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Are Private Golf Clubs to blame for the decline in golf?

Are Private Golf Clubs to blame for the decline in golf?

Golf Chats is a website to encourage discussions on various subjects relating to the game of golf. I am Mel Sole, Director of Instruction of the Mel Sole Golf School and SAPGA Master Professional.  I invite you to enter into a discussion on this or any article on the website.  The input is for the entire subscriber base to learn something new each time!  Please post your comments below.  Keep it clean and tasteful.  We are here to learn from one another!

As a young golfer, I was lucky enough that my dad was a member of a country club. 

I really enjoyed going there to use the club’s facilities like the pool and picnic area.  Shortly thereafter, I began to play golf, and at that time, a member could just walk up to the first tee, put a tee in the ground, and off they went.  No tee times and no crowds.  I’m sure that is all different now, but I still think there are advantages of being a member at a club where most other members know you, you are always greeted by name in the Pro Shop and can attend member functions and club competitions.

So when I read that most country clubs in the UK are struggling, I wonder why the benefits are so great.  But it all boils down to one thing – money.  I think private country clubs, for the most part, have priced themselves out of business.  Yes, there will still be “top drawer” clubs with very wealthy members who are prepared to pay for the luxury of not having to battle crowds and 5-hour rounds. There must surely be some middle ground where a club can provide these luxuries at a less than luxury price.

Here James Andrews, a golf instructor in the UK, poses this interesting question.

Are Private Clubs to Blame for the Current Decline in Memberships?

For my American readers, please note, this relates more to the United Kingdom and European readers.  We have many public courses in America that we can take advantage of.

Golf has become very confused and the golfing community is losing out.

I believe there is room and need for ‘Private’ golf clubs that are private.
Private should mean minimal societies, no weddings, restricted green fees (handicap only), a ‘Golf Club’ for its members not a commercial enterprise. They should be run by the members, for the members.

Are Private Golf Clubs to blame for the decline in golf?

Are wedding enough of a money maker to inconvenience the members?

Does a golf club need the facility to run a wedding? Should it? Does this not detract from the main event, golf?

What food do members want? How much do they want to pay for it? This is so subjective but most members just want a wholesome dish at a ‘members’ price.

Are Private Golf Clubs to blame for the decline in golf?

Does dining have to be this sophisticated, or could a little more subdued?

The ever-increasing need to expand and develop, stay ahead of the competition, raise the club’s profile to the chairman’s flattered heights pushes costs up, and for what purpose?

The most profitable club (cheapest) would not have a club house, a pro shop, huge changing rooms, it would be a shed with a starter offering teas and coffees and a bacon roll. The question is would you join this club?

The death of the pay and play golf course is a direct result of private golf clubs looking for money to feed the beast of growth. Not so long ago it was nearly impossible to play a private golf club without a handicap certificate. To obtain a handicap you have two choices, take lessons with your local pro who would guide you through the learning process and slowly integrate you to the club or find your local pay and pay club and start the process there.

Pay and play facilities were cheaper, had slower rounds, not so manicured, and had a game of golf feeling for all. 5-6 hour rounds were a definite possibly playing on a Sunday morning behind the wrong group.

Now we have no pay and play courses, where do theses golfers go? The protection private clubs had insisting on a handicap has gone and now members are complaining of slow rounds and membership loyalty has gone.

Should private clubs close their doors to visitors again? Bring back the ethos of a private members club which was about supporting your club, your pro and an honor to be part of. Reintroduce a joining fee but drop membership costs with the reduction in running costs. Let the pay and play clubs flourish again to attract golfers into the sport again.

People are calling for change but is bringing back what is lost more important?

Please post your comments below on what you think needs to be done to make golf enjoyable yet affordable.

Source: James Andrews

Pictures:  Joe Loong  Pleasant Valley Country Club  Dan Perry

Thanks for reading – Are Private Golf Clubs to blame for the decline in golf?

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