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‘It’s not going to stop’: Expect to pay even more to play GB&I’s top 100 courses

On The NCG Golf Podcast, UK Golf Guy – David Jones – reveals his research shows visitor green fees at the very best layouts are only going in one direction

 

Some of Great Britain & Ireland’s top golf courses are “seeing how high they can push” visitor green fees as the cost of a tee time gets ever higher.

Speaking on The NCG Golf Podcast, David Jones, better known on social media as UK Golf Guy, revealed his early research on the high summer prices demanded by top 100 golf courses was showing “very significant increases”.

He said prices at the top 30 courses on his list were increasing this year at twice the rate of inflation, and that the average green fee at those clubs had risen by more than £80 since 2020.

Looking ahead at next year, Jones said the trend was unlikely to halt. “It’s not going to stop,” he explained. “It’s just going further, and further, and further”.

He joined NCG Top 100s chairman Dan Murphy on the podcast where they discussed what makes a good golf course, how you can measure courses against each other, and the effect roll back will have on courses and the amateur game.

They then turned to the cost of green fees where, on his UK Golf Guy website, Jones amalgamates several top 100 lists, including National Club Golfer, and reveals green fee inflation.

He compares rates for peak summer play at those courses which allow green fees and, while mainly using weekend rates, also takes the highest available weekday rate for those clubs that don’t allow unaccompanied visitors on Saturday and Sunday.

Over the past few years, he has uncovered some eye-watering increases and sobering reading for those planning a peak season golf trip.

Muirfield top 100 golf courses

Top 100 golf courses: ‘There are a lot of clubs…who are making more money than they’ve ever made’

Asked what his data was telling him about the cost of green fees now, he said: “Of the top 30 courses on that list, in 2020 – the year of Covid – the average to play the top 30 was £221. If that had gone up with inflation which, as we all know, has been significant over those last four years, that would be £260 now.

“It’s actually over £300. You’ll be hearing a lot around inflation going up. Well, for those top 30 courses, they have gone up this year at twice the rate of inflation. That really is seeing some very, very, significant increases at certain places and it does feel like that top end is just seeing how high they can push them.

“From a revenue point of view, there are a lot of clubs now – and again I’m talking here about the very, very, top end, those top 30/40 courses, who are making more money than they’ve ever made in the past from green fees.

“They’re doing a few things with that money. Some of them are actually reducing the number of green fee times that are available – because there’s only so much money that they need.

“They’re saying, ‘OK, let’s not make as many visitor places available’.”

He added: “Some of them have stopped doing winter green fees completely because ‘well, we don’t need the money so let’s not do that’. So that takes away from us.

“Some of them are investing in the facilities. I do think there’s a bit of a risk you get into a vicious cycle there. I was speaking to a GM who said, ‘we don’t make any profit, everything’s going back into the club’.

“But it’s going back into the club and you’re spending money on things that you think you need to spend the money on to get more of the tour groups visiting you. Do you really need an upgrade to the clubhouse? Do you really need to keep the course in a condition where it’s never been in the past?

“Well, yes, we do, because we’ve got to justify our £350 green fees to keep it going.”

Jones said he understood the argument from people who pointed out golfers should be lucky to be able to play such revered venues at all.

“That’s true to an extent compared to the United States where you can’t play Pine Valley, or Cypress Point, or Winged Foot. You just can’t play them. I get the arguments there a little bit,” he added.

“But I do think that some of these courses have got, and perhaps I am being a bit of a romantic, a responsibility to have average people able to play their courses without it being something they’ve got to save up for 10 years to do. I think there is a bit of that responsibility.

“But I’m being very naïve. People will say supply and demand, and they are right. And a lot of these top courses are just seeing how far they can keep on going.

“I’ve seen a couple of the prices already for 2025 comes through and, believe me, it’s not going to stop. It’s just going further and further and further. And it is a shame. Maybe it’s reality, but it is a shame.”

Now listen to The NCG Golf Podcast

You can listen to this week’s episode, with UK Golf Guy David Jones, along with NCG Top 100s chairman Dan Murphy, and regular hosts Tom Irwin and Steve Carroll by clicking the banners on this article and selecting the episode.

Alternatively, click the specific episode right here.

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