The number of members at Welsh golf clubs has gone up by almost a quarter in the last two years, with a 13% rise in 2021, according to official Wales Golf figures.
That followed an increase of 10% on 2020, putting the membership of Welsh golf clubs comfortably back over the 50,000 figure – a windfall for many clubs in otherwise difficult times with other revenues falling.
Golf may be a healthy, outdoor, sport-for-life in these trying times, but the next challenge is to continue to grow the game and build on this trend of increased membership which started before Covid.
Wales Golf has already started Retention Workshops with clubs and these will ramp up in 2022.
Around Wales there are now 53,682 members of golf clubs, an increase of 7,000 new members of golf clubs in the last 12 months and the highest level since 2010.
There have been increases in all categories of player, male, female, boys and girls, in figures comparing August 2021 with 12 months earlier.
“These figures are great for Welsh golf clubs at a time when many would have faced even greater hardship without the new members, but in many ways these numbers are just a start,” said Wales Golf Chief Executive Hannah McAllister.
“We know there are around twice as many people who play golf in Wales compared to the number of golf club members. The more we can show people the value and benefits of being a golf club member, the better for everyone. The challenge for clubs, with the help of Wales Golf, is to build on these figures, retaining the new club members and also looking to increase further in many areas.”
The rise in membership has been driven by a new demographic joining clubs, often younger men whose other sporting involvements were harder during Covid.
As other sports return to normal, the aim is to keep these golfers in the game and enjoying the benefits of club membership alongside their other interests.
“Clubs cannot start too soon in terms of retaining members in 2022,” explained Wales Golf Director of Development Zoe Thacker. “It costs clubs less to retain members than to attract new ones. We know from research there were more rounds played in 2020 than ever before, with the deficit through lockdowns being more than made up at other times. Many ex-golfers are coming back to the sport, more younger males are joining clubs, for some clubs there is the return of waiting lists and joining fees.
“It all makes knowing and understanding your members more important than ever. Luckily the R&A and Wales Golf have conducted some good research, both in terms of the quantity of people consulted and the in-depth quality of the information.
“We know around half of these new members already enjoyed golf, while doing an outdoor sport and being encouraged by friends were also major factors. Lack of time was referenced as a reason for not coming back to golf before. Enjoyment, feeling welcome, a relaxed atmosphere and playing with friends were cited among the key factors in retention going forward. So it is vital that clubs engage with their new members, while reinforcing messages about the contribution golf makes to physical and mental health, being outside and spending time with friends.
“Pricing is also important, as well as the facilities on offer at the club apart from the golf course itself. While there has been a healthy increase in boys and girls joining golf clubs, there is work to be done encouraging women and girls through such Wales Golf schemes as New2Golf. Changing working patterns offer an opportunity in terms of increased time and flexibility. There may also be a benefit in clubs working together.
“COVID-19 has accelerated the need for clubs to change, it has offered challenges in terms of clubs catering with increased demand, but this period also underlines opportunities going forward for Welsh golf clubs. Wales Golf is here to work with clubs to make the most of those opportunities.”