Busier, Costlier, Frustrating, Scruffier – What Golfers Should Expect In 2022

Golf’s popularity has risen but that brings new challenges for golfers, we consider them and why we need to be patient

What golfers should expect in 2022
Golf has been something of a victim of its own success recently
(Image credit: Tom Miles)

The Covid pandemic provided something of a kickstart for a boom in golf’s popularity. During lockdown and now beyond, people have remembered and realised the social, physical and mental benefits that golf delivers. At a time of tremendous stress for the world, golf offers millions much needed release, interaction and exercise.

Membership numbers have risen over the last two years and recent figures show that 60% of UK Golf Clubs now have a waiting list.

Playing numbers in general are also up and visitor slots are being snapped up. Royal Dornoch recently announced they are fully booked for the 2022 season as an example.

Golf’s surge in popularity is great for the overall and long-term health of the game and golf will always be an amazing sport for new and established players. But growth brings its own challenges and recently golf has been something of a victim of its own success. For those of us getting used to the new golfing normal some of those can be a little tough to accept.

Challenges for Members 

subs vary

(Image credit: Tom Miles)

The value of being a club member has undoubtedly risen in recent times. With clubs filling up and many now with waiting lists again, the membership arena is less of a buyer’s market than it was a few years ago. Becoming a member is more expensive and could take more time than it would have done three or four years ago. Those who have a secure club membership can relax to a certain extent but, as inflation threatens and the simple economic effect of supply and demand comes into play, it’s inevitable that subscription rates will rise.

Tee sheets are busier (although not as rammed as they were in lockdown.) At many clubs, members are having to think harder about when they’re going to play and planning in advance. New members tend to want to play more so, although it’s great for golf clubs to have more members on their books, they will inevitably be active playing members, taking up tee times.

Competitions are tougher to get a start in because of that effect too. Club events get super-fast sign-up with members hovering by keyboards or on hand-held devices when entry opens to try and snag the best times… Members paying hefty annual subscriptions don’t tend to like having to then enter a bunfight to get a start in the Spring Cup.

Increased traffic on courses means potentially slower rounds – That never tends to be popular with the more established members. In addition, increased traffic means more wear and tear to the course. And there’s a two-pronged problem there as more people on the fairways makes it more difficult for greenkeeping teams to get out there and complete regular maintenance and required repair works.

Member’s Guests rates are also on the rise as costs inflate and demand to play increases. The old days of taking on a guest for a nominal fee seem to be a thing of the past.

Challenges For Visitors

Golfer sit down and wait during a round

Courses are busier

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Getting times is inevitably more challenging with more people playing – both members and visitors. As mentioned above, trophy courses are being booked up well in advance and although times are available at most clubs and courses, visitors will have to be increasingly flexible to play at different times, on different days to those they would normally opt for. Visitor slots get snapped up and the heavy traffic can lead to slow play.

Booking for a group becomes more challenging when times are at a premium. Visiting parties need to be on the ball to book well in advance to find courses that can accommodate them.

And the prices are, understandably, going to be higher for visiting individuals and groups. There will be fewer deals to be had if demand is greater. They can still be found, but the game/trip organiser will need to root them out rather than having an abundance of options. 

Challenges In Retail

The cost of equipment as with almost everything in recent times has risen as demand has soared and production and delivery costs have gone up. Buying a set of irons from a leading manufacturer will put a more sizeable dent in the bank balance than it would have before this new normal.

And expect to wait. Unless you’re buying something off the rack, lead times continue to be longer than they would. If you’re being custom-fit, gone are the days of your kit turning up the following week. Dig in for the long haul.

If you can get it. Supply continues to be an issue as demand has risen and infrastructure damaged. The cost of transport for manufacturers has risen considerably and that has a significant knock-on effect.  

Bargains are tougher to come by as there are fewer items on the sale rails and retailers simply don’t have so much stock to start offering discounts.

These varying challenges have been created by one huge positive for the game – that more people are playing and are interested in the sport. But, for the next while at least, we must accept that greater demands on various aspects of the sport mean we’ll all have to pay a little more, wait a little longer and just be a touch more understanding if we’re all to enjoy this new golfing normal together.

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?