Posts Tagged ‘England Golf’

Golf Participation in the UK in 2019 – Who’s to blame…

Friday, May 3rd, 2019

Golf participation in the uk, The Social Golfer 5Golf participation in the UK in 2019 – Who’s to blame?

As many people have reported over the last few years, golf in the UK has seen a decline both in rounds played and in membership.

So, is the game in terminal decline or is there a renaissance around the corner?

Here, Ian Mullins (Managing Director of The Social Golfer) gives us his view…


Golf participation in the UK in 2019 – The stats…

Golf participation has been declining since its last heyday in the 1990s when you couldn’t move for new golf clubs being built at a rapid rate. But let’s look at the stats in the cold light of day…

There are approx. 3.9m* golfers in the UK and approx. 1.3m of those belong to a golf club.

This means 2.6m people that play the game DON’T belong to a golf club.

Meanwhile, according to data from Statista (the statistics portal regarding golf participation in England from 2007 to 2016), the conclusion is that, as of September 2016, approx. 1.1 million adults in England play golf on a monthly basis.

Since 2007, the number of golf players has thus been decreasing from about 1.5m players. This makes a decrease of about 27 per cent over eight years.

The biennial survey (by Sports Marketing Surveys) tries to paint a very positive picture for golf club membership in England, declaring since the 2016 survey, that club membership numbers on average, are up by 24 members.

In 2016, the average number was 460, in 2018 that was up to 484.

However, that doesn’t take into account the number of golf clubs that have closed, so it’s hardly a trend.Golf participation in the uk, The Social Golfer

Meanwhile, you don’t need statistics to know many of the golf clubs I know, are empty after 12 noon on a weekend.

And I’m not on my own: www.telegraph.co.uk/golf/2018/09/25/golf-needs-modernised-halt-steady-decline-experts-have-say/

Golf participation in the UK in 2019 – What’s changed…

Well, of course, no one can deny that there has been a seismic shift in our lifestyle and habits in the last 20 years.

Life is no longer lived in our local community and people are much keener to venture out and have new experiences.

However, Golf clubs have not only failed to move with the times, but some have even gone backwards.

Coupled with the ‘Global financial meltdown’ in 2008, it has become harder and harder for golfers to justify £1k a year in membership fees and that’s before they’ve even hit a ball.

Furthermore, clubs (and England Golf) have blindly and stubbornly failed to address the sexist and racist attitudes that still exist in many of these white middle-class fiefdoms.

And the professional game hardly covers itself in glory.

Yes, that’s right, despite having a black golfer at the helm of our professional game for over 20 years, how many of you can name another black golfer on the tour?

Vijay? (Asian), Tony Finau? (Asian). Steve Curry – yes!

But where is the BAME (Black, Asian or Minority Ethic) golfer from the UK? Sadly, in this respect, once again our governing bodies have failed us!

Coupled with the fact that in 2018, Georgia Hall won The Open Women’s Championship and yet no one outside of golf in the UK would know who she is.

So, while all other forms of sport have addressed the issues (or at least tried), Golf has at best ignored the change in attitudes.

As such, Golf Clubs are not seen as diverse places. On the contrary, that is deemed as unwelcoming and inaccessible by many.

Lastly, golf is still an expensive game to take up – e.g. A set of clubs, shoes, bags etc, start from £500.

Then I need to pay every time I play. Yet, I can buy a bike for £500 and be on the road, for free, within a few minutes.

Yet, to compete fairly, the industry says I HAVE to join a ‘bricks & mortar’ golf club to track my handicap.

Golf participation in the uk, The Social Golfer 2

A typical golf club committee in 2019!

Golf participation in the UK in 2019 – They just don’t get it…

I presented The Social Golfer concept to a panel of England Golf bigwigs back in 2014.

I am still in disbelief that the response to our innovative approach to making golf accessible was only met with mild interest, not to mention a little arrogance.

Why don’t you have more members I was asked?

“I’m sorry, we’ve just built a platform of 6,500 members (now over 10K) in over 140 countries without any help from anyone and with our own money… I thought we’d done pretty well.” 

The response I wanted to give would have been “What the hell have any of you done!”

But experience told me it would not be a professional response, after all, we’re here to make friends not enemies.

Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to leave the room, and, if anything, it made me more determined that we could, and would, do it without them.

So, despite issuing a brief to find commercial partners to help them ‘grow the game’, they finally settled on a partnership with Your Golf Travel.

Surely, they take people AWAY from the UK to play golf, rather than encourage people to take up the game in the UK?

In addition, given this was 2014, I was shocked to be introduced to a self-serving, blazer-wearing, back slapping brigade of executives.

