Is Golf Heading for a Bogey

Golf clubs saw an incredible increase in membership during the pandemic as golf was one of the few sporting activities that was permitted. However, this increase in membership followed an extended period of a decline in membership numbers that had been a cause for concern for many clubs.

Alistair Dickson, our director who heads up our Scottish practice is a keen golfer himself and below he offers his view on the outlook for golf clubs across the UK.

“Yes golf clubs enjoyed an incredible boost in membership during the pandemic and, undoubtedly, many of the clubs have continued to benefit from the increased membership fees and associated revenues since all the restrictions have been lifted, but I think it questionable that we are seeing a reversal in fortunes for all clubs.

Why do I say that? Well for several reasons but particularly time, household finances and age.

Now that we are emerging from the pandemic and lockdowns are a thing of the past (hopefully!) we have less time on our hands and more demands on that time. I believe that one of the primary reasons for the reducing numbers of club members was the time factor and for any golfer with families and still of working age, it is difficult to justify what is, in effect, an entire day out at the golf club. An average round is 4 hours, add to that travel to and from the course and a visit to the 19th hole and, at this time of year that has used up all hours of daylight – particularly north of the border!

We are all acutely aware of the demands on household budgets that we are now experiencing with inflation making every purchase more expensive that pre-pandemic; the threat of an increase in base and mortgage rates; and energy prices and fuel costs going through the roof. I would think that for the majority of golfers, club membership or green fees are considered a “luxury” item and as such one of the first that will be cut when the household budget comes under pressure.

I believe another reason that clubs were losing members was that, for many clubs, their members were almost a “dying breed” with 68% of members aged over 50, up from 63% in 2019 according to the latest annual survey of golf clubs published by accountants Hillier Hopkins. Only 13% of UK golf clubs members are aged under 30. So clearly more needs to be done to encourage youngsters into the game but, I think, that needs some radical thinking by clubs as sadly golf is still perceived by many as being stuck in the past. Youngsters do not want to spend all day on one activity and certainly do not want to adhere to some of the dress code requirements – does it really matter these days if a golfer wants to wear less formal attire?

So is it all doom and gloom for golf clubs? Actually despite my comments above I do not think it is, provided that clubs recognise the need to change and embrace technology to modernise their operation – the question is whether the “old guard” will allow this to happen in “their” club. If any of my contacts are aware of a club that is struggling I would urge them to get in touch with me. As a golfer I understand the business and want to help clubs get through tough times and, for many clubs, there will probably be a solution to any current financial difficulties.”

Alistair is available for an initial zero cost assessment which can be arranged by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by calling the office on 0204 548 1000.