More than a third of golf clubs have cash flow issues despite current boom

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A new survey of UK private members’ golf clubs finds 37 percent have cash flow issues despite the recent boom in demand to play the game, and some may close down in 2021 as a result.

Part of the problem for them is that, according to the GGA Partners research, 43 percent of members of UK golf clubs expect their disposable income to decline over the next 12 months, while 58 percent believe their overall consumer spending will also decline.

The survey finds that eight percent of clubs in the UK and Ireland classify their current cash position as ‘critical’ and a further 29 percent as ‘concerning’.

GGA Partners’ Rob Hill said the full economic impact of Covid-19 will not hit the UK golf industry until the winter, as the government’s furlough scheme has helped spread the damage of a major recession out as much as possible.

Rob Hill

Hill also referred to a study carried out by the English Golf Union as it then was in 2008, which identified in the first year of that recession, almost one half of all golf clubs experienced a decline in membership numbers with “the most significant decrease in the 22 to 44 age group”.

The survey has some positive news for golf clubs as it also finds that 11 percent of golf club members have not returned to their club yet. Most of them said they will when the club has been operational ‘without issues’ for a trial period, although some said they won’t go back until a vaccine is available. The majority of people that fell into this category were aged 70 and over.

GGA Partners’ Rob Hill said: “By all means enjoy re-opening, celebrate the new demand and interest in the game and membership, but remember what you’re experiencing now isn’t the new normal. That’s coming this winter and it is the responsibility of club leaders to prepare their organisations for the next cycle now.

“This means addressing any governance weaknesses that may hinder nimble and difficult decision-making. Following proven guiding principles to protect the club’s overall financial health. Protecting the condition of club assets and exploring opportunities for investing in enhancements which will broaden relevance and appeal. Investing in people and their education to deliver efficient and outstanding member and visitor experiences. Investing in a membership retention plan with an emphasis on value, NPS, socialisation and safety, and investing in an appropriate brand management strategy so that values are communicated effectively to both internal and external audiences.”

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