As a PGA Professional working at golf clubs for the past 20 years I have seen the slide in popularity of golf club membership first hand. My main observation being how the dynamic as a family has changed massively in that time, driving the average age of a club member up considerably. The time consuming nature of golf means the average 40 year old father with two kids is no longer able to spend all weekend playing golf with his mates, perhaps an early tee time on a Saturday then back to the family is all that’s possible. These same members no longer can justify heading to the golf club at 6pm after work in the week either. Eventually due to not getting value from their membership, they leave the club happy to take advantage of corporate golf days and great value online deals on green fees instead.
What can we as golf course designers and consultants do to help a clubs membership become more appealing to families and not only keep Dad as a member but make the golf club a way of life for the rest of the family? Golf is the hardest sport to learn as well as its constraints on time so let’s create facilities sympathetic to this. Redevelop practice and academy facilities with thought to new golfers, most importantly to welcome rather than to intimidate. Design par 3 and academy courses that parents can play with their kids, less time consuming than 18 holes and so exciting for the kids. Coaching programmes tailor made to the clubs facilities, empowering the Professionals to drive the development whilst seeing growth in their business.
We’ve merely scratched the surface in search for the answers to how we grow the game. A club with a declining membership is easily redirected to being successful through a full evaluation of its facilities and a structured route forward.