UK golf club membership in RAPID DECLINE as cost of rounds increase in 2023

Golf club membership falling as cost of a round increases, finds annual survey from accountants Hillier Hopkins.

Andy Roberts's picture
Tue, 31 Jan 2023
UK golf club membership in RAPID DECLINE as cost of rounds increase in 2023

UK golf clubs have seen a rapid fall in members in 2022 as the cost of a round of golf increases during a cost-of-living crisis, finds an annual survey of golf clubs published by accountants Hillier Hopkins. 

The survey also sees the average golf club membership remain stubbornly male and over 50.

It also reveals that 74% of golf club membership fees are now more than £1,000 a year, and the average round of golf for members has increased from £36 to £43.50 and from £84 to £108 for non-member green fees. 

Headline findings from the Hillier Hopkins Members and Proprietary Golf Clubs Survey 2022:

  • 64% of golf club members are aged 50 and over, with 21% of members aged over 70.
  • 76% of golf club members are men, 15% women and 9% juniors.
  • Clubs report fewer members joining in 2022, falling from on average 90 new members in 2020 and 2021, to 70 in 2022.
  • 23% of clubs report more members leaving than joining.
  • The number of clubs with waiting lists has fallen to 52% in 2022 from 60% in 2021. The average number of people on waiting lists stands at 61.
  • 74% of club membership fees are more than £1,000 a year. The number of clubs with memberships exceeding £1,600 a year has increased by 36%.
  • 92% of clubs plan to increase fees in 2023.
  • The average round of golf for members has increased from £36 in 2021 to £43.50 in 2022. Non-member green fees have increased from £84 to £108.

The annual survey of 82 golf clubs across the country is published today by accountants Hillier Hopkins in a report Members and Proprietary Golf Clubs Survey 2022/23 in partnership with the UK Golf Federation and the Golf Club Secretary Newsletter.

Matt Bailey, a director at accountants Hillier Hopkins, said:

“Golf clubs and their members are not immune to the tightening economic picture, with new memberships falling and with clubs reporting more members leaving than joining. Social memberships are also falling, with just 17% of clubs in our survey having 100 or more social members.
“It comes at a time when costs are rising. The average wage spend of clubs has increased from £154,000 in 2021 to £198,000 in 2022. It will come as no surprise, therefore, that 92% of clubs say they plan on increasing membership fees in 2023 alongside the cost of a round of golf.”

Despite such a negative outlook on golf club membership heading into the 2023 season, there does continue to be positive signs that golf remains the national pastime for many people. 

The number of rounds played in clubs contributing to this survey has increased slightly to 29,500 in 2022.

Golf clubs too are on a firm financial footing, with 19% of participating clubs having reserves of £1m or more.

The Hillier Hopkins survey also reports that:

  • Visitor numbers have fallen from 6,300 on 2021 to 4,500 in 2022.
  • 59% of clubs do not have a driving range, although 61% do have swing studios.
  • 76% of clubs’ retail offering is operated by the PGA professional, although 6% do not offer any retail facilities at all.

Douglas Poole, Chief Executive Officer at the UK Golf Federation said:

"Running any business requires many skills and owning or managing a golf facility is no different. The problem can be that passion often gets in the way of good sensible logic, costs creep up and changes in outside activities hit customers through reduced income or time available to play their golf.
"The latest Hillier Hopkins Annual Report is a must read for all involved in operating a golf facility.
"For many years Hillier Hopkins have provided our sector of the golf industry with accurate and valuable information on market trends, costs and developments which help us all to keep ahead and enable our businesses to grow and prosper."

Jeremy Ellwood, Editor of The Golf Club Secretary Newsletter, said:

"Last year, we were still assessing the impact of Covid; this year, it’s the cost-of-living crisis that is at the forefront of all our minds as clubs, members and visiting golfers grapple with exponential increases in energy and other costs.
"It's not going to be easy as things really hit home during the winter months, but the good news is that golf is in a pretty healthy position - a strengthened position that may just help it to weather the current storm a little better than if the Covid-induced boom hadn’t happened.
"The Golf Club Secretary (GCS) has been associated with this Hillier Hopkins annual golf club benchmarking survey for well over a decade now and we resolutely believe that the information contained within these pages will prove an invaluable resource for any golf club manager or committee looking to ensure that they are operating as successfully and effectively as possible."

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