Golf Monthly Editor's Letter December 2013 Issue

Editor’s Letter December 2013 Issue

There was a time, not so very long ago, when if you weren’t a member of a golf club you were a second-class golfing citizen.

The lack of a bona fide handicap certificate, or letter of introduction, excluded non-members from playing almost anywhere but municipal courses.

Times have changed and a handicap certificate from your club is no longer the key to the kingdom.

These days, at all but a few clubs, you don’t need to produce a handicap certificate to tee it up. Behave and dress like a recognisable golfer, and only a tiny handful will refuse your hard-earned money.

This fundamental change is a key reason for membership being in decline.

There are now more non-members than members and the nomadic approach is a genuine option for golfers looking for a top-quality experience.

I know plenty of very competitive golfers who play regularly and could afford to be members, but choose not to be.

It is against this rapidly changing landscape we find ourselves writing a feature I never thought Golf Monthly would be writing.

On pages 46–53 we ask you, our readers, should you really be a golf club member in 2014? Golf Monthly has always been for true golf enthusiasts rather than those with a passing interest.

Our readers tend not to be identified by age, gender, social background or ability; instead they are unified by the fact they take the game seriously and golf is a big part of their lives.

For much of our 103-year history you could guarantee ‘enthusiasts’ would be golf club members. But in recent years, the number of Golf Monthly readers who are members of a club has declined, not at the same rate as in the wider game but still significantly.

In a 2008 survey, 87 per cent of readers were members. Our new reader survey (of which more later) will tell us what the figure is in 2013, but my guess is somewhere in the mid-70s,
or a drop of around 10 per cent.

So when we ask ‘member or nomad next year?’ it’s not a contrived query setting up the notion that the grass is greener on the non-member’s side only to then knock it down with glee. It is a genuine question to which the answer will vary greatly depending on gender, stage of life and financial circumstances.

The fact you’re a ‘Golf Monthly reader and golf enthusiast’ may well see you naturally inclined to be a member in 2014, but when push comes to shove it’s now far from a foregone conclusion that you’ll renew your subscription or take the membership route if you want to enjoy the game even more next year.

I believe your decision will revolve around personal circumstances and how much your current or prospective club makes membership a good fit for your life.

There’s only so much conforming to standard golf club set-ups golfers can do and as time and money pressures grow, and opportunities to pick and choose where and when to play increase, so do the reasons not to be a member.

So whether golfer or golf club, private or proprietary club, member or nomad, I urge you to read the feature.

It may not give you definitive answers to the questions rattling round your head (most likely at the top of your backswing) but it will provide a clear outline of your options.

For clubs, secretaries, managers and committees, I hope it will give new insight into the landscape and the challenges your members and potential members face.

This is such a cornerstone topic for grass roots golf, and everyone who plays the game has a vested interest in how club membership offerings develop. So I’m expecting a big response to the feature. I look forward to hearing your views.

Twitter: @MikeHarrisGolf