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England Golf: ‘Ridiculously low’ green fees are devaluing club memberships

England Golf chief executive Jeremy Tomlinson says soaring member numbers following lockdown can act as a wake-up call against bargain basement green fees
 

Cheap green fees have contributed to the devaluation of club membership. That’s the belief of England Golf chief executive Jeremy Tomlinson.

The Woodhall Spa-based boss said biting the cherry of short-term gain, and “selling some green fees at a ridiculously low rate”, had done the sport no good.

Speaking to the From the Clubhouse podcast, Tomlinson urged an industry that has now seen a huge influx of new members in the wake of coronavirus lockdowns to study what it offers golfers and grasp the opportunity to build for the future.

“Now that we have these new members back, we really have to look at our membership proposition,” he said.

“We certainly have to look at the green fee levels. I think the biggest demise, or devaluation, of golf club membership has been low green fees.

“I think, unfortunately, too many golf clubs have bitten into this cherry of a short-term gain of selling some tee times at a ridiculously low rate.

“I think it’s done us no good. We need to make sure that we keep green fees at an appropriate level. We look after the membership, we make sure that proposition is a really good value proposition, and we really try to deliver value for money for these new golfers.”

Asked whether weaning away from that was going to require a culture change at some clubs, who may have been involved in a square off with competitors for players, Tomlinson added: “Yes, I do, and I have a concern with a lot of golf clubs.

“I think there are some clubs that are vulnerable and, whether it’s a lack of finances or a lack of resource, they have been open to these potential short-term gains as opposed to looking and building for the future, looking to invest, and bring in, whether it’s younger members, more diverse members working on their inclusivity.

“But it’s difficult because we have 1,800 golf clubs throughout our country and it’s basically 1,800 small to medium sized businesses, all with their own set of circumstances.

“They’re all trying to do their best but I do think this is a big wake up call for some of them.

“And, as much as it’s a wake up call, it’s a great opportunity – because we haven’t had this situation where playing rights have been so valuable for a long time.

“I sincerely hope we can take care of that and these clubs can really make sure they work hard at retaining their new members.”

What do you think of Tomlinson’s views? Let me know in the comments, or tweet me.

The NCG Podcast: From the Clubhouse

England Golf chief executive Jeremy Tomlinson was talking with Steve Carroll on the From the Clubhouse podcast from NCG.

Listen to the full episode here, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Subscribe to NCG

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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