England Golf man warns golf clubs they are in a ‘survival of the fittest’
By Michael McEwan
Struggling English golf clubs are being urged to take advantage of the support available to them from England Golf to avoid suffering the same fate as the likes of Canford Magna, Frome and West Chiltington- all of which have closed in recent months.
Despite being the largest golf facility in Dorset with a membership totalling close to 1,000, Canford Magna shut its doors for the final time in March. A statement issued by the club advising of the move noted that attempts to reduce costs and overheads had proven unsuccessful and that it had ‘continued to make a loss in recent years’.
Frome, in Somerset, was also forced to close after attempts to find a buyer to take over the running of the club from its retiring owners proved unsuccessful. “Despite plenty of interest in the golf property and other development ideas, we have not had any offers to keep it as a going concern,” said an announcement on the club’s website.
West Chiltington, meanwhile, is to be converted into a vineyard. Its owners, Martin and Debs Ormrod, made the ‘difficult decision’ to close it as the course was no longer ‘financially viable’.
With many more English clubs thought to be either struggling to stay afloat or on the brink of closure, Richard Flint, England Golf’s Development Manager, has urged them to seek help from the body.
“There are two main things clubs need to do,” Flint told English Club Golfer. “One, better understand their place in the market and, two, better understand the needs and wants of their customers.
“We’re glad to be engaging with more clubs now than ever before but there is a lot of work to be done and it requires a focused approach. There’s no broad-brush solution to the problems that the golf industry is facing. However, by better understanding their place within it, as well as their customers, our clubs will have a better chance of surviving and, indeed, thriving.”
Flint, below, added that the issues facing clubs currently ‘boils down to supply and demand’.
“It really is survival of the fittest,” he said. “Clubs need to be smarter, more pro-active and find ways to give people in their locality what they want and need.”
Since November, England Golf has rolled out a series of Business Growth Forums across the country, with Flint encouraged by the number of clubs who have engaged with the sessions.
“More than 600 of our 1,900 affiliated clubs have attended one of the 24 sessions we have held,” he revealed. “They are essentially designed to show clubs what great performance looks like in the modern golf club marketplace.
“Of course, it’s not for us to say what golf clubs should or shouldn’t specifically be doing - that’s very much for them to decide because, like I said earlier, there’s no broad-brush solution - but we can give them information and support to help them improve their positions.”