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Opinion

Golfers (Still) Just Want Fun…Not Futility

Last month, Golf Australia released their annual National Golf Club Participation Report, which detailed the national trends on membership, competition rounds, general participation and specific program participation.

The report, which is available online at https://bit.ly/2Hi6JSq, revealed that golf membership is continuing its steady decline on a national level. Essentially, fewer golfers are opting to join clubs, and instead either playing socially or leaving the game altogether.

The trend is not a new one—club golf has been declining every year since the first report was released over five years ago. And there is no sign of this trend changing anytime soon.

All the eastern states, as well as the Northern Territory, were down on previous membership rates, for an overall 1.6% decrease in the past year. Only Western Australia (+1.7%) and South Australia (+0.1%) bucked that trend. Overall there are only 383,613 members nationally, with 212,047 from regional areas and 149,420 from metropolitan zones. When you consider that nearly one million people played golf last year (According to the annual Ausplay survey), the relatively low number of club members is a continuing cause for concern.

It seems, thus, that golfers are continuing to leave the game in droves. This should be a serious concern for each and every golf club in Australia. If your board/committee hasn’t yet initiated a plan to launch innovative, fun, forward-thinking initiatives to drive more golfers (including social golfers) to your facility, then they are not doing their job properly. It’s as simple as that.

One particular stat grabbed my attention, and deserves your utmost attention. In the chart above, “Motivations for golf participation”, you will note that, overwhelmingly, the main reasons for playing golf were “Fun/Enjoyment”, “Social Reasons”, and “Physical Health or Fitness”.  

This echoes, in glaring detail, my point in previous columns: Golfers want fun. Not futility. So if we want golf to survive in Australia, we must make our golf courses more fun and enjoyable.

For those of you who have emailed, written or rang me to argue that “Golf is about competition and challenge…we should be making our courses HARDER!”…well, take a look at the “Performance or competition” response rate in the chart. (If you can’t see it, get a magnifying glass.)

I rest my case.

The proof is right there in front of you: We need to stop… I REPEAT…STOP…setting up our courses with ultra-fast greens, crazy pin placements, thick rough, forced carries and tees near the tips. Sure, make it challenging for Club Championships, Pennant, Board Events and big tournaments. But for the love of the Golf Gods, let’s make it more fun for the average, everyday golfer the rest of the time.

Your club’s future depends on it.

As always, I’d love to hear your feedback.

See you on the (fun) fairways

Richard Fellner

By Richard Fellner

Winner of multiple Australian Golf Media Awards – including "Best Column" for his monthly Starters Box column as Editor for Inside Golf Magazine – Richard Fellner is the quintessential Golf Tragic—having played the game for over 40 years (but has never gotten any better.) He has played and reviewed courses all over the world, and has interviewed many of the great players of the game (including Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Greg Norman). Richard is a member of both the Australian Golf Writers Association and the Golf Society of Australia, and he is a regular guest on many Australian "sports talk" radio shows and networks, including ABC Grandstand, SEN 1116, Melbourne Talk Radio 1377, 2GB and others.

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