Will your golf club survive the Coronavirus?
The Coronavirus pandemic has affected people and businesses across the world, and golf clubs are certainly no exception.
Golf clubs in many countries, the UK included, are currently closed, and no one really knows when they are likely to reopen.
In fact, the question for some is not when they will reopen after the Coronavirus, but if they ever will.
Many golf clubs simply do not have the money to cope with receiving no income for several weeks or months, while still having costs to cover. This is especially true after the wettest February on record and one of the wettest winters ever meant clubs were closed for extended periods, and even those that remained open received fewer green fees than normal, leaving them with less money in the bank.
Just a week into UK lockdown, Henley Golf Club in Arden, Warwickshire, appears to be one of the first golf clubs to close as a result of Coronavirus.
Thankfully, most golf clubs are in a position to survive longer than that, but the financial implications of a prolonged closure will affect the vast majority of clubs, and not all will be able to survive it.
To make matters worse, this time of year is membership renewal time for most clubs. A club with 600 members and a membership fee of £1,000 a year would normally get a cash injection of £600,000 in the space of a few weeks around now. That money is used to run the club and maintain the course throughout the following 12 months. If a sizable proportion of the membership don't renew – whether that is because their own finances are being affected by the Coronavirus or they simply don't want to pay for something they're not getting – the club will have a big hole in its bank account.
Golf clubs are taking different approaches to membership renewals in light of Coronavirus:
1. Some golf clubs are simply asking their members to support them by renewing as normal, despite the uncertainty of when they will be able to access the course again.
2. Other golf clubs are asking members to renew and pay now, but promising that the year they are paying for won't start until the course reopens.
3. Some clubs are asking members to renew and pay now, but at a discounted rate to reflect the playing year being shortened.
The problem with Option 1 is that it asks a lot of golfers to pay for something they aren't getting, particularly when most people are being financially impacted in one way or another by the Coronavirus.
Options 2 and 3 may seem fairer to members, but they give the golf club a problem of reduced revenue. The positive is that if they get a good chunk of membership money now, they can try to spread the damage across a longer period, rather than suddenly missing out on tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds they were expecting to receive at this time.
England Golf, meanwhile, are hoping that funding from the public body Sport England may help clubs stay afloat.
Realistically, with every sport affected, it's unlikely that the money golf clubs receive – if any – will be enough on its own to help clubs cover the impact of Coronavirus.
The best thing for members to do
If you love your golf club and want to help ensure it has a future, the best thing you can do is to renew your membership.
But that only applies if you are in a financial position to do so. Clearly, golf club membership pales into insignificance compared to more pressing financial concerns at such an uncertain time.
The best thing for golf clubs to do
As a golf club, whatever financial position you are in and whatever strategy you choose to implement, the best thing to do right now is communicate as much as possible with your members. We're alarmed to hear that some members have heard nothing regarding renewals at their club. It's unfair to expect members to