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Are Golf Groups Online The Future Of Golf?

By Author: Ian Mullins
Total Articles: 6

Coupled with the fact that many golf clubs are seeing a drop in annual golf club membership and you can see why many golfers are now moving to many of the golf groups online that are being set up by either small societies organisers or by international golf businesses.

As such, whereas, once upon a time, the ONLY way you could find fellow golfers to play with was by joining a golf club, fast-forward to 2018 and with the number of dedicated online golf groups growing rapidly, we ask if there is a need to still join a traditional 'Bricks & Mortar' golf clubs?

Firstly, let's not write off golf clubs just yet but it is a long-held view that for some time golf clubs have taken their customers for granted for too long. While some clubs have moved with the times and introduced flexi-membership and multiple membership tiers to sort all pockets, many have sadly blindly ignored the change that is taking place both on and off line.

The internet has changed the way we all search for goods and services and if you are a golf club that has not embraced this change, then you are probably struggling to find new visitors to your course. In the last 15 years, there has been both a dramatic and significant drop in club membership...

"Golf club membership is plummeting in the UK, with England Golf reporting a 20% drop between 2004 and 2013, and the Scottish Golf Union reporting a 17% drop over the same period" courtesy of Golf Monthly - Read more

...and more recently golf participation as a whole has started to drop. Here's a recent article featured in The Golf Business magazine relating to the number of golf rounds played in 2017.

"We can exclusively reveal that compared to the same period in 2016, rounds played were lower for quarter four across all regions, leading to an average drop of 11.4 per cent," said a spokesman for SPORTS MARKETING SURVEYS INC. (SMS INC.)

But Why?

Firstly, there are many other factors competing for young golfers' time e.g. Gaming, Cycling, Facebook, SnapChat and of course Netflix. But why is golf suffering more than most.

Sadly, in my humble opinion, Golf Clubs have not traditionally been run as businesses and as such the outdated 'committee' model has proved inflexible and for some intolerable. Furthermore, for many golf clubs are seen as intimidating places to visit, let alone join.

However, the biggest factor I believe is due to the 'atmosphere' within the golf club ...

- Golf is hard and take a great deal of effort to accomplish

- Golf suffers from a very bad reputation and with recent stories such as that experienced by female golfer in Wales – its seen as sexist and misogynistic – see story below

- Golf is expensive compared to other sports takes time to master

- Pro shop staff are often arrogant and unwelcoming

- Golf Club are often 'clicky' with little silos formed by members

- Established members often do little to welcome new golfers

- Golf is NOT female friendly

The final point on this list was recently compounded when a twitter storm of some proportion high-lighted how golf is perceived and still is!! https://twitter.com/Lowri_Amlwch/status/953889323543392257

Here's what Lowri Roberts from Cotterell Park Golf Club in Wales had to say in January 2018 following a local committee meeting - in her own words...

"I failed in my attempt to seek fairer treatment for ladies at my golf club last night. I'm grateful for all of the support that I received from the men + the ladies at the AGM.I will not drop the issue. We deserve equality. Onwards. #Sheplays2 #Thisis2018"

Luckily, the storm and bad publicity this created for the club has now forced the club to re-think... with Lowri posting this on 14th Feb 2018...

"In a fortnight, I will find out whether a committee at my golf club has reconsidered my request for fairer treatment. I am currently treated less favourably due to my sex-a protected characteristic under the Equalities Act 2010. #thisis2018 #sheplays2 "

Sadly, what this does is force more and more golfers to go online and search for golf group they suit them and their politics. No longer are golfer being held at the behest of the golf club and unless clubs embrace this and work with these type of golf groups – then the sports will continue to see less and less people attracted to it.

Many clubs would do well to learn from what these types on NEW style of online Golf Clubs – and quickly!

Ian was Marketing Director of The London and Manchester Golf Show in 2012-2015; he has also worked with Crown Golf, The William Hunt Trilby Tour, The Altonwood Group and many other golf brands. His website brings online golf groups together.

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