What has the last few months been like for the golf industry in Europe?

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It’s been an extraordinary few weeks for the golf industry in the UK – two months of lockdown when the season was about to start followed by unprecedented demand to use the course – but what’s it been like in mainland Europe?

The Golf Course Association Europe (GCAE) has been speaking to industry leaders in several countries to find out their views:

Laurent Boissonnas, CEO of Open Golf Club, which operates 14 golf courses in France, said that golf is very strong at the moment, with a rise in memberships and a strong increase in green fees, which have compensated for the loss of big competitions and corporate tournaments. He said tourism, however, remains weak.

Le Touquet in France

In Finland, golf courses didn’t close, which had a positive effect on the industry. “With other sports, theatres, cinema, concerts, premier league and so on being closed, demand for golf was booming,” said Antti Hiltunen of the Finnish Golf Course Association. Total rounds are up by more than a third on 2019 and memberships are up by four percent. Only food and beverage is behind on budget.

It’s a similar story in Sweden. President of Sweden’s golfing association, the GCA, Christopher Johansson, says golf rounds are up by 38 percent, green fees by 18 per cent, memberships by five percent and play by members by more than 50 percent. He added that golf courses with hotels have seen under occupied rooms but even food and beverage at golf clubs, while bringing in lower revenues than in 2019, is holding up well.

Luc Feremans, president of Golf Flanders and multi course owner in Belgium, sees positive developments in his country despite food and beverage underperforming so far. Memberships are up by four percent compared with 2019 and the industry, he said, has adapted by becoming more professional, and implemented new ways of working that has replaced inefficient methods.

Jan Louzecky of the Czech GCA said rounds are up by 25 percent, and golfers are upgrading their memberships, but golf travel agents are having a tough time.

El Valle Golf Murcia in Spain

Javier Insula of Making Golf, which owns three clubs around Madrid, says there has been a 10 to 20 percent growth in rounds played by local golfers. However, food and beverage, and tourism, remains weak.

Peter Arendorf of the Danish GCA says membership growth has been very positive in Denmark. He said the number of new members secured January 20 June 2020 was equal to the number from January 2019 to September 2019.
By the middle of last year Austria had seen 900 new members of golf clubs. This year the figure was 3,000.

And Holland has seen a record number of golf rounds. Some golf courses have seen more than 700 golfers in one day! Golf club manager Suzanne Rozema even said her venue has run a takeaway service from its clubhouse: “Although the revenue is lower we have the same net result due to much lower staff costs,” she said.

Golf Club St Leon-Rot, Germany

In Germany, Thomas Hasak, CEO of golfing association the BVGA, and Stuart Orme, owner of two courses, say there has been a north-south divide in the country. Clubs in the north reopened weeks before those in the south, and when the south reopened this coincided with a downturn in weather.

This resulted in some members in the south wanting their fees reimbursed while the north has seen a boom in new members. At Orme’s courses, the number of beginners has tripled compared to 2019 and he sees a better, more relaxed atmosphere on the golf courses.

The GCAE also spoke with Colin Mayes, CEO of golf club operator BGL, who said his venues are seeing 20 to 30 percent more rounds played on them compared with last year. In addition, he said adventure golf locations are doing extremely well with children off school, ranges are full and memberships and green fee income has seen a “very positive uplift”.

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