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  • Alistair Tait

Will golf club members return after coronavirus?

Updated: Mar 26, 2020

Nick Rodger’s excellent piece in the Herald today raises a very important question I’ve been pondering for a wee while now. How many golf club members, especially senior golfers, will still be playing the game when the coronavirus disappears, especially if it takes longer than hoped for it to go the hell away.

Rodger chronicles the problems the virus is having on Peebles Golf Club in the borders. Rodger knows all about golf in the borders. He grew up in Langholm (where he developed a language even fellow Scots like me sometimes don’t fully understand).

Peebles captain Ross Duncan, formerly a development officer for Scottish golf, highlighted the importance seniors play in the life of most clubs.

“We have a group we call the TAMS, the Thursday AM Seniors, who play every week and they’ve been going for years. One is 93 and plays three or four times a week. There are a couple in that age group.
“They play nine holes, then have two or three coffees. That kind of business keeps clubs going. The social interaction with their peers is a big thing for them.
“They keep each other company. They will really miss that routine. That’s happening across great swathes of society.”

My club Woburn has a thriving senior section. Other clubs do too. Will these sections still be thriving when this mess clears up?

We actually have no idea of the age profile of golfers in the British Isles. A friend got in touch with me yesterday to tell me he’s tried to do some research into the age profile of British golfers, but to no avail.

“Given the age profile of most golf clubs, is coronavirus the final nail in the game’s coffin?” he asked.
“If it has a disproportionate impact on older people and that is the current profile of club golfers, it could be a very bad thing for golf.
“Been banging on to clubs to profile their membership by age … but banging my head against very thick walls.”

I’ve never seen any facts and figures on the age range of golf club members in the British Isles, albeit I bet most golf clubs have those figures. I bet the average age is closer to 60 than it is to 30. If anyone reading this has access to any data, then please forward it on to me.

Golf clubs can ill afford for seniors to give up the game. The guys currently sat at home instead of playing nine holes and spending time at the club buying coffees, sandwiches, balls, etc., are an important lifeline for many clubs. They might just not return if this pandemic continues.

Most golf club members have just experienced one of the worst winters ever. Storms Ciara, Dennis and Jorge have cut rounds drastically. Apart from that it’s been great with a winter of heavy rains and heavy flooding. Not exactly weather anyone wants to play in, no matter how diehard. Some clubs have not collected subscription fees for 2020. They may struggle to do so in light of what's happening.

There’s a chance, hopefully I’m wrong, that many golfers, seniors especially, might just think they’re not getting enough value out of their membership, through no fault of the clubs, and decide to jack the game in all together.

That’s the last thing golf clubs need, especially those that have spent the past winter living on the edge.


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Mar 28, 2020

George: Apologies for not replying sooner. 500 members is pretty close to 40% of the club. As you say, at other clubs it will be higher. Even the R&A don't know the age profile of golfers in the UK. Very worrying times. Hope you and yours are safe and well.


Mar 25, 2020

Ali, Regarding the percentage of membership that qualifies as "seniors", Paul Twigden, the current Seniors Captain at Woburn told me several weeks ago that there were over 500 members at Woburn that qualified for senior status. Looking at it differently, at a club on the North Norfolk Coast of which I am a member I get on average one e-mail a week advising me of the passing of an aged member. They still have a waiting list to join, but my guess is its getting shorter and shorter.

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