Are Age-Related Subscriptions A Good Idea?

Should younger adults be offered a discounted rate?

Are Age-Related Subscriptions A Good Idea?
(Image credit: Kevin Murray)

GM regulars Fergus Bisset and Jeremy Ellwood debate whether or not clubs should offer younger adults a discounted membership rate.

Are Age-Related Subscriptions A Good Idea?

Yes says Fergus Bisset

Pre-pandemic and the golf boom, clubs across the country struggled to retain and attract younger adult members and survey evidence showed a worrying lack of adult golfers up to the age of 45.

As an example, in Scotland, “the home of golf,” there were more members in the age bracket of 65 to 74 than there were between the ages of 0 and 45.

There are many arguments to explain this but I’m afraid a main reason younger adults don’t feel they can justify golf club membership is cost.

Young adults are struggling to find a foothold in the inflated property market, often having to stretch themselves too far, they are struggling to put money aside yet they have less disposable income than those in the older generations.

At the same time, the average cost of club membership has been rising faster than inflation.

In many cases, ordinary membership subscriptions are simply untenable for a large portion of those in the early stages of working and family life.

To attract younger people to golf club membership, subscriptions quite simply must be affordable for them.

To secure the next generation of club golfers, and the survival of golf clubs themselves, older members must be prepared to offer younger, less wealthy golfers a reduced rate – an age-related subscription.

If young adults establishing themselves in life can justify the cost of becoming established golf club members they will continue to support clubs into the latter part of their lives.

Things may well change but, as it stands, the older generations in the UK are better off than the young.

If those younger players are lost to club golf because of short-sighted stubbornness form the old guard then the future for the game as we know it in this country is bleak.

Are Age-Related Subscriptions A Good Idea?

No says Jeremy Ellwood

We all know the 25- to 40-year-old age bracket has historically been under-represented at many golf clubs, with the work-life balance, time pressures and financial considerations meaning fewer of that age are able to, or indeed want to, shell out for a traditional full golf club subscription.

I visited one club a few years back who had just six members between the ages of 30 and 40 when they realised they had a problem, so clearly there is an issue, and something needs to be done.

But is it right that age should dictate how much you pay?

I’m not sure it is.

Yes, you might still be able to get half-price bus fares as a child, but I don’t think you’ll get very far asking for a discount as a 35-year-old.

And if you go into any High Street store and ask for a major discount because you’ve just got married, bought a house and started a family, you’ll get pretty short shrift.

Golf’s shifting supply and demand equation exacerbated the problem, as many clubs, pre-pandemic at least, desperately needed members rather than being able to pick and choose.

But I still feel a little uncomfortable about certain adults paying considerably less for the same product just because of their birthday.

For me, flexible lifestyle memberships are a better solution as you pay a reduced fee based on the amount of golf you expect to play rather than your age.

Such schemes are open to all with time pressures, rather than just the younger generation, and you bypass any potential price difference grumbles because it’s a different product – a capped rather than unlimited number of rounds.

I would much rather see clubs explore this avenue fully before offering hefty discounts to potentially wealthy 30-year-olds.

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?