Paying too much?

The cost of joining many golf clubs today is a significant cause of the financial crisis affecting the game.

Having to pay over a thousand pounds for membership is a serious deterrent to would-be golfers in years of austerity and particularly for young people and families – and that’s for clubs with only modest facilities, not the top ones whose membership (and initial joining) fees can be several thousands of pounds or dollars.

Many would-be golfers are consequently thinking of paying only green fees – yet those levels, too, are becoming in many cases also dauntingly high.

The reasons for this are many. Most clubs are faced with ever-increasing course maintenance costs if they persist in following old-fashioned principles  using more chemicals and unsustainable practices which require larger labour resources. And too often they succumb to the demands of their “top” members who clamour for longer courses and Augusta-style manicured fairways and greens.

Clubs may also require outdated dress codes which add to the real cost of playing. And, of course, clubs whose membership is diminishing and whose bank balances are consequently turning red too often conclude that their only way of redressing the balance is to increase green fees.

The problem was tackled in an innovative way by Jack Nicklaus in the Cayman Islands where limited space demanded a novel solution: a short course using the lighter low-compression “Cayman” ball. This was followed by the construction in the UK of a similar course in Brixham, Devon. On just nine acres of land but embracing 18 holes, again using the Cayman ball, junior green fees are a modest £4 and, for adults, £6.50.

They might be described as “extreme” cases but the more traditional length of five-and-a-half to six thousand yards courses can still be found in the UK offering green fees of less than £15 for juniors and £20 for adults.

There are many reasons why REAL golf is so seriously threatened: High green fees is just one of them.

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