Planning for the future
Whilst golf remains an important part of the lives of some sectors of the community, statistics show that golf participation in Australia is declining. To ‘future proof’ golf as a sport and recreational activity, declining participation and financial viability need to be considered as real issues for the sport of golf in Australia.
The Gold Creek Country Club is not immune to the impact of those factors on its operations. As at 16 April 2018, Gold Creek Country Club has approximately 330 members which has declined from a peak of 540 in 2006. Whilst nothing has been decided about how the Gold Creek Country Club will change, one thing is certain it does have to change to be sustainable, viable and fit-for-purpose.
As part of a review of operations, the Gold Creek Country Club discovered that many golfing groups nationally and internationally have found a declining trend in golf course memberships and are considering how the world of golf will look going forward.
Below is a summary of the key findings the Gold Creek Country Club found during its review:
Golf in Australia – Golf Club Participation Report 2016 (Published by Golf Australia in May 2017)
- The average club size metropolitan golf club in Australia has 237 members
- Two-thirds of clubs in Australia have less than 250 members, with 80% having less than 500 members
- NSW/ACT has the most number of golf clubs
- National membership numbers across Australia were reported as 393,975, showing a decline of 0.8% over the previous 12-month period.
- History shows that club membership numbers peaked in Australia in 1998 at approximately 500,000 golfers. Since this time, a steady decline has materialised with an overall decline in participation of 27%, average of 1.2% per annum.
- The average age of club members across the country is just under 56 years, with the average age of male members being eight years younger than females
- 57% of the national golf membership base is aged 55 years or greater
- Junior members (under the age of 18) account for 3.5% of total members nationwide.
- The ACT falls within the ACT-Monaro district. Membership in this district has fallen from 10,169 in 2012 to 8,855 in 2016, a drop of 13% over 4 years, with continuing decline.
- The ACT Monaro fall in membership has a five-year average of 2.7% per year. The rest of NSW average is only 1.4% suggesting that the district is declining at nearly twice the rate of other parts of NSW.
The following map shows the movement for the rest of NSW for comparison purposes.
In a recent interview (https://www.facebook.com/troon/videos/2123658444316202/) with golf expert, Chairman, CEO and Founder of Troon Golf, Dana Garmany gave his insights into the future of golf globally. Mr Garmany believes that in order to survive the game needs to change. Mr Garmany points out the issue of the high expenses associated with running large golf courses for minimal competitions and for minimal participation.
Some other well-known golf experts have also indicated changes are needed to preserve golf courses in to the future:
Greg Norman (https://www.australiangolfdigest.com.au/great-white-shark-reveals-proposal-for-australias-first-12-hole-greg-norman-design/)
The former world No.1 recently declared he was a “big proponent of increasing the speed of the game; building 12-hole golf courses (and) reducing the time.” Asked if 12-hole layouts will become as popular to golf as Twenty20 was to cricket, Norman said: “In the next generation, yeah. The answer is yes; I think all over world … it will be and it won’t take much.”
Jack Nicklaus (http://content.usatoday.com/communities/gameon/post/2011/05/jack-nicklaus-12-hole-rounds-of-golf/1#.WtQ0l5e-nAQ)
Nicklaus says the length of time it takes to play an 18-hole round is alienating many golfers, particularly youngsters who are used to playing most athletic contests in 2-3 hours.
“I think that you will see a lot of changes in the future to make rounds of golf shorter and courses more accessible to the everyday golfer. For golf to grow there will have to be ways to play that will not take nearly as long to complete a round. Time is of the essence to everyone. We have the responsibility to design and build enjoyable courses for the masses, not just the low handicapper or professional.”
Golf’s 2020 Vision – Report by HSBC (http://www.golf.org.au/site/_content/document/00017543-source.pdf)
- The trends which will shape the future of golf are the same trends that are shaping the future of the planet: the shift towards Asia, the increasing feminisation of the public world, urbanisation, the spread of digital technology, and resource and sustainability pressures.
- Golf is adapting to urbanisation and to technology, moving beyond the 18-hole format and introducing new, shorter, forms of the game. The increasing quality of simulators is likely to accelerate this process.
The report also includes a “Golf in 2020: the 12-hole guide” which states:
- Golf clubs and golf courses will become more family friendly;
- Six and nine-hole formats, and other short-forms, will complement the 18-hole tradition;
- Golf becomes a centre of expertise in water management, conservation and biodiversity;
- The authorities change the rules about equipment to reduce the distances achieved by professionals and bring course lengths back under control
- Gary Player, the South African winner of nine major titles and 165 tournaments worldwide is one of a handful of players to have achieved the career Grand Slam. He is quoted in response to the question “What have been the main technological developments you have seen in the sport?” “The golf equipment and ball have completely changed. One of my main concerns at the moment is how far the ball travels. With the advances in golf ball technology, courses now have to be needlessly lengthened. These costs are hurting the game because courses will have to recoup the costs somewhere. The expense to scale back the ball would be miniscule compared to the money being spent around the world modifying golf courses.”
- Colin Montgomerie winner of record eight European Tour Order of Merit titles is quoted as saying: “Some people don’t feel they have the time to play a full 18 holes and golf may need to seriously develop its own version of Twenty20 in order to keep pace. This could certainly help more youngsters take up the sport, which is obviously vital. It could be a flagship event being hosted at night under floodlights, similar to what Formula One has achieved out in Singapore.”