask whether clubs should look at membership numbers and types if the increases continued.

club membership

Golf club membership: ‘People are investing in themselves’

Reflecting on these latest numbers, Tomlinson told the podcast: “Nobody would ever have wished for a pandemic. But the effect that it had on golf club membership, the effect that it had on people actually wanting to have playing rights, was incredible. Golf club membership had stagnated.”

He added: “What happened was through the pandemic, through Covid times, people really became a lot more self-aware with regards to their own health.

“It became, ‘how can I improve my health?’ and, of course, golf is the most wonderful game, both mentally and physically, from a health benefit perspective.

“People really grabbed hold of that. The great thing to see is they’ve continued to want that and the desire is still very much there.

“[For] ourselves as the governing body, [it’s] doing anything and everything we can to help golf clubs and counties to really keep that revival going, to inspire even more members and to inspire even more players, which has happened.”

Asked how those figures had been achieved despite cost-of-living pressures, Tomlinson added: “I think what people are investing in is themselves.

“What the pandemic did, from a high level perspective in many different walks of life, was people looked at themselves in the mirror and were saying, ‘what do I want in life? What do I want out of my job? What do I want out of my social life? What I want for myself from a health perspective?’

“I think people are just investing in themselves. I think that drive to invest in themselves is then driving golf clubs in a different direction.

“It’s woken a lot of golf clubs up to saying, ‘we really enjoy having all these new members, we enjoy having a full membership, we’ve got a bit more money to play with. Let’s do all that we can to try to keep this thing going.”

Now listen to The NCG Golf Podcast

England Golf chief executive Jeremy Tomlinson joins Steve Carroll and Tom Irwin to talk club membership, WHS, iGolf, and the governing body’s important Respect in Golf campaign. You can listen to the full episode here.

Now have your say

What do you think of these England Golf club membership numbers? Will it remain buoyant for the long haul? Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment on X.

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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