Cost Of Golf To Continue To Rise - Survey Confirms

The 2022/23 Members and Proprietary Golf Clubs Survey reveals some sobering figures for golf fans

Players during a round of golf
(Image credit: Tom Miles)

A new survey has revealed that the cost of joining golf clubs and playing the game is increasing in the UK - and it's threatening to curtail the increased participation that was seen during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 2022/23 Members' and Proprietary Golf Clubs Survey, published by chartered accountants Hillier Hopkins LLP, offers an exhaustive take on the issue, with the figures proving that it is becoming increasingly expensive to participate in the sport.

The survey reveals that membership fees for regular club members typically ranged between £1,000 and £1,612 in 2022. However, 36% of clubs now charge more than the latter figure compared to just 29% in 2021. If you're considering sitting tight and hoping fees drop back down, it may not be wise, either. According to the survey, a huge majority of clubs (92%) plan to raise their subscription fees this year. By comparison, only 80% did so in 2021, while the figure was just 61% in 2020. 

Overall, the average fee increase will by around 7%, although in some cases that could reach a worrying 15%. In contrast, in 2021, the average fee increase was a more manageable 4%. 

The squeeze on participants doesn't end there, either. Entrance fees are also becoming more prevalent with 61% of clubs saying they had planned to charge one in 2022, up by 8% from the year before. 

Meanwhile, even 7% of clubs who don't charge the fee now say they plan to in future. Fees at golf clubs that have already implemented it average £1,700, although that falls within a wide range between £100 to £5,000. At least on this issue there is some welcome relief for players with tighter budgets, though - more clubs are allowing people to pay the fees in instalments over anywhere between one and five years, with most people taking up the option of two years. 

If you can afford to join a club, the good news for those eager to get started is that both the percentage of clubs with a waiting list and their lengths have fallen. Just over half the clubs, or 52%, have a waiting list, down from 60% in 2021, but that is still higher than the years beforehand. Meanwhile, if you do have to sit on a waiting list, you shouldn't be on it for as long as 2021. In 2022, clubs reported an average of 61 people on their lists, down from 90 the year before.  

Of course, while that can get you on the course a bit quicker than before, it's not such a good sign for the clubs, as it could be an early indication that, post-Covid, interest in the game is beginning to tail off, with the report warning that "maintaining demand will be a key focus for clubs over the coming years."

There is news of more immediate concern for clubs, too. Even though they have taken increased green fees, with half now making between £60,000 and £140,000 a year from them, there is a greater cost to maintaining clubhouses, which rose from an average of £56,000 in 2021 to £70,000 in 2022. Clubhouse staff wages also increased during that period, from £154,000 to £198,000.

After a challenging few years in many areas of society, an escape to the golf course has offered a boost for huge numbers of people. However, with costs increasing across many sectors, it's apparent that golf is far from immune. 

It is to be hoped that the benefits of increased participation in recent years will not be forgotten by either clubs or players. Hopefully, over 2023, the challenge of retaining thriving clubs with players able to continue enjoying the game will be met - without needing to break the bank to do it.  

Mike Hall
News Writer

Mike has over 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on a range of sports throughout that time, such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance staff writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the game's most newsworthy stories. 

He has written hundreds of articles on the game, from features offering insights into how members of the public can play some of the world's most revered courses, to breaking news stories affecting everything from the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to developmental Tours and the amateur game. 

Mike grew up in East Yorkshire and began his career in journalism in 1997. He then moved to London in 2003 as his career flourished, and nowadays resides in New Brunswick, Canada, where he and his wife raise their young family less than a mile from his local course. 

Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.