There are 180,000 ‘official’ poll tax paying golfers in Ireland at present. It’s not really enough to sustain the game’s governing body Golf Ireland with any comfort. It’s frustrating that at least the same number play golf irregularly and sporadically without being a member of a club or paying an annual fee to a club or Golf Ireland.
Many of the 50,000 that gave up their club membership in the past ten years still play some golf. I’m certain that most of them would still be club members if it was affordable in monetary and time terms. Why wouldn’t they? Golf is such a great pastime that young and old can play. Being a club member is the best way to enjoy the game. For Golf Ireland to lose 50,000 poll taxes cannot be dismissed lightly, either.
This situation highlights a flaw in the manner golf is organised in this country. Long-established GCs with top grade facilities tend to be full and somewhat unwelcoming towards non-members, beginners and novices. Whenever they need to, the big clubs have no difficulty attracting member recruits from the smaller clubs with fewer facilities, which means a continuous spare capacity and a never-ending struggle to pay bills in the less fashionable GCs.
A brand new idea for a ‘virtual golf club partner membership’ called Flexygolf, has recently been announced which provides a hopeful and viable solution to the ‘golfer drain’ by offering some of the privileges a traditional club membership would at a much-reduced cost. It’s a win, win, win because all three ‘partners’ in the arrangement (the aspiring flexygolfer, the golf club and Golf Ireland) all gain. The golfer is given a ‘flexy’ membership, an official handicap plus the opportunities to play more often and competitively, if desired. The club receives an annual joining fee plus a green fee (albeit reduced) whenever the golfer comes to play. Golf Ireland receives an extra poll tax exactly in the same way as it does from all of its member clubs.
Launched in March 2021 by Clubs to Hire, Europe’s largest golf rental business, the promoter’s concept is to provide nomadic, homeless golfers with an opportunity to play their golf in their own time and terms at an affordable cost (€119 per annum for the first 200 applicants, €139 thereafter). In my view, FlexyGolf has to be good for the game overall with the potential to become a viable stepping-stone for golfers to progress to an established club in the future because the way it is set-up allows its members to do whatever they wish in their own time and at a very affordable price.
Flexygolfers should be embraced wholeheartedly, especially by clubs seeking new members and greater footfall. Anything that encourages more play and more players, especially at places with a shortfall in memberships and spare capacity should be welcomed. It is also a guaranteed bonus for the coffers of Golf Ireland without it having to lift a finger.
Two golf clubs have already signed up as ‘partners’ – Blacklion in County Cavan and Highfield in County Kildare. Both are looking forward to welcoming extra ‘traffic’ coming through their gates. From these partner clubs’ point of view (and more to follow soon) adding a Flexygolf membership category does not impede on the privileges of the current members but will provide them with some new, recurring, added revenue that can be used to improve facilities and greenkeeping machinery.
The plight of small, rural golf clubs has often been highlighted, but their needs are over-looked over and over again by the Sports Council, Golf Ireland and the tourism bodies. Small clubs are never included in national marketing budgets.
Flexygolfers will have fewer privileges than ordinary members, but in time, they may be enticed to play more often and upgrade to full membership? Flexygolf is certainly worth a try by those seeking a cheaper way of playing the game, while at the same time small GC’s in need of more visitors and footfall will benefit.
For more information, contact: email@example.com | www.flexygolf.com
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