Who shockingly, even 10 years after the invention of Facebook (now 15 years), couldn’t see the changing world around them. But they are not the only ones…

Oh no, their friends in the marketing department were busy pretending to the world they were forward-thinking when they commissioned a new ad campaign to promote the game aimed almost solely on increasing golf participation in the UK.

Just because you invest in a marketing campaign using diverse characters, doesn’t mean they will be welcomed with open arms.

Golf participation in the uk, The Social Golfer

This message is not effective unless it is backed up by action!

When the lumberjack shirt or pink leather jacket wearing Millennials turn up at a club, he or she is more likely to be sent away with a book of rules on golf attire.

How will this increase Golf participation in the UK?

My point is, the left arm doesn’t know what the right arm is doing – or if it’s even connected to the same body!

Golf participation in the UK in 2019 – The Media…

And another thing, (now you’ve got me started), why oh why is golf not being supported by terrestrial TV?

If Tiger’s Wood’s win at Augusta last weekend told us anything, it’s that golfers, and even non-golfers, will watch if the game if accessible.

So why do they keep doing deals with SKY TV, when they could be promoting golf to the next generation via the BBC or even ITV or Channel Four.

Why is there not even so much as a ‘highlights show’ of the European Tour on a Monday night?

That would keep the game ‘front of mind’ and encourage new audiences to find the game.

I have no doubts that this Easter weekend will see many kids pretending to be Tiger in their back garden, just like I pretended to be Seve in 1978, but I suspect few will make it to a course or range.

Furthermore, I have given up counting the number of times I have contacted a golf club to discuss them hosting one of our Major events (70 people + green fees) and often, I never even get my calls returned.

In short, having spent 25 years in the Advertising and Marketing industry before taking the helm at The Social Golfer, that’s nearly 9 years in the sector, I am still in shock at the lack of professionalism in the golf industry.

Golf participation in the UK in 2019 – What else has changed?

Well, whether the R&A or England Golf acknowledge it or not, the world has moved on around them.

We are now competing for consumers’ time against a whole plethora of other sports and pastimes.

Yes, traditional sports like football and cricket are still played but now there are others, like Basketball, NFL and Gaming (yes, I’m talking Sony Playstations), and then there’s Box Sets, Netflix and Experience days – think Adventure Golf – which is the modern-day equivalent of the Crazy Golf courses, I remember for my day trips to the seaside as a kid.

As well as online betting, casino websites and other 21st century distractions to amuse us.

Meanwhile, I can book a flight to Australia on my smartphone from the comfort of my sofa, yet at some golf clubs, I have to phone the club landline to book a tee time.

In addition, we are now living in the ‘Review Culture’, whereby many will not purchase anything before consulting other people’s views and experiences.

As such, it would seem no one has the expertise to lead golf out of the doldrums, and very few clubs have a clue about marketing.

Ask them what their current R.O.I (Return On Investment) is, or what the value of retweet versus an online banner campaign is and watch the bead of sweat appear on their forehead.

All I hear from golf club managers and industry figures (who should know better) is that it’s all about ‘social media’ these days.

Well, relying on a 22-year old with no experience in media, promotion or PR (except posting stuff on their Instagram feed), does not make them an expert in marketing.

As someone who has spent over £100m for my clients (including Emirates Airlines, the London Golf Show and others), if you think Social Media is the answer to your membership woes – you’re 15 years behind the curve.

I suspect most of them wouldn’t even know what a paid-for campaign on Facebook even looked like!

Golf participation in the UK in 2019 – So what’s the answer?

Firstly, the ‘powers that be’ need to put their egos and job titles to one side, and look at the game from the consumers’ point of view.

– Modern consumers want Choice, Experience, Value and Respect. Period.

– They don’t want gimmicks, they want equality and accessibility.

– Golf clubs need to relax dress codes and start treating visitors as customers, not interlopers

– They should invest in good photography before they invest in a new graduate with plenty of opinions but no experience.

– They need to up their game in terms of customer service

– The game MUST be on Terrestrial TV, reaching new audiences rather than preaching to the converted

Furthermore, a ‘Like’ is not ‘Engagement’.

Golf participation in the uk, The Social Golfer 4

A link to the club website from a like-minded golf website (a backlink), written in language consumers understand (not just the golf Pros) is much more valuable to your marketing.

And if you think a so-called ‘Social Media Influencer’ wearing ‘Jazzy’ leggings are going to save the game, you are deluded.

Yes, they might encourage a few, but it’s hardly a game changer.

Sadly, it seems to me that golf is so desperate that they’ll jump on any bandwagon that comes along, rather than taking a planned and rational approach to growing the game.

In my humble opinion, in the next 20 years, golf will move almost completely away from the membership model and be solely reliant on ‘Pay & Players’.

Which is when many golf clubs will be held to ransom by their lack of good course and service reviews.

The industry will become more akin to the restaurant industry too, whereby reviews on Trip Advisor make or break them.

