Getting ready for golf

Golf was one of the few success stories of 2020 and new research finds that operators are optimistic about the sport this year too.


DESPITE a challenging and volatile year, golf club operators are optimistic about what lies ahead, according to 2020 Golf Operation Impact survey of golf clubs in the UK and Ireland by technology provider BRS Golf by GolfNow. 


Membership was by far the biggest growth area in 2020, with 80 per cent of respondents reporting membership revenues up, and 35 per cent reporting it has increased dramatically. In fact, 11 per cent said they had surpassed their membership capacity and had to introduce a waiting list. 


When asked about critical elements in 2021 to ensure sustainability, the majority of clubs cited new membership retention as the number one priority. Many comments referenced the importance of member engagement in 2021, especially as life returns to normal and pre-Covid team sports participants decide where to spend their time and money. 

A summer surge in membership revenue and member and visitor rounds followed a spring golf season that was the worst ever experienced in the UK and Ireland. 


Among respondents 60 per cent of clubs reported being closed to members for three months or more, 84 per cent were closed to visitors three months or more and 86 per cent were closed to members’ guests three months or more. The majority of clubs in Wales and Scotland reported courses only being closed one to two months, while in Ireland and Northern Ireland 83 per cent of facilities were closed for more than three months. 


Despite these closures 40 per cent of clubs reported an increase in visitor green fee revenue last year. More than half (55 per cent) of all respondents saw double digit growth in rounds across all golfer types, with 33 per cent reporting that rounds were up significantly in 2020. 


Unsurprisingly the wedding and events business, society and competitions and food & beverage segments were deemed hardest hit by respondents. 


Eighty one per cent said clubhouse F&B was down dramatically, while 70 per cent reported a dramatic decline in weddings and events and 64 per cent said society and open competitions were down significantly over last year. 

Working remotely received the highest agreement among golf club managers, with almost three quarters (71 per cent) identifying this as a key opportunity for the industry. 


Meanwhile 67 per cent highly agreed that future investments in technology will help courses capitalise on the consumer’s adoption of making pre-payments. 


Other critical elements for success in the coming year for clubs managers were member retention, course maintenance, the delivery of the vaccine and the ability to open the club house safely. Eighty seven per cent of respondents reported that all or part of the clubhouse has been closed and for revenues to bounce back, food & beverage offerings are key.  

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