Why join a golf club in 2021?

Kevin Markham

A tee to green view of the 2nd hole on Carne's Kilmore course, by Kevin Markham

Kevin Markham

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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-19Ok, 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 TapWhen 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 CommunityEven 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 FriendsIf 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 ParticipationClubs 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 YourselfWhen 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 CompetitionsA 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 ClubhouseThings 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 ExtrasDifferent 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 ResortResort 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, CastlemartyrDromoland Castle and Carton House all spring to mind. 

Your HealthResearch 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. 

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20 responses to “Why join a golf club in 2021?”

  1. Brendan Daly avatar
    Brendan Daly

    I think you will see an exodus of golfers this year seeing as clubs chose to retain players subs in full despite only a third of the season being played . This fee is for 12 months golf and when clubs saw that it could not be provided they needed to refund the members . Then the silence began !!!! So members are expected to dig in now for another 12 month sub all this when there is complete uncertainty !!! Get ready for a momentous exodus from this sport and put it down to GREED on the part of clubs and resorts !

    1. Sheosamh in Conaire avatar
      Sheosamh in Conaire

      Brendan you are 100% correct I find that on any mentioned year golf is really poor value i/e 18 holes only from April until September if we are lucky. In regards to covid 19 restrictions members should be entitled to some kind of renumeration as a result of lost golf hours. Greed appears to have take hold in some clubs.

  2. Pat morgan avatar
    Pat morgan

    I totally agree with you Brendan,I rejoined my club last year as advertised unlimited golf but in fact it became very restricted ie.Difficult to get tee time and club block booking tee times for visitors ONLY and this was during competition day.I certainly won’t be rejoining when it’s due ??

  3. Cormac Bergin avatar
    Cormac Bergin

    I totally agree, we all understand the issues with golf clubs and how difficult it is to generate revenue but this short term greed will lead to a long term gap in income if they dont look at a prata solution. Membership is as much about loyalty as it is about value, the moment both are ignored is the moment of mistrust begins, membership takes a step backwards.

  4. Gerry Gilligan avatar
    Gerry Gilligan

    Realistically lads if we “ the members” don’t continue to pay our subscriptions the clubs will fold. I don’t think we want that. The closures we totally outside the control of the club. As it is the upkeep and maintenance costs continue as well as regular overheads of heat, power, rates etc. it’s a bit shortsighted to cut off your nose to spite your face ( as my Granny used to tell me) . Hang in there and the good days will resume .

  5. Brendan King avatar
    Brendan King

    Gerry is correct. In a member owned club, you are only damaging yourself by looking for a refund. If the club has less funding, the quality of the course will suffer and ultimately it could lead to the permanent closure of the club.

  6. Eamonn Byrne avatar
    Eamonn Byrne

    I agreed with Gerry and Brendan, if you want to play golf you must support your club, you will have major course maintenance in the couple of months, staff must be paid. Early payment of sub will also help with club cash flow.

  7. Ann English avatar

    Completely agree with last two comments. Member of Tipperary town golf club . Owned by the members. If members don’t pay their subs there is of course a knock on affect. Our course staff do extraordinary work up keeping the course and improving the course for US.
    It will get better and we will get back but need members loyalty to keep club going.

  8. Colm avatar

    Golf Subscriptions in time of Pandemic.
    The Taoiseach and members of the Government must be aware already that this is the kind of thing people get up to when they’re not playing golf. My only quibble is that the rebate idea being mooted is a mere proposal and not a decision.
    Golf Club members know that every expense the club incurs is paid for by the members who are the de facto owners. During closure and despite lay-offs and savings there is still necessary expenditure on development, maintenance, security, wages etc. and considerable financial loss in the absence of members using and paying for club facilities.
    Regrettably, I am not free to work with this think tank but I do have a few suggestions. Since NPHET advised that golf clubs be closed and the pandemic is a health issue both NPHET and the HSE should compensate golfers for their down time. Something similar to the PUP no doubt. By the same clear logic, when golf courses are closed due to heavy rain, severe frost or even snow, Met Éireann, being the responsible body, should compensate golfers for their loss. In the same vein, when I go on holidays and am not using my home, I am quite certain that the Minister for Housing should compensate me by paying my mortgage during my absence.
    We need an election sometime soon! But all democratic constraints must be observed.

  9. kevin maguire avatar
    kevin maguire

    Loyalty is the key in these strange times ,if we were to adopt Pat,s approach at these difficult times for golf clubs there would be very few clubs left, only the very strong would survive and then it would revert back to where it was 40/50 years ago … ELITEST.

  10. george small avatar
    george small

    Yes agree with most of the comments but some clubs let in far too many new members and at greatly reduced rates totally unfair on the long suffering members who pay full amount every year then cant even get tee off time every week with if being automatic booking process which descrimates against members with slow internet

  11. Michael Griffin avatar

    2020 we lost a lot of golf this year is off to a bad start you can’t expect members to pay the same amount of money this year gui Ireland needs to advise to each club a reduction in this year’s fee it will be another while before we hit a ball

    1. Christy+mcg avatar

      Don’t expect any help from the GUI wasters,and they don’t have the right to tell golf courses what to charge,their only function is to collect money from and not give money to struggling courses,with the millions they collected last year there was a report they gave out a few hundred quid to some courses,,shameful and should be boycotted,,

  12. Inny Tavern avatar
    Inny Tavern

    The golf courses should never have to close due to a virus. They are a much safer invironment than soccer rugby or gaa and are a great place for exercising the bones and the couple of brains we are left with due to being locked in like rover

  13. Oliver O Connor avatar

    I agree that the GUI should help the members with the clubs and extend membership by four months to the current members and reduce the GUI and club fees

  14. Kevin McLoughlin avatar
    Kevin McLoughlin

    Brendan Daly should know he is paying a club membership, not an annual green fee.

  15. Sean Scanlan avatar
    Sean Scanlan

    Concepts such as loyalty, ownership and investment for the future come to mind as we remain in lockdown. Like all of you I miss my golf and cannot wait to get back. I had the honour and privilege last year of being Captain of my club, a relatively small rural club, very much dependent on members subs. Some of our members came up with novel and wonderful ideas to promote as much competitive golf as possible, to both benefit members and bring money into the club. We had a great year and did as well financially as we might have done, had we a full season.
    Now is the time to remain loyal. Now is the time to be strong and committed. We need our members and our subs now more than ever.
    While we are at home our staff are maintaining our courses, doing those extra jobs that might not be done if we were open. Loans and salaries need to be serviced.
    It makes no sense to be shortsighted and to look for rebates. For some, it may be a struggle and clubs must recognise that. But when we reopen, clubs must look after the loyal members and give them the course time they deserve.

  16. Dick Walsh avatar
    Dick Walsh

    Some people seem to see this rebate issue as some kind of war between the members and the club. The club ,in the majority of cases, is simply the sum total of its members. It cannot give rebates because members,through no fault of the club’s,can’t play golf.

  17. Alfie Acheson avatar
    Alfie Acheson

    One of the problems I have is that’s it has not been a level playing field. Durning the County and 5 KM restrictions. Most golf clubs were fully booked and operating competitions. My club was only open to people who were abiding by regulations and we had instances of club officers contacting members and telling them to take their names off time sheets as they were not welcome in club due to regulations
    GUI were very slow in giving directions
    Clubs definitely should reimburse bar tabs that were not used or let them carry over their balance

  18. mick geary avatar
    mick geary

    have golf clubs not been given grants.i could be wrong on this. my own club has refunded the bar/restaurant levy from 2020.

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