The R&A Chief says golf clubs need to change to encourage more people to become members

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Slumbers: ‘Clubs Are Not Providing A Product Golfers Want To Buy’

R&A Chief Executive Martin Slumbers says that golf clubs in Great Britain and Ireland need to change their thinking to attract more members.

Slumbers was speaking at St Andrews earlier this week, where he seemed worried that of over 10 million golfers (of all kinds, casual, members), just one million are members of golf clubs.

He says that clubs need to change their approaches, giving examples of how non-traditional clubs featuring coffee shops, short par-3 courses and no dress codes are “busy.”

“We have to change,” he said.

“Grassroots is going to struggle unless the game changes.

“The traditional way of looking at the health of golf in Great Britain and Ireland is number of golf club members, and that’s about a million golfers.

“We had independent research done, myself and [European Tour Chief Executive] Keith Pelley, to look at how many people consume golf, which means 18‑hole golf, nine‑hole golf, driving ranges, par‑three courses, adventure golf, TopGolf, all of those things.

“That group of people is 10.2 million people; it’s much more diverse, and it’s younger [than the golf club membership].

“There’s only two sports that have more people who participate in it in this country, swimming and the gym.

“Because we’re all a bit cynical, you reckon maybe half of them really don’t think they’re consuming golf, but even if you do that it’s still five million.

“Why aren’t those five million joining golf clubs? I would argue it’s because the golf clubs are not providing a product they want to buy.

“You go to clubs which deliver non‑traditional forms of the game, they’re busy. And I think that’s a lesson for all of us who love this game.

“Those are clubs that are very family orientated, have fitness, have creches, have coffee shops, have wi‑fi, have no dress code, have short par‑3 golf course, have short 9‑hole golf course, pitch and putt, those are the ones that are going to succeed.”

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We’ve seen contrasting figures on golf club health in this part of the world over the past few years.

An England Golf survey via Sports Marketing Surveys in 2018 showed that the average number of members at a club had risen from 460 in 2016 to 484 in 2018.

However, the the KPMG Golf Participation Report for Europe showed contrasting, and worrying, numbers for membership in the UK and Ireland.

England, which has the largest number of registered golfers in Europe, lost 10,688, and 1.63%, of its registered players between 2017 and 2018.

The numbers have fallen from 655,839 to 645,151.

The numbers were worse for Scotland, which lost 4% of its registered golfers between 2017 and 2018.

There were 187,802 Scottish golfers but that number fell to 180,281.

Wales was similar with numbers down over 4% from 44,551 to 42,743.

Ireland, which also includes Northern Ireland due to the Golfing Union of Ireland encapsulating the entire island, saw less of a fall in its players.

Numbers were down just 0.58% from 183,461 in 2017 to 182,398.

Related: Somerset club introduces £1 membership

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