England Golf launches its plan to save golf
The body that runs amateur golf in England, England Golf, has launched a far-reaching three-year plan to stop the decline in golf.
Weekly participation in the game has dropped by 12 percent since 2005, and the authority has now revealed that memberships at England’s 1,900-plus clubs have fallen from 882,640 in 2004 to 675,000 in 2014. This spectacular drop has meant that several golf clubs have closed down since 2007, while many more have struggled financially.
Launched at Moor Park Golf Club in Hertfordshire, Raising Our Game: The Strategic Plan for England Golf 2014-2017 aims to increase the number of people who play golf at least once a week from 750,000 to 910,000, stop the decline in membership numbers and provide an improved image of golf.
The plan calls on clubs to forge stronger links with schools, businesses and community groups, attract more women to their venues, carry out more surveys of their members and provide more flexible membership options.
The plan also has recommendations for both England Golf itself to change, which includes improving data collection and its relationships with clubs, and for county golf partnerships to change, which includes providing more programmes that introduce people to golf.
It is the result of over a year’s work by the organisation since its chief executive, David Joy, took over the position in 2013.
“It’s estimated that 2.8 million people play golf at least once a year,” he said. “But the sport is also facing significant challenges, with declining numbers of golf club members and a drop in overall participation.
“We ignore these trends at our peril and we all need to work together to raise our game and make the most of the opportunities which exist for golf.
“What we are planning to do certainly isn’t easy, but it is important and by working together, by raising our game, we have a real chance of success.”
He went on: “We have much to do over the next three years, but we will be rewarded with a much better understanding of what golfers really want, whether they are club golfers or independent golfers, men or women, young or not so young. That knowledge will help us, collectively, to offer golf in the way golfers want it.
“This plan provides us with the opportunity to really work together, to combine our efforts for the good of the game.”
The strategy was introduced by TV sports personality Di Dougherty, who told the audience: “I really believe in the importance of this plan and in us all working together to promote and develop the game, which offers so much to so many people of all ages and abilities.”
The event highlighted a host of success stories from clubs across the country including:
• Cookridge Hall Golf Club in Leeds, which has links with 50 local schools and gives taster lessons to around 1000 youngsters each year.
• Stonelees Golf Centre in Kent has engaged with local disability groups to offer golf to over 100 disabled people.
• Tapton Park Golf Club in Derbyshire has launched a 50-plus golfing scheme designed to improve fitness through playing golf and linked to the local health and well-being strategy.
• Warley Park Golf Club in Essex, which attracted over 80 ladies to the club in a six week period, with 40 ladies taking up further coaching and playing opportunities.
• Gaudet Luce in Worcestershire was one of the clubs featured in video footage, highlighting how they attract beginner golfers with the complete family environment, including a nursery, gym, hairdresser and beauty salon. The club’s memberships include a point-based package, over 160 juniors attend the golf academy each week, 120 people have been introduced to the game in six months through Get into golf and PGA professional Russell Adams works with blind golfers and a local special school.
Graham Yates, England Golf chairman, commented: “By working together in this way we will be better equipped to support golf clubs in these testing times, which is our principal concern.”
Jennie Price, chief executive of Sport England said: “This strategy is very encouraging and will help to focus attention on the importance of increasing participation in golf.”
Sandy Jones, the chief executive of the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA), added: “The PGA welcomes and endorses the launch of the plan. It is vital for the game that we do all we can to welcome new players to the game, entice lapsed players to return and also encourage our existing golfers to play that little bit more.”
Colin Mayes, chairman of the UK Golf Course Owners Association, stated: “We’re delighted to work together to spread the message that golf is a game which is open to all and which has so much to offer the whole family. These are challenging times but clubs which listen to their members and visitors and act on their feedback will be able to take advantage of the opportunities which exist.”