The surge in golf club membership that started in April and May of this year took most observers in the golf industry by surprise. In hindsight, given the Covid-19 restrictions on other sporting activities, it actually makes a lot of sense. Some 12,000 new members signed up and with the uncertainties of what will happen in 2021 (and beyond), membership of a golf club will be an invaluable and treasured asset. Here’s why:
Covid-19 – Ok, so we saw courses close during the October/November Phase 5 lockdown and here we are again which is a shame as golf is one of the safest sports in this pandemic. Along with things like participants’ age profiles (certainly for the older generations) it is also a vital activity for mental and physical well-being. Without wanting to be the harbinger of doom and gloom, there is a possibility that being a member of a club may be the only way, on occasion, to play a round of golf this year. Above all else, this demonstrates how valuable club membership really is.
Golf on Tap – When you become a member of a club you can play golf at your course just about whenever you want and especially at weekends. Late summer evenings are perfect for slipping out to play a quick few holes and there are those who will happily squeeze in a few at sunrise, too. And with the club’s practice facilities you can fine-tune your game ahead of the weekend medal. All of this and not a green fee in sight. There’s also the Pro, the shop, the bar and restaurant. A Pro can offer not only advice and lessons but he/she can provide you with the opportunity to test new equipment on your own course.
A Sense of Community – Even in Covid times, with the various protocols in place at your club, once you pass through the gates the only thing that matters is that you all want to enjoy the golf course and the facilities on offer. It creates a positive vibe and a friendly atmosphere. New members – and we know there are a lot of those – are typically taken under the wing of a long-serving member, which eases introductions and helps new members settle in quickly. Family golf is also growing and the attitude of ‘juniors-should-be-seen-and-not-heard’ is mostly a thing of the past. This unites everybody under the one banner that is YOUR golf club.
Make Friends – If you’re happy to spend four to five hours in the company of just a couple of other members then chances are that you’ll be making friends for life… or at least until they beat you in the final of the President’s Cup.
Team Participation – Clubs have numerous teams they put forward every year – for low and high handicappers alike. Some are for singles and some are for pairs. Many of the most popular are mixed competitions. They can be for a group of local clubs or they can be national events which will see you travelling around the country to play different courses… for free. You don’t have to participate but plenty of golfers love the inter-club rivalry and competitive environment. It might just bring out the best in you.
Challenge Yourself – When you pay a green fee at a golf course you will have only one or two tees to choose from. But, at your home club, playing with friends or by yourself you are not restricted. Why not play the par threes from the back tees and the par fives from the red tees one day… and then switch the next. You’ll play two very different courses which will help improve your game and knowledge of the course.
Club Competitions – A golf club’s weekend and mid-week competitions vary considerably in format and interest – from scrambles and fourballs to individual strokeplay, stableford, V Par and even 3-club competitions. They all add a certain frisson to your weekly game and there’s no better way to improve your handicap than on the field of play. Then there are the prizes you can win. Some of these competitions are semi-opens (especially midweek) which means you can also invite guests to enjoy your course.
The Club’s Future – When you belong to a club you become more interested in its future success. Even if you don’t want to be on committees and councils, simply by being a member you are entitled to your say – whether it’s to point out that sand has become compacted in a particular bunker or to suggest a better location for hand sanitisers.
Junior Programmes – If you have kids of your own, what better environment to introduce them to the game than your home club? Even during the second lockdown clubs were able to continue coaching juniors. Everything they need, from the Pro to the practice facilities to the restaurant, is in one place. It may be a cliché to say kids are the future of the game but it’s also true. With the average age profile at most Irish golf clubs well into the 60s, enticing youngsters into the game is highly desirable. Young boys and girls might stop playing after a few years to pursue other sports/interests, but it is more than worth the investment to introduce them to golf as young as possible. Consider that golf and swimming are two sports you can participate in from the age of 4 to 94 and those kids – your kids – could easily come back to the game at some stage and play right alongside you. Many golf clubs also offer special family membership packages so take a look at how your kids could empower the future of your club.
The Clubhouse – Things may be more complicated these days with Covid-19 but as a member you get discounts on food and drink in the restaurant/bar. The TV will be switched to golf whenever it’s on so you can relax over a meal or a drink and watch the day’s events unfold. There just might be a snooker table hiding somewhere in the depths, too.
During the summer evenings your club will probably have barbecues, nine-and-dine competitions, poker nights, pub quizzes, fashion shows, wine tastings… to the point that there’s something for everyone. And not just in summer either. Co. Sligo Golf Club has a very active bridge club and its own choir so you’ll find members with similar interests to your own and an environment where you can pursue them.
GUI Benefits – GUI affiliated clubs give you a card which has its own range of benefits (assuming you’re fully paid up). Insurance is just one but you will also benefit from special GUI discounted green fees at most Irish clubs. Sometimes it will be 15%, but in other cases it can be 50%. That could save you €50 on the spot. You also receive an official GUI Handicap, which entitles you to play in Open competitions around the country. On a wider stage, many courses around the world insist you have a handicap certificate if you wish to play there.
The Extras – Different clubs offer different benefits. One particularly attractive extra is reciprocal playing rights at other courses. For example, if you join Galway Bay, you receive automatic playing privileges at Palmerstown House and Concra Wood. Carton House offers reciprocal playing rights with Fota Island, Ballyliffin and Dromoland Castle. These are not the only ones by any stretch. At Galway Bay, the club is already up and running with its 2021 renewals and the first 50 who renewed received a free fourball for Carne or Connemara. At Douglas Golf Club in Cork, a complimentary taxi service on weekend evenings will ship members home if they’ve been enjoying a drink… thus tackling one of the big issues that affects a lot of golf clubs today and keeps members in the clubhouse longer than they would otherwise stay.
Last Resort – Resort courses often offer discounted room rates and spa/leisure membership rates if you join their golf club. If you’re very lucky they may give you a few hundred euro’s worth of credit to spend in the resort as well. Mount Juliet, Castlemartyr, Dromoland Castle and Carton House all spring to mind.
Your Health – Research constantly shows the value of playing golf to your health… and not just your physical health but also your mental health. Playing a round of golf with friends (or on your own) therefore has significant benefits… benefits which are too easy to ignore. There are plenty of surveys and research studies in this area so take a look should you need any more inspiration.