(Pictured: Nairn Dunbar GC)
Clubs in the United Kingdom have scored impressive membership gains through new corporate membership and “lifestyle” arrangements that offer more flexibility and appeal to the changing socio-economic profile of many who are newly interested in golf. “What we’re seeing by being one of the first sports back is a large number of people from other sports, like cricketers, footballers and rugby players, [are] taking up golf,” says the Secretary of The Yorkshire Union of Golf Clubs, which operates over 180 courses. “And because golf clubs have generally been looking after their members by prioritizing their play, these new players are taking up memberships, to ensure they get a tee time.”
Some golf clubs in the United Kingdom are introducing new membership categories, in response to both the increased demand to play golf as one of the most available and unrestricted recreational activities amid the pandemic, and to the changing socio-economic profile of many new golfers, reported The Golf Business, a UK-based publication.
Data by the UK’s Office for National Statistics shows that the number of people who work from home in England and other countries has grown by more than ten times in the past three months—from 1.7 million people to approximately 20 million—causing a seismic shift in working habits and methods, The Golf Business reported. And that, in turn, is changing who wants to play golf and at what times, according to some golf clubs.
“Flexible working arrangements are set to become much more common after the coronavirus pandemic, particularly for those living in and around London, with workers looking for pleasant spaces to work, meet and entertain clients,” said a spokesman for the Foxhills Collection, which operates two golf clubs in south east England, The Golf Business reported. As a result, the company is now offering what it calls ‘a wide range of bespoke options’ of corporate membership packages for its clubs that ‘removes the need for professionals to travel into central London.”
“Both Foxhills and Farleigh golf clubs are offering flexible corporate membership packages that are perfect for remote working for those looking to swap the boardroom for the golf course, in a time where outdoor, socially distanced meetings are the safest alternative to online video calls,” the Foxhills spokesman added added.
In Scotland, Nairn Dunbar Golf Club has launched a new “Lifestyle” membership category,The Golf Business reported. It is particularly aimed at the “occasional and fair-weather” golfer, or golfers wishing to have a second course membership, and provides many of the benefits of traditional golf club membership.
Lifestyle members can play at Nairn Dunbar GC any time from 10 a.m. on weekdays and from 2 p.m. at weekends during the summer months, and from 11 a.m. during weekdays and weekends in the winter period, The Golf Business reported.
“Lifestyle membership is an excellent alternative membership option that has been created for golfers who want a lot of the benefits of being a full member of the golf club, but whose busy lives mean that they are unable to play enough golf to justify a traditional full membership subscription,” said Kieran Maclean, Nairn Dunbar GC’s Club Manager.
“Those giving up traditional golf club membership tend to say that they simply don’t play often enough to justify the cost of membership, and this particularly applies to the 25-to-40 age group,” Maclean noted. “The introduction of this membership will encourage the less-frequent player to become a member of the club and, in addition, encourage a current member who may be considering giving up their membership to remain.
“We also believe it will be attractive to past members who considered the number of times they played did not justify a full membership,” Maclean added.
Over 20 members over the age of 30 have fully joined Nairn Dunbar in recent weeks at £60.38 (around $75 U.S.) per month, The Golf Business reported. The new Lifestyle category can be purchased for £470 per year ($583 U.S.) for those aged 24 and above, with an annual cost of £315 ($391 U.S.) for those aged 21 to 24.
Thhe Yorkshire Union of Golf Clubs has also reported that a large majority of its 183 clubs have seen a boom in members, The Golf Business reported. “Golf is flourishing after a period of time when the courses were closed and nobody could play,” said Jonathan Plaxton, Secretary of the Yorkshire Union.
“Initially it looked like a large number of members would use the pandemic to decide whether they would continue as members—whether that be concerns over their jobs, their mortgages or whether they were older players just taking it as a chance to hang up their clubs,” Plaxton added.
“But what we’re seeing by being one of the first sports back is a large number of people from other sports, like cricketers, footballers and rugby players, [are] taking up golf,” Plaxton said. “And because golf clubs have generally been looking after their members by prioritizing their play, these new players are taking up memberships, to ensure they get a tee time.
“They have been taking advantage of the many offers that clubs have been running as well,” Plaxton continued. “At first we thought this influx of members would replace the amount we lost in the period of inactivity, but it’s looking now like we might turn that into a net win.”
According to the Yorkshire Post, one club’s membership has risen from 170 people to 290 since mid-May, The Golf Business reported.
“The true picture will emerge at the end of the year after those clubs that have a financial year ending in April report their half-year uptake in October, and those that run for the calendar year report at the end of December,” Plaxton said. “We are very pleased at the way it is going at the moment and long may that continue. The challenge now is to retain those members into next year.”