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A new study has found that golf club membership grew in the UK in 2020 – but, as a result of the COVID-19 lockdowns, the number of rounds played plummeted with the average age of club members also increasing sharply.

These are the key findings of the latest annual survey of golf clubs published by accountants Hillier Hopkins.

It found that, whilst 59% of clubs reported an increase in membership in 2020 as people flocked to join in the wake of the first national lockdown, only 13% of UK golf clubs members are aged under 30. Additionally, 68% of members are over 50, up for 63% in 2019.

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The Hillier Hopkins ‘Members and Proprietary Golf Clubs Survey’ is now in its 14th year and is produced in partnership with the UK Golf Federation and the Golf Club Secretary Newsletter.

The 2020/21 report also shows:

• 45% of clubs now have a waiting list to join, up from just 22% in 2019.
• The average number of people on a waiting list is 34, up from 22 in 2019.
• Male members (75%) continue to outweigh female members (17%).
• 92% of clubs still have a dress code, with 69% saying they are planning to modernise their rules.

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It also showed that the average number of society rounds played in 2020 has plummeted to 780 – compared to 1,542 in 2019 despite the increased membership – whilst the average weekend green fees for members and their guests have increased to £27.20 from £22 in 2019.

Robert Twydle, a consultant at Hillier Hopkins, said that the findings of this latest report should be taken seriously by golf clubs to guard against future, post-pandemic problems.

“Our survey reports this year members unsurprisingly playing significantly fewer rounds yet costs remaining broadly the same,” said Twydle. “Wages and maintenance are typically £305,000 a year and clubhouse wages and maintenance £192,000 a year.

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“60% of clubs are planning on increasing subscriptions and green fees in 2021 but that is unlikely to cover the lost course income and bar and catering contribution in 2020.”

The survey also found that:

• 49% of clubs now have an annual turnover of more than £1m.
• PGA club pros can expect to earn between £1,500 and £2,000 a month, with 71% of clubs paying over £2,000.
• Average subscriptions are between £1,000 and £1,600.
• Average weekend non-member green fees are £55.73, up from £54.01.

Twydle added: “Golf clubs have fared better than other sports clubs but have still felt the financial impact of COVID, which is sadly likely to continue well into 2021. Clubs will continue to face more fundamental challenges, mainly attracting and keeping younger players.

“Clubs need to capitalise on the membership windfall that COVID has brought and make sure they do everything to maximise retention of these new joiners for the future.”

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Michael McEwan is the Deputy Editor of bunkered and has been part of the team since 2004. In that time, he has interviewed almost every major figure within the sport, from Jack Nicklaus, to Rory McIlroy, to Donald Trump. The host of the multi award-winning bunkered Podcast and a member of Balfron Golfing Society, Michael is the author of three books and is the 2023 PPA Scotland 'Writer of the Year' and 'Columnist of the Year'. Dislikes white belts, yellow balls and iron headcovers. Likes being drawn out of the media ballot to play Augusta National.

Deputy Editor

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