A recent trip with the golf clubs sparked an interesting conversation about golf club memberships.
This article originally appeared in the October 2013 Issue of Inside Golf magazine where Michael Green writes a monthly column.
The helpful taxi driver insisted on helping me load the golf clubs into the cab and so I wasn’t surprised when he brought the conversation around to golf.
“Where you planning on playing?”, he asked. And we were off. I regretted the short cab ride now. It was immediately obvious the driver could talk about golf for hours. My kind of cabbie.
If there is even a hint of hope I may get to play golf when I travel, I take my golf clubs. An interstate function, a drive down the coast or a family holiday up the coast, the golf clubs will come with me.
However they don’t always get put to use.
I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve taken the golf clubs to simply bring them straight back without opening a zipper or unsheathing the driver. While wary of extra baggage surcharges I’ve taken return flights without getting near a golf course with the extra exertion being nothing more than an exercise in club carrying through airport terminals.
It has an upside though.
The mere glimpse of golf clubs in a caravan park, hotel or airport has set off conversations with people who would normally have walked on by.
And so as I chatted golf, golf and more golf to the taxi driver I felt like taking the clubs on this trip had already paid off, whether I play golf or not.
His level of enthusiasm for the game was on par with the best I’ve seen but his current displeasure with his golf club took me by surprise.
He told me that for a good portion of the 30 years he had been a member, he would play two rounds of golf a week and head to the club for dinner and drinks every Friday evening.
A shoulder injury almost two years ago had meant his playing days weren’t as frequent as they used to be and were mainly confined to the summer months when the shoulder was warmer and less restricted.
So he had been reconsidering his membership options – paying a sizeable annual fee without playing much golf is a poor investment in anyone’s language.
Furthermore, his son was in a similar quandary, albeit for different reasons.
An integral member of the club’s successful A grade pennant team, his son is now studying and doesn’t have as much time for golf. No longer paying reduced rates as a junior he simply cannot justify paying the annual fees, with golf less of a priority.
This must ring true for many golfers, especially senior and junior golfers.
I’ve met many people – often while travelling – who gave up the game as they approached the expensive junior to full-membership barrier. Studies and career get in the way, and spending the holidays playing four rounds a week is no longer an option.
It may be tempting to think that senior members can afford the annual membership fees, but for many golfers this simply isn’t the case for many retirees.
While it is true that the expenditure of a golf club does not change with the needs of the individual members, surely golf clubs are keen to keep their members, in all their forms, but especially the those that have been at the club for many years; often the heart and soul of a golf club.
Inside Golf has addressed this point of club memberships on previous occasions and there is no simple answer. But it is clear that golf clubs need to get a little more creative with their membership options in order to keep golfers in the clubhouse.
I hardly touched my golf bag during the 10 years following high school. As an adult golfer with a student’s bank balance, it quickly became obvious that being a member of the golf club – my second home since the age of 11 – was no longer an option.
The days at the club with the regular foursome was soon replaced by full-time study, part-time work and parties. The clubs never left the back shed.
These days my golf bag and I can’t wait to get on a plane or jump in a taxi. At the very least they’re a conversation starter.