(Burhill Golf Club)
The surge after clubs reopened following coronavirus-imposed shutdowns is seen as the biggest over a three-month period in the UK’s history. Many of the new members are “people from all walks of life, not just from the traditional demographic,” says one club’s Director. Rounds have outpaced 2019 levels by 60 percent for each of the past three months, and a 372 percent boost in court bookings for tennis over a year ago has also been reported.
The Chief Executive Officer of England Golf revealed that English golf clubs have collectively seen 20,000 new members join in the three months since most venues reopened following coronavirus-imposed shutdowns, reported The Golf Business, a UK publication.
The gain almost certainly represents the biggest membership growth for English clubs over a three-month period in history, The Golf Business reported.
“Since May 13, there have been 20,000 new members across England,” England Golf CEO Jeremy Tomlinson told The Sunday Times, England’s largest newspaper.
“The number of rounds played in June and July was up 60 percent on 2019, and is trending towards the same increase for August,” Tomlinson added.
“I’ve played golf for a long time, at all levels, and I’ve never seen anything like what’s happened since lockdown ended [in terms of] the numbers playing [golf], the inquiries about membership [and even] the number of club fittings,” Ricky Willison, a former Walker Cup player who is now Director of Ealing Golf Club in west London, told The Golf Business.
“We’ve taken in over 100 new members at Ealing since April— people from all walks of life, not just people from the traditional demographic but from families wanting to do things together,” Willison said. “Neil Jordan, my colleague at Ealing, is booked up for lessons until August 30. That’s every half hour from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. five days a week. I have been flat out pretty much every day since we’ve come out of lockdown.”
Moray Golf Club in Scotland is another to report a membership boom, The Golf Business reported, having already attracted 320 new members. The club is also seeing the course become extremely popular, with nearly double the number of people playing on it this August compared with a year earlier.
“When the country went into lockdown, we predicted that we would be out of money by July,” Derek Ramsay, Moray GC’s PGA professional, told The Golf Business. “However, things are even better now than usual, and it’s been amazing to see such a significant improvement in memberships, especially with young people.
“We’re seeing many new members who had never even played, and certainly had never been members of any golf club before,” Ramsay added. “We had to figure out a new method of scheduling tee times to make sure everyone got their time on the course.”
The Sunday Times article noted several reasons why membership growth has soared, The Golf Business reported.
‘During the early weeks of renewal, the weather was good, and having been imprisoned in their homes for the previous seven weeks, people realized how much they enjoyed their game,’ the article said. “[Plus it’s] a game that could be enjoyed in relative safety during [the] pandemic.
“Being forced to book in advance and play in [twosomes] eliminated two of the amateur game’s greatest bugbears: the 4½-hour round and time wasted hanging around a congested first tee,” the article added. ‘[And] with a significantly increased demand for playing time from their own members, clubs were no longer in a position to accommodate non-members wishing to pay and play. As a consequence, many non-affiliated golfers had to join a club to be sure of getting a game.”
Colin Mayes, the CEO of Burhill Golf and Leisure, which operates Burhill Golf Club, told The Golf Business that the rise in people working from home due to the pandemic has also played a significant role in the increase in rounds played.
“A lot of our members at Burhill work in the city and because they’re not travelling into the office, they’ve got two hours of their life back,” Mayes said. “By being more efficient working at home, they’ve suddenly got four hours available. Instead of playing once a week, as they did previously, they’re now playing two or three times a week.”
Alasdair Good, the head professional at Gullane Golf Club, cited the same factors behind increased play, The Golf Business reported.
“People in Gullane travelled into Edinburgh and they didn’t get home in the evening until about half six,” Good said. “They then had their tea at seven o’clock and had no opportunity to get on the course. Now they’re at home, working until five o’clock, switching the computer off and they’re on the tee for quarter past five. We’ve seen a huge resurgence in evening golf.”
Pay-and-play venues are also booming at public courses operated by Burhill Golf and Leisure, Mayes reported.
“There has been probably a 30 to 40 per cent increase [at our venues],” he said. “In July we had a 31 percent increase against the previous year at Hoebridge GC in Surrey. And here is another interesting stat: the short-course rounds, which is the beginner course, are double what they were last year. We did 32,000 short-course rounds in July, compared with 16,000 the previous year.”
The Sunday Times’ report also noted that tennis, another sport that allows natural social distancing, has also enjoyed significantly increased participation since clubs and public courts were reopened in the UK. There has been a 372 percent increase in court bookings from reopening in May to the end of July, compared with last year’s figures, The Times reported.