R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers has delivered a strong message to golf clubs: become more businesslike or continue to lose members.
The man who runs the organisation that rules golf everywhere in the world except the United States and Mexico claims clubs have not evolved with the times, which is why golf club membership in Great Britain is in decline.
Golf club members account for around one million of the total number of golfers in Great Britain and Ireland, but Slumbers believes golf clubs are missing out.
“There is a market five times the size of existing membership today that is more diverse and it's younger,” he said. “That's our opportunity. We have to break down the traditional barriers to be able to embrace it.”
What are clubs getting wrong and what do they have to do differently?
“There are probably too many delivering exactly the same product,” he added.
“If I was a businessman at a club, I'd want to embrace more of those people who come play at my course more often, especially as most of them play at a group of three or four courses only".
“The world we live in now, people want choice. Time is a key part of it, and choice is another part."
“There are a few clubs which have got a lot more choice in their membership policies and the way they do it, and guess what, they've got quite a lot of members. Goodwood Golf has a points system. It's the first one in the south to have a points system, and it's got a waiting list."
“If you go to Royal Norwich, it has a flexible membership; it's full. So I think there's a real thing about flexibility. From a businessman's point of view, the business should be saying, it is all about connecting with people in today's world. Your whole business is about connecting, and golf is no different."
“If you look at a club, you have to look at it like a business. You've got to pay the bills. You've got employees. To sort of move the thing forward, you've got to think five years from now, and I think golf is no different to a corporate concern.”
Many will point to the fact that Slumbers sits in an ivory tower that is the Royal & Ancient Golf Club. They’ll claim he actually knows nothing about what it’s really like to run a struggling golf club.
They may have a point but he’s also saying a lot of things many have been saying for many years. Golf clubs simply haven’t moved with the times. They’d do well to listen to Slumbers and take note, rather than sit and watch members continue to walk out their doors.