New report makes worrying reading for the future of golf. We desperately need to attract young golfers and here’s how I think we can do it.

An annual report from accountants Hillier Hopkins has revealed some pretty depressing (though not shocking) stats about golf club members.

It revealed that:

  • 64% of members at UK golf clubs are over 50, with 21% aged over 70
  • Just 15% of club members are women
  • Only 9% of club members are juniors
  • The number of new members joining clubs is falling; clubs reported an average of 90 new members in 2020 and 2021, and 70 in 2022
  •  52% of clubs had waiting lists in 2022 compared to 60% in 2021

The fall in waiting lists and new members can, in part, be explained by golf’s popularity boom during the pandemic.

But the ageing membership and woefully low number of women?

One thing is glaringly obvious: Golf needs to attract younger female members. And fast.

Mum’s the word

You don’t have to do too much research to quickly work out that golf is missing a core demographic: Women aged 20 – 40 ish. In other words, women at the peak of their careers, women with kids, and women trying to juggle both.  

If we can make golf appeal to these women, we have a huge opportunity to grow the game overnight.

But to do that, we need to make golf fit into their lives. Not the other way around. And that’s where I think we’re going wrong at the moment.

Time, time, time

I must have written about it a thousand times, but it’s only now that I truly appreciate it; time really is a significant barrier to participation. It’s a barrier for men and women – work, commutes and busy social lives being the common ground for both.

But throw in the fact that the majority of caregivers are women and it’s fair to say that the scales of free time are unfairly tipped away from females.

It’s not all doom and gloom though.

Time is a barrier that I passionately believe the industry could quite easily overcome. And the people it would benefit most are those 20 ­to 40-something women we talked about earlier.

Shorter, faster formats. More competitions over nine holes. Even the opportunity to take your kids along.

My friend and I have taken our babies to the driving range a few times. Granted, it’s a bit of a juggle between bottles and nap times but so far, it’s worked well. A bit of fresh air for the babies and even just half an hour for us to hit some balls and have a natter.

There’s just about every other “baby and mum” class (bring-your-baby comedy show anyone?). So why not in golf?

It would be simple enough for clubs: Find a quiet time on the range, put a few mats on the floor for the babies to roll around on and voila – you’ve got a baby class you can make money from.

Or how about childcare facilities at golf courses? It’s really common to find creches at gyms and shopping centres. Introducing something similar – even just Monday to Thursday – could suddenly open golf clubs up to a whole demographic they would have otherwise missed out on. And keep the club busy at otherwise quiet times.

And as much as I think golf needs mums, it’s important to remember that mums will benefit from golf too. Gentle exercise, time outdoors and some time away from winding the p***ing bobbin up.

It really is a win-win for everyone.

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