Should clubs offer membership incentives for the younger golfer?

Should golf clubs take steps to make things more affordable for younger golfers?

Should golf clubs be doing more to keep younger adults in the game?

It sounds an obvious answer to the game's 'younger golfer' problems, but is it really? Jeremy Ellwood thinks so, while Fergus Bisset has his doubts…

Yes

For many years the supply and demand equation was loaded so much in favour of golf clubs, they didn’t have to worry too much about membership quotas – when members moved away or died they simply called up the next ones from an eager waiting list.

But that dynamic has shifted, drastically in some instances, and many clubs are now having to work much harder to fill places and balance the books.

Many have found that while they still have older members in abundance, the next generation is conspicuous by its absence as people’s work/life and family/golf balances have changed along with their financial priorities.

Many time- or cash-strapped twenty and thirty-somethings simply can’t justify paying full whack for the amount of golf they know they’re likely to play.

But these are the very golfers clubs need to attract or hold onto, as reaching the point where virtually the whole membership is 55+ will leave clubs very vulnerable in the years ahead.

Rather than simply waving them goodbye intransigently, surely it’s better to seek to hold on to the younger golfer via scaled fees that make membership a viable option as they try to keep playing through the financial and time pressures of their early working or married lives.

Yes, the thought of someone else paying less than you for the same thing may grate, but the wider picture is surely a greater concern.

Reducing fees to attract the twenty- and thirty-somethings may go against the grain for some, but it is the lesser of two evils in the ongoing battle to safeguard the future of many golf clubs?

Will he still be able to afford to play when he reaches his young adult years?

Will he still be able to afford to play when he reaches his young adult years?

No

Golf clubs across the UK must be increasingly creative and flexible in order to retain and attract members, but discriminating on the grounds of age should not be one of the options.

It’s simply not fair to offer a cheaper subscription to any adult golfer just because his or her age falls within a certain bracket.

Clubs should look to offer packages that could be attractive to prospective members of all ages. Five-day memberships might appeal to golfers who are retired, self-employed or studying.

Memberships allowing a maximum number of rounds per year might suit those with limited golfing opportunities due to work and/or family commitments.

If a club is struggling to attract younger members, they should look at what they are offering them rather than how much they’re charging.

Many young people are put off by draconian rules and an ‘old school’ mind-set. Clubs must move with the times in terms of their attitude as much as their product to draw in new members.

It might be argued that younger adults need the financial assistance as they start to make their way in the world.

But it’s impossible to generalise. Yes, some young adults have student debts, and yes, some older adults are rolling in it.

But there are also young adults with no dependants and large disposable incomes, just as there are older people with families to support, mortgages to pay and not a pound to spare at the end of the month.

Campaigners have fought through the centuries to establish equality in this country and the process is ongoing.

To favour or discriminate against any section of society because of race, sex, religion or, in this case, age, is a step in the wrong direction.

Jeremy Ellwood
Contributing Editor

Jeremy Ellwood has worked in the golf industry since 1993 and for Golf Monthly since 2002 when he started out as equipment editor. He is now a freelance journalist writing mainly for Golf Monthly across the whole spectrum from courses and Rules to equipment and instruction. He also edits The Golf Club Secretary Newsletter, a highly regarded trade publication for golf club secretaries and managers, and has authored or co-authored three books and written for a number of national papers including The Telegraph and The Independent. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 91 of the Next 100, making him well-qualified when it comes to assessing and comparing our premier golf courses. He has now played well over 950 golf courses worldwide in 35 countries, right across the spectrum from the humblest of nine-holers in the Scottish Highlands to the very grandest of international golf resorts, but put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content.

Jezz can be contacted via Twitter - @JezzEllwoodGolf


Jeremy is currently playing...

Driver: Ping G425 LST 10.5˚ (draw setting), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 55 S shaft

3 wood: Ping G425 Max 15˚ (set to flat +1), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 65 S shaft

Hybrid: Ping G425 17˚, Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro Orange 80 S shaft

Irons 3-PW: Ping i525, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts

Wedges: Ping Glide 4.0 50˚ and 54˚, 12˚ bounce, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts

Putter: Ping Fetch 2021 model, 33in shaft (set flat 2)

Ball: Varies but mostly now TaylorMade Tour Response