A survey of 30 top golf courses around the world found membership has increased significantly since the pandemic began, with a sharp shift towards younger and female golfers.
The results come from a review of European Tour Destinations, a network of 30 world-class golf courses, and they show that nearly a third have increased their annual fees by 10 to 20 percent and more than three quarters have invested in new amenities over the next 12 months .
Half of the new golf members at Finca Cortesin and PGA Catalunya Golf and Wellness in Spain and Quinta do Lago and Bom Sucesso in Portugal are women.
“The number of golf members has changed significantly across the European Tour Destinations network,” says Ian Knox, Head of European Tour Destinations.
“The biggest challenge facing future business leaders is understanding the membership base and what they are looking for.
“Often times members want to play at different times now, looking for different amenities in the club and opportunities for their families to join.
“There is no doubt that destinations are rethinking membership.”
“There are two new trends,” explains the St. Leon-Rot Golf Club in Germany’s Managing Director Eicko Schulz-Hanßen.
“First, we increased our membership. Normally we would get 50 new members, but we could lose 20 to 30 each year. This year we will have 60 to 70 new members and everyone will be active.
“Second, we have fewer members who are leaving or becoming inactive.”
Schulz-Hanßen attributes the change to the desire to improve the lifestyle by building in people daily and weekly activities to achieve a better work-life balance.
While the demand for corporate memberships has increased, corporate events are forecast to decline.
This situation is now leading to a rethinking of the club’s customer offering – and a move towards membership experiences.
A restaurant renovation is at the top of the investment plan.
“We are aware that 80 to 90 percent of our income is directly related to members, which is why we are placing a stronger focus on membership,” continues Eicko Schulz-Hanßen.
“We understand that in the future people will spend more time in the club and use the restaurant more, including for private events, because it is a familiar and safe environment.
“Our strategy is to increase our value as a golf and country club. We may try to introduce other sports like tennis, but we will definitely invest in the restaurant and encourage members to spend more time here. “
“If we grow our membership over the next three to five years, we will generate solid income.”
“We had to change our strategy because we had more demand than we expected,” explains Luis Filipe, Corporate and Leisure Relations Director at Quinta do Lago, Portugal.
“We didn’t want to build up a large number of members and then have missing start times for visitors.
“Basically, our strategy has been to raise membership prices high enough to strike the right balance between membership and resort visitors.”
According to Filipe, the clientele and the use of the resort has changed fundamentally, and the resort is now benefiting from a range of new sports and leisure options.
“The clientele is younger now and has chosen Quinta do Lago as their number one home – and that’s why they play more golf than they used to,” he said.
“People appreciate their quality of life, the quality of family life, in a sunny place where they can play golf and have fun. It’s stress-free and a more sustainable way of life. “
Linna Golf’s green fee income in Finland rose 80 percent last year due to the pandemic.
Since 2018, in addition to its 250 shareholder members, it has gained almost 100 new playing members, mostly younger ones.
Esa Honkalehto, CEO of the destination, asks an important question facing the entire golf industry: “Will demand still be the same? You never know after Covid. “
“Our target market was and is young players who were born in the 1990s,” explains Honkalehto.
“Of the 100 new members, around 60 are young people. And the reason they chose us is because of the quality.
“I would call them a trendsetter; many of them are actually local ice hockey players and their friends. We also target small groups and the opinion leaders within those small groups. “
Linna Golf has noticed how the new members have changed the atmosphere and the sense of community within the club.
“They’re more like regulars,” continues Honkalehto. “We organized a lot of events and competitions for them and they were very keen to take part. The happier they are, the more they bring their friends to join this community.
“The young people have brought a spirit with them – and it is very different than it used to be.”