It's a fundamental economic principle that when demand exceeds supply, prices tend to rise. But increased prices typically result in lower demand. So where does golf sit with the recent boom the industry has experienced?
No matter which direction you turn, we are continually greeted with rising costs. Whether it be energy, petrol, taxes, manufacturing or the result of inflation and Covid-19; we can now confidently add golf to that list. A recent golf club survey conducted by Hillier Hopkins – The 2021-22 Golf Club Report highlighted a scary rise in costs across the board for golfers, ultimately increasing the financial burden placed upon golfers to take part in the beautiful game.
Longer rounds and struggles to get a tee time may be the least of our worries. 34% of clubs that took part in the survey confirmed they have either increased, or reintroduced, a joining fee in the last year. Only 63% of clubs permit the joining fee to be paid in instalments, compared to 79% in 2020 and 90% in 2019. Not only are joining fees more commonly imposed, more and more clubs are now requiring the fee to be paid in full prior to joining.
Unfortunately, it doesn't stop there. 73% of clubs reported that their standard playing membership cost annually exceeds £1,000. This is up 11% from 2020. Further, 80% of clubs expressed their intent to increase the cost of membership subscription in 2022, compared to 61% in the previous year. These increases are expected to range between 2% and 9% of the annual subscription cost.
For those that are thinking it might be cheaper to pay and play, I'm afraid there is more bad news. As the price of membership continues to rise, so too does the cost of a green fee. The report confirms that green fees across all categories have increased by an average of 17% with the average green fee said to be £50, up just shy of £8 from the previous year. A higher percentage of clubs are now reporting green fee revenue in excess of £140,000, up 7% from 2020.
The challenge for clubs moving forward will be to maintain the success that increased participation brings, all the while trying to maximise member enjoyment and retention, whilst keeping one eye on the financial uncertainty surrounding the industry.
This is where a Flexible Membership Category can contribute to the continued success of your golf club. There has been a clear increase in the awareness of Flexible Membership over the past few years. The same survey conducted by Hillier Hopkins indicated the number of private members clubs who offer ‘flexible membership’ has also increased for a second successive year, rising from 27% of members clubs in 2019 to 36% in 2020 and 40% in 2021. Furthermore, in 2021 more proprietary clubs are offering flexible membership – 70%, increasing from 56% in 2020. However, a strategic approach must be made by a golf club to ensure it is a true Flexible Membership Category – both for the member and golf club – allowing it to work in harmony with existing categories.
The design, set-up, operational procedures, and support functions of these ‘flexible categories’ are crucial to truly cater for a huge segment of infrequent golfers, along with providing the tools and technology for success at your golf club. Sports Marketing Surveys recently published that in 2021, there were 3.9 million ‘infrequent golfers’ that played between 2 and 11 rounds of golf on a full-length course.
A Flexible Membership category is a great way to bridge the gap between Pay & Play golfers and Full Traditional Membership. In addition, from a consumer price point of view in a climate where finances are being stretched, this provides a huge opportunity for golf clubs.
If your golf club has a Flexible Category, or is thinking about the idea of introducing one, ensure that it is truly flexible to both member and club. Here at PlayMoreGolf, we are more than happy to have an exploratory discussion for you to fully understand our proven model and how it would really benefit your golf club.