Start the season on a supportive note — not a competitive one…

I love this video by Jason Harris, of Orr Lake Golf Club in Canada addressing the root of problems in golf — specifically in relation to participation. There’s a lot of truth and substance in his observations — particularly around discounting. But golf clubs have hit unprecedented times, and that can lead to some bad strategic choices.

It’s one of the observations in Jason’s video I’d like to hone in on — the notion that golf clubs are not necessarily competing with each other, but with other sports.

“The new golf”

Cycling has proved itself to be the biggest challenger to golf in recent years with the advent of ‘mamils’ (middle aged men in lycra) taking to the roads and countryside. While the actual growth in cycling participation is difficult to pin down, leading cycling fashion brands, and, in particular, high-end cycle manufacturers, have reported year-on-year growth. So it looks as though at least some of the once committed golfers may have moved their money to the world of cycling.

‘Mamils’ (middle aged men in lycra) are now a common occurrence on country roads in the UK

But why? More control over route and time taken, good exercise, no need to pay to ride, cheaper (if you want it to be).

Whatever the reason, the answers to these questions could turn out to be more pertinent than why a golfer is choosing another course over yours…

Is it just cycling?

Definitely not. Running, gymming, adventure golf, other forms of golf (footgolf) are all showing growth or high levels of participation.

Let’s not forget non-sporting time commitments too. Time with family, working long hours or even out-of-hours at weekends.

All of a sudden a picture starts to form where the question is not necessarily where someone (especially a non-member) chooses to play, but whether (in light of all the other things they have going on) they have time to play at all.

If that means they’ve already transitioned to another sport, you have to fight hard, and spend, to get them back.

The Age of Importance

This is where you need to think carefully about who your target audience actually is. 25–40 year olds don’t have a lot of disposable cash, they’re having families later on in life and they are the group most liable to distraction in the form of other sports. They’re more likely your pay & play golfers or visitors.

Conversely, 40–65 year olds are likely to be better off, got to a point where they’re committed to golf (hopefully for life!) and have children or in some cases grandchildren. Open your doors to them and their family, hold an open day, get them to bring friends or colleagues along, market your junior courses to them, get feedback. This is where your most immediate, cost effective growth in membership can come from. Do it right and you’ll be doing your bit to introduce future generations into the game too.

Don’t take a broad brush approach in the hope it’ll work. You’ll end up trying to appeal to everyone and, in turn, appealing to no one.

Next move…

When you next talk with other clubs see what they’re doing to remove barriers to entry and remember, sometimes that isn’t necessarily putting on a membership offer or even dropping the joining fee, it’s about what clubs are doing to get golfers (lapsed or new) through the door.

Want some hints on how to do this? Get in touch (