Meanwhile, the clubs that recognise this shift in lifestyles and attitudes will thrive and prosper.

However, in the meantime, here at The Social Golfer we will continue to be a challenger to the traditional golf model.

Even if it’s only a small token effort to increase golf participation in the  UK, we’re doing something to provide an innovative and useful platform for golfers to enjoy their sport.

We are democratising the game, and we hope others follow!


By Ian Mullins

*Source: TGI

The Social Golfer is an Online Golf Club with over 5K golfers in the UK and over 10K worldwide.

Over 1,000 events and games were arranged by our members in 2018.

The site has over 4K Golf Club and course reviews and over 25K scorecard submissions.

Visit us at www.thesocialgolfer.com

EDGA Portuguese Open 2015…

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

As TSGers know, we always keen to help promote disabled golf whenever we can and this year is no exception. We asked TSGer Paul Houghton to send us his report…

EDGA Portuguese Open 2015

                  EDGA Portuguese Open 2015

The EDGA Portuguese Open 2015 – The venue…

Venue: Vila Sol Golf Club, Pestana, Portugal (17th – 19th November 2015)

Playing in my first official EDGA event, I’ve now been back a few days and have had time to digest  the experience overall and below is a summary of my experience.

There were about forty players in attendance some with partners. Most were together in their nationalities, especially the French which is understandable under the circumstances. (This was a week after the attacks in Paris).

I had arrived on the same flight as Andy Gardiner (Top British disabled player, he plays off a handicap of 4) and Will Hennessey (fellow hacker!). We were met and picked up from the Airport and transported to the hotel by Manon and Tony & Sue Bennett (EDGA Officials), who were both friendly and could not have been more helpful from the moment we arrived.

We checked in and rooms were excellent and all had balconies. There were swimming pools inside and out, and spa treatments were available (if you wanted them), I could tell I was going to be comfortable here!

There were also games rooms and plenty of places to relax as you prepare for the event and the food was fantastic all round. Everything was laid on and ran like clockwork….

The Clubhouse itself is fully accessible (although not that big), the staff are friendly, the beer and food is fantastic and very reasonable. The terrace beside the 18th Fairway is a great place to watch and eat lunch though balls to often come over the netting as Karen (my good lady) witnessed. (Will Hennessey also hit a lady while sky-ing his approach shot – tut tut!).

Paul Houghton - EDGA - TheSocialGolfer.com

Paul Houghton – EDGA – TheSocialGolfer.com

The Clubhouse is located only about 300 yards from the hotel ( I did carry my clubs to the golf club) but I need not have. You could pick up a buggy and drive back or the hotel would arrange to have you brought to the club.

In short, I really like EDGA…No complaints at all as to the running of the event. I had to undertake a medical, but that was done with dignity and very professionally handled.

The EDGA Portuguese Open 2015 – Practice, Practice, Practice…

A practice round was booked for Wednesday but managed to sneak in a bit of a practice on Tuesday evening too. It was a hot 22 degrees, which my body did struggle to come to terms with. I think you need more than one day to acclimatize especially if you are not playing golfers from the same country.

However, let’s not start getting in the excuses just yet….

I was very impressed to see ‘Ping‘ were set up with two professionals on the practice ground they were very helpful and very supportive towards the British players. They Offered tips and trials on …all their equipment but more on Ping another time…

I was down to go out just after 11.00am, when I got to the tee it appeared people had just gone off with their friends. It did not bother me as I jumped in with Will Hennessey and Mike Lincoln (Will’s Irish and Mike is a fellow Brit).

The first hole at Vila Sol is a brute even after you have hit a decent drive and because it’s a 400 yard par four you tend to try and kill it off the tee.

Anyhow, the three of us had great fun. I bought some balls half way round off a local lad £10 for 8 Pro V’s. I’d already lost four (!); I only contrived to lose two more over the next three days!

We went round in a little over four hours the three of us not having a clue where we were going.

I shot 95 so was happy having an eight on the first, I birdied the fourth so was looking forward to breaking 90 in the first round. Mike struggled a bit but went on to play really well in the actual tournament.

The EDGA Portuguese Open 2015 – The tournament…

Paul Houghton - EDGA 2015

Teeing Off at  EDGA 2015

My tee time for 1st round was at 10.30am a nice time I thought I was drawn against a Dutch Para-Golfer (Wheelchair user) lovely guy who had a Dutch golf referee as his caddy, I was not offered a caddy.

As a para-golfer, Jürgen was fast but still took three times as long as me. Sitting in the buggy in the hot sunshine I nearly dropped off to sleep – not great prep for being competitive!

All in all, I had a terrible round I hit so many trees, Jürgen nicknamed me the ‘Lumberjack’! By the 16th I wanted to walk in…..the greens had been cut in the morning and were super-fast. this meant we were out on the course 5+ hours, ridiculous given the group in front finished 3 holes in front of us. I shot 104 but did not care I just wanted a beer!

