‘If we simply sit back, we are at risk of achieving nothing’

In his welcome note to this month's The Golf Club Manager journal, chief executive Tom Brooke says golf must not rest on its laurels following the pandemic boom in participation... Having spent most of my first eight months working from home, it was great to get to my first Regional Meeting last week and to meet you in person, hear what you have to say and what you’d like to see from your association. I’m attending another six meetings during June, so please come and speak to me and share your thoughts on the GCMA, club management and the wider industry. We’re here to represent you and your input is invaluable. You may have seen the golf participation reports, produced by SMS and published by the R&A. As we know, 2020 was an exceptional year and the data backs this up, reporting a UK increase of 2.3 million golfers. Notably, there was an increase in female golfers and a reduction in the average age of participants. Usage of par 3 courses and driving ranges doubled and pitch and putt tripled! But the report does not suggest these levels are here to stay. If we simply sit back and expect it to continue, we are at risk of achieving nothing in the longer term. Whilst usage remains higher than pre-pandemic levels, I am already hearing that, since reopening in March, overall take up has been noticeably lower. Last summer, we were incredibly fortunate to be one of the only leisure pursuits permitted and, of course, a large proportion of the workforce were on furlough.  Twelve months later with gyms, swimming pools and team sports available and family attractions reopen, we are again competing for valuable leisure time and, inevitably, many ‘casual’ golfers opting for family leisure or team sports instead of golf, or just don’t have the time due to work.  We really must tune in on golf’s USPs if we’re going to achieve any level of sustainable success from the new golfers that visited courses in 2020. If you think about the game - the way it’s played and the number of different formats available, golf is accessible to a very broad market – yet it’s still viewed as exactly the opposite! With driving ranges and Adventure Golf growing hugely as leisure attractions for families and non-golfers in recent years, we must embrace those facilities and look to adapt some of the game’s more traditional aspects to become more enjoyable and more sociable. I also believe there is a huge opportunity to grow participation of 9-hole golf - particularly during the week, which really lends itself to the recent changes in lifestyle created by the increase in working from home and more flexible work patterns. Regardless of the longer term view, Club Managers are working incredibly hard and under continued pressure, managing operations under current circumstances as well as needing to plan strategically for the years ahead. If there is anything we can do to support you, please do not...
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