It sounds an obvious answer to the game's 'younger golfer' problems, but is it really? Jeremy Ellwood thinks so, while Fergus Bisset has his doubts…
For many years the supply and demand equation was loaded so much in favour of golf clubs, they didn’t have to worry too much about membership quotas – when members moved away or died they simply called up the next ones from an eager waiting list.
But that dynamic has shifted, drastically in some instances, and many clubs are now having to work much harder to fill places and balance the books.
Many have found that while they still have older members in abundance, the next generation is conspicuous by its absence as people’s work/life and family/golf balances have changed along with their financial priorities.
Many time- or cash-strapped twenty and thirty-somethings simply can’t justify paying full whack for the amount of golf they know they’re likely to play.
But these are the very golfers clubs need to attract or hold onto, as reaching the point where virtually the whole membership is 55+ will leave clubs very vulnerable in the years ahead.
Rather than simply waving them goodbye intransigently, surely it’s better to seek to hold on to the younger golfer via scaled fees that make membership a viable option as they try to keep playing through the financial and time pressures of their early working or married lives.
Yes, the thought of someone else paying less than you for the same thing may grate, but the wider picture is surely a greater concern.
Reducing fees to attract the twenty- and thirty-somethings may go against the grain for some, but it is the lesser of two evils in the ongoing battle to safeguard the future of many golf clubs?
Golf clubs across the UK must be increasingly creative and flexible in order to retain and attract members, but discriminating on the grounds of age should not be one of the options.
It’s simply not fair to offer a cheaper subscription to any adult golfer just because his or her age falls within a certain bracket.
Clubs should look to offer packages that could be attractive to prospective members of all ages. Five-day memberships might appeal to golfers who are retired, self-employed or studying.
Memberships allowing a maximum number of rounds per year might suit those with limited golfing opportunities due to work and/or family commitments.
If a club is struggling to attract younger members, they should look at what they are offering them rather than how much they’re charging.
Many young people are put off by draconian rules and an ‘old school’ mind-set. Clubs must move with the times in terms of their attitude as much as their product to draw in new members.
It might be argued that younger adults need the financial assistance as they start to make their way in the world.
But it’s impossible to generalise. Yes, some young adults have student debts, and yes, some older adults are rolling in it.
But there are also young adults with no dependants and large disposable incomes, just as there are older people with families to support, mortgages to pay and not a pound to spare at the end of the month.
Campaigners have fought through the centuries to establish equality in this country and the process is ongoing.
To favour or discriminate against any section of society because of race, sex, religion or, in this case, age, is a step in the wrong direction.