The organisers were sympathetic as to slow play but what can they do Para-       golfers cannot play any quicker? Jürgen had a poor round as well. I went back on the practice ground after the lager and fell in love with the Ping G30…again! (Did the beer change things?)

I had a restless night before the final day. I had finished very near the back of the field shooting 104 which was my worse round of 2015, the course was tough with a Slope Rating of 130 so all of us got 3 shots, but I let the slow play and narrow fairways get the better of me.

Sadly, in addition, my stump had swollen up overnight to the size of a watermelon, so I had to dose myself up with Ibuprofen my tee time was 8.00 am, with a one-handed Frenchman ‘Axel’.

Worse still, the Ping team had left the night before so I had to sort my alinement out by myself!

Andy and Will were not lighting the place up either so there was very little camaraderie amongst the Brits. Perhaps we weren’t playing as a team enough…..The French, Dutch, Swedes all drank, ate and practiced together!

So here I was, at the EDGA Portuguese Open 2015. I teed off into the winter sun, down the middle hit a good second shot, my approach on the first was online but we never found the ball? The sun was so low you could barely see the green. So with a ‘drop’, I scored 7 after 2 putting!

I lost my drive left into water on the second and was already facing a nightmare. My opponent had had a 5 and a par when we walked to the stroke index 1, the third. I scored a double bogey on this monster uphill par four on all three rounds; my opponent took nine (9)!

Anyhow, a scrambled a half decent 47 going out birdie-ing the 8th – a 530-yard par 5. We had already been out on the course well over two hours my opponents caddy kept apologising for how long her player took. He lasered every shot from the tee to the green, it drove me mad….

However, as he became tired and his game suffered more than mine. I shot 48 back nine, not good but after 5 and a quarter hours I was like a walking dead zombie…..

I finished 13th and 25th out of a field of 35 overall – so respectable but no silverware!

The EDGA Portuguese Open 2015 – The Politics…

After the first round, I chatted to some of the other players and spoke at length with EDGA President –  Tony Bennett. I was also amazed to hear that Jamie Blair (England Golf, Disabled CEO) had flown out to watch the first day, spoken with some of the British players but not to me?!

Paul Houghton - EDGA 2015

Paul Houghton – EDGA 2015

As there were only four of us, I think he should have made more effort, anyhow he was gone by the Wednesday evening. As an aside, I also subsequently found out that the Dutch team were paid 500 Euros to attend with a brand new shirt for each day,… the French had the same.

So why does golf’s British governing board want to help us in this way? N.B. And these were much bigger teams of players?! They give EDGA money each year, which goes toward supporting the event but out of the 40 odd players only 4 of them were Brits!

There is also already an agreed agenda on what impairments can take part, it does not look to me that anything other than physical impairment will be considered for these events. #discuss

To be honest playing alongside wheelchair users does not work for me as an amputee, a time system has to be considered. Some players want penalties for slow play administered, five hours plus in sweltering temperatures has to be addressed as amputees our body temperature climbs and fatigue kicks in.

I am trying to devise a way of combating slow play. This has to be achieved, EDGA will be looking at it seriously. I believe that penalties for groups taking more than 4 hours 30 minutes must come in.

So, hopefully,  you’re now getting the flavour of the event, you’ll appreciate a two ball over 5 hours!

EDGA have volunteer marshals on every third hole, the marshals may be given the power to effect penalties – it’s some we have to consider for larger events.

For the next event I believe the DGA should try to enter more players, many DGA players would qualify if they were willing to undertake the medical scrutiny, certainly something to consider for some.

I know Mr.Bennett is passionate in developing a strong British contingent but right now I think like the other countries have the tournament as they want it; there are no plans as yet to have a UK EDGA tournament, although Tony intimated he wanted more players from the DGA (Disabled Golf Association) attending events.

The good news is that Sergio Garcia is now EDGA’s Patron – which will help raise the profile of these events!

In December 2015,  the International Golf Federation has been excepted by the International Paralympic Committee – so it looks as though golf will be a Paralympic sport.

Pro’s – Great golf course, top players, superb hotel, good food… the weather!

Con’s –  very few British players, not a course for high handicappers, slow play.

The EDGA Portuguese Open 2015 – The finale…

The Gala evening was spectacular with an opera singer and harpist. The EDGA Portuguese Open 2015 gala evening was very professional a great occasion and a chance to mix with your fellow competitors. There were great speakers from all the winners. Andy Gardiner finished best of the Brits coming 7th. 

Manuel De Los Santos won the event in a playoff from Mathieu Cauneau. 

So would I enter again? Absolutely, the Portuguese EDGA Open 2015 was a great experience!

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