‘We need to teach them and make them feel a part of the industry and the golf club’

In a fascinating GCMA Hot Topics webinar, Sports Marketing Surveys director Richard Payne outlined the results of a major participation exercise and what it means for the future of golf... Making new golfers feel a part of the golf club, and focusing on the physical, mental, and social benefits the sport presents, will be key to capitalising on the coronavirus pandemic boom. Speaking during a GCMA Hot Topics webinar, Richard Payne, director at Sports Marketing Surveys, revealed the sheer scale of the increase in participation that arrived following the end of the first lockdown in May 2020 – and briefed managers on how the data can help them keep players in their clubs. From a position where clubs had once lost a third of their members [from a peak at 1.4 million in 2006 to 937,000 in 2018], the period between June and October 2020 saw a more than 50 per cent increase in the number of rounds played. Payne revealed that nearly 10 per cent of the adult population in Great Britain – a total of 5,234,000 people – played a full-length course of either 9 or 18 holes more than once in 2020. Surveying some of those players, 64 per cent considered themselves golfers pre-pandemic and 20 per cent had returned to the game following a spell away because of Covid. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=exkVO483Wp4 “I think that absolutely key number here is 16 per cent that started or tried golf for the first time because of the pandemic,” he told the webinar audience. “Now, as a percentage, that doesn’t look huge but when you think of 16 per cent of 5.2 million, that’s actually over 800,000 new golfers who tried golf in Great Britain due to the pandemic.” The overall average age of golfers fell to 41 – a five-year drop on 2019 – and while avid golfers averaged over 60 [63 years] the age of infrequent golfers dropped to 37 – “the first time it has dropped under 40”. And Payne also showed that, of those who tried golf, or played on a full-length golf course for the first time as a result of Covid, 44 per cent were women – a huge increase on the usual levels of participation. He added: “Now 44 per cent, when we consider we’re at 12 or 13 per cent, is an almighty increase and something that really we now need to shift our mindsets towards. “If there are going to be a lot more females on the fairways, which we all want as golf clubs, we need to be addressing that and need to make sure that we’re addressing the requirements and wants and needs of these golfers.” Turning to the new normal, Payne outlined a number of key metrics to help clubs maximise on their USPs, keep the enthusiasm of these new players and encourage them to stay. Key factors for retention included enjoyment, a friendly and relaxed environment, a good customer experience and participation options. He said: "In terms of...
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