It is challenging times for the UK's golf clubs with a recent survey from The Golf Club Secretary providing insight into how they are being affected

Golf Clubs Undecided On Member Rebates During Coronavirus Lockdown

Golf clubs, like many other organisations in different industries, are currently going through truly unprecedented times due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

In the UK, courses have been shut for over five weeks and it must now be at least six weeks since any have had revenue come in via the bar or pro shop.

With golfers not playing, the only thing keeping clubs alive right now is the subscription fees, with takings from the bar, pro shop, green fees, societies and other revenues essentially falling off a cliff.

But might some clubs begin losing out on those vital membership fees?

As it stands, 43% of clubs have not yet offered members any incentives during these times according to a recent survey of 70 UK golf club secretaries or managers from The Golf Club Secretary newsletter.

Screenshot via GCS Coronavirus survey

Potential member benefits or incentives are under review at 29% of clubs surveyed whilst 22% of clubs surveyed have already come up with ways to please or reimburse the membership.

We’ve seen things like clubs giving three months free or, for those who renewed during the lockdown, giving 12 months membership from the moment play recommences.

“We firmly believe that the members as shareholders are the custodians of the club and business and to that end will support the recovery,” one club secretary said in the GCS survey.

“April each year is our membership renewal date, so this is a difficult time for us,” a different secretary said.

“We have asked people to pay even though there is no golf available. We are likely to look at some kind of extension to next year’s subscriptions, but if this carries on for a few more months this will cause us problems next year.”

Whilst clubs may not all be offering relief for their members, most have had members requesting help or rebates, with just 22% of clubs reporting no requests.

This is completely understandable with people being furloughed or even losing their jobs.

Screenshot via GCS Coronavirus survey

Many clubs are seeing members ask for payment holidays whilst one club has been threatened with legal action by a member for the reason of paying for a service that they are not receiving.

Another secretary said, “One person asked, “How can you charge me for a product that you can no longer offer?”

“So far we have had only two members asking about what we will be doing due to a lack of golf,” another respondent said.

“More members, luckily, have offered, in various cashflow ways, to help us through this period from buying members’ guest tickets in advance to a simple cash injection.”

“We have had dozens of members who have asked what we are going to do for them,” another wrote.

“The simple answer has been that when we come out of the coronavirus, they will have a great golf course to play.”

With golf facilities providing large open spaces, many are seeing their courses being used by dog walkers and those getting their daily allotted exercise. However, there have been some issues.

On Sunday 26th April, Walton Heath Golf Club in Surrey was vandalised by motorcyclists and unfortunately 10 clubs reported damage to their course in the GCS survey.

Walton Heath was vandalised by motorcyclists

As well as that, 10 clubs reported that golf by non-members was being played whilst two reported members playing on their course despite the UK lockdown measures in place.

“This is always something of an issue in that we have footpaths adjacent and crossing the course,” one secretary said.

“However, aside from a family game of tennis on the 5th green in the first week of lockdown, nothing major.”

Another secretary said that they were very happy to see people walking the course, “Lots of walkers but so far no damage. As long as this remains the case I see no real problem with local resident walkers. They may like what they see and join.”

Screenshot via GCS Coronavirus survey

However, not every course is being paid the respect it deserves.

“An utter nightmare! Dog-walkers, picnickers, BBQs, football games,” one secretary said.

“Thankfully, only minor damage thus far, but pretty disgraceful behaviour from a minority of neighbours. Dog foul and littering all over the place etc.”

The survey also showed that 80% of secretaries are still in their roles whilst 10% have been furloughed and 10% are under review.

Read the full survey here.

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