When golf resumed in England at the end of March, golf fanatics were overjoyed with the announcement. For almost three long months we were without our favorite pastime – for some even without our livelihood.
After the resumption, the tee times were practically like gold dust. The majority of the clubs opened to members only and sometimes strangers were brought together to cope with the demand.
Given that some members couldn’t book tee times through their own club, the nomad golfer really was in limbo. If the members couldn’t take to the pitch, how would those who are not part of such an establishment play?
It was tough, but it was also important that golf clubs reward members who continued to deposit into the venue without being able to use its services. Given that, is it any wonder that nomadic golfers have been exposed to the cold?
As part of our current survey, we have the Golfshake community to share their thoughts on the past 18 months which have shown signs of turbulence to say the least.
We have received thousands of responses, and some have highlighted the issues for both nomadic golfers and those who belong to a club. We’ll explore these topics below, incorporating thoughts from the community.
For one, I couldn’t wait to book my first lap. The problem was, as I didn’t belong to any club, it wasn’t an easy task. I called clubs, sent an email, tried to book online – nothing. It sparked a thought.
“If I can’t book tee times, I’ll join a club”. Voila, I had instant access to a tea sheet uploaded 10 days in advance. I think I played four times during my first week that I joined.
This seems like the future as many clubs that have tested online booking in advance appear to be sticking to the concept. A survey response supports this: “Due to the pandemic, you introduced a tea booking system to my club for the first time. While there was initially resistance, the majority now prefer it. “
That seemed to solve the problem for me and other club members. However, not everyone can sign up for a golf membership; It’s expensive and you usually sign up for the whole year regardless of your availability during that 12 month period.
This was a dilemma that the nomadic golfer faced. Could they afford to commit to a year if that gave them a start time? As the nomadic golfers will understand, the first few weeks of golf resumption were stressful and frustrating.
One comment said: “As a non-club member, I had great difficulty getting a start time when the seats reopened. Even if the booking sheet was open, I couldn’t access it! “
This correlates directly with my early resumption experience. When tee times were apparently accessible, nomadic golfers still did not have access to these “available” slots.
It was becoming difficult to secure tea bookings and 95% of clubs in the early reopening stages required membership. However, it is understandable. As mentioned earlier, the members had to be restored for so much lost time.
For nearly four months, members pumped money into a club just to keep it afloat. There were no tee times to argue about considering the country was locked and no one was playing.
Hence, it is only right that those who have paid for these services should be rewarded first. After all, due to the unselfishness of their members, some clubs are still in business.
Some golf clubs decided to increase membership prices when they realized the problem was self-inflicted. If golfers could only get to the course through membership, it was inevitable that the sport would see an influx of enrolled members.
The problem many faced was the decision of some – but definitely not all – clubs to raise prices. Of course, they’d lost so much sales in those three months, but everyone had battled their way through COVID-19 – not just golf clubs.
One comment revealed that his local club was acting unethically. “I think some are taking this opportunity to make a profit by increasing their fees and now reintroducing membership fees – a club near me has increased its costs by 44% and 49%!”
This, as I am sure many will agree, is shocking and brings me back to my previous point: everyone had battled their way through COVID-19, not just golf clubs.
Was the general price increase justified? It’s hard to answer. Yes, we want our local courses to thrive and continue to be played by as many people as possible, but at a time of national turmoil and uncertainty, the price hike probably wasn’t justified. What is certainly not justified is the price increase of almost 50%!
Alternatively, some venues decided to freeze membership prices but increase green fees. It is evident that they rewarded those who stuck to the clubs, but “visitors” would not share the same fate.
Similar to the previous comment, many green fees have not only increased, but increased exponentially. One golfer was incredulous about the extravagant soaring. “The green fees are outrageous. Clubs that charged £ 20-25 last year have now raised prices to over £ 35 and in some cases to £ 50 to 100 – that is unacceptable. “
As we discussed, maybe it was naive of us to believe that prices would not go up after the resumption. As golfers, we would be willing to invest a little more money to secure the future of our sport in the long term. But charge almost twice as much for the same service? This is very disappointing and greedy.
Both members and nomad golfers have lost due to increased prices. The difference was that the members were actually able to get out on the pitch – which was a nice change of pace after losing from both a financial and gaming perspective.
Now that the clubs are fully functional again, the members have finally got their social environment back. This is fantastic news, of course, and I know the unofficial Friday medal is thriving in my club while the bar is absolutely stacked before I tee off in the early evening.
One comment was happy with the return of golf as their social situation has improved dramatically at the same time. “The resumption of golf enables people to get outside and get involved in social activities – something that has been sorely missed.”
While members are known to reap the rewards of socializing through golf, nomadic golfers cannot say the same thing. Some bars work for members only, so nomadic golfers can go straight home after their round.
It is important to note that not all golf clubs have applied this policy, but the point remains. While nomadic golfers were able to visit the bar before COVID-19 and have a well-deserved drink with their gaming partners, this quickly stopped after the resumption.
A survey shows that some areas of his golf club are still not fully operational. “Some clubs were unable or unwilling to reopen bar facilities, which affects the social aspect of gaming.”
Golf is more than just playing; it encourages social interaction and lingering and repeating the afternoon’s game. Without the bar or other seating, this fun post-game activity won’t exist.
Fortunately, we seem to be re-entering a realm of normality and as a consequence institutions will open their doors to members as well as visitors.
Golf is a sport that should be fun for everyone, not just club members. However, it is and will remain important for those who paid fees during the lockdown that they are treated fairly and given rightful priority.
Given the increase in green fees along with all of the issues we examined, the nomadic golfer is sure to lose due to COVID-19. But should you be surprised at everything we’ve discussed today?
Are increased golf membership fees justified?
There is more to golf than just being a golf club member
The social benefits of golf are becoming increasingly attractive
What does the future hold for nomadic golfers?
What happens to your golf club membership?
Non-club golfers react to the availability of tee times and green fee prices