All’s Not Well With Golf!

The report card is out in the home of golf, Scotland, and all is not well with the ancient game of golf.

The inaugural Scottish Golf National Conference was stunned when the 500 delegates in attendance were told: “We are all on the Titanic if we choose not to do anything.” This shocking revelation was made by Stewart Darling (pictured), a Scottish Golf Board member.

He highlighted that Scottish clubs had been losing roughly 5,000 full members every year in the last 10 years. He warned that the consequence of not doing anything to try and address that situation was an average annual subscription of £478 rising by 34 per cent in five years’ time and to be 84 per cent higher in 10 years’ time. “That is a fairly challenging prognosis in any walk of life,” he said.

Continuing, Darling stressed that golf’s demographic was its biggest problem. Over 55s make up more than 100,000 of golf club members whereas 24 and unders provide just more than 10,000. He also pointed out that it used to take 20 rounds per year in 2007 for someone to justify their subscription fee and now it is 40. He revealed, too, that only 47 per cent of members submit enough cards (three) to retain a handicap while just 53 per cent play in a formal competition. Having too many courses is one of the game’s problems.

“We can’t sustain 600 clubs in 10 years’ time,” he warned. Darling was accused for “a lot of negativity” about the state of the game in its birthplace by delivering that message, but he stuck firmly to his guns. “It’s not negativity – it’s reality,” he said in response.

Meanwhile, conditions are not too encouraging across the pond in the United States of America. Golf Datatech reported rounds played in the U.S. for the month of October were down 4.1% from last year. Public access play was down 5.4%, while private play was up 1%. Year-to-date the amount of recreational golf played domestically is off 2.2%. Public access is down 3.1% with private play up 1%, according to Golf Datatech research.