A Changing Golf Industry Post COVID-19

No handshakes post round, scooping the flag with your putter to lift your ball and having no 19th hole.
These are just some of the aspects of the “new” game of golf that all golfers have had to adapt to in the last few months. This year has certainly been a testing one for everyone in the golf industry, with staff in golf clubs across the UK being laid off, golf caddie’s jobs being slashed and clubs nationwide operating on a shoestring budget.

However, through this adversity, golf has certainly made its comeback, arguably better than any other sport. Golf club memberships are booming, with some clubs reporting over 100 new membership requests since the reopening of facilities and tee booking systems such as Golf Now experiencing an overwhelming amount of traffic on their site.
As we all emerge on the other side (or so we think) of this crisis, although some changes are noticeable already, I take a deeper dive into the potential long-term changes that our game may witness.

A Changing Professional Game

In Mid-March, when the Players Tournament at TPC Sawgrass was cancelled before the commencement of the second round, this would initiate a 3 month hiatus of elite level golf. Whilst some players used this time to rest and take time away from the game, some players used this time to transform the way they play the game. Just three years ago, Bryson DeChambeau averaged 299 yards off the tee. In his victory last week at the Rocket Mortgages Classic, he averaged 350. Through a strict training regiment and 3500 calories per day, Bryson gained over 40 pounds during the break

DeChambeau’s new-found distance from the tee continues to produce dominant preformances (credit: PGA Tour.com)

His distance off the tee (combined with good accuracy) is now a scary prospect. During Tiger Woods’ breakthrough, he brought a new level of athleticism to the game, making 300 yards the standard and not the exception. I feel that the ripple effect of Bryson’s performances could be the catalyst the game needed to drive our game into a new era. Whether we want pro’s to be hitting the ball ridiculous distance’s and making our classic golf courses look like a pitch and putt is another debate, however you can only respect those who push the boundaries of our sport through innovating their approach to the game.

 

Memberships

Freedom to get outside and socialize, as well as the sport of golf being conducive to social distancing are just some of the reasons why our great game is in demand now more than ever. Increasing membership requests have been a saviour for many clubs, who now faced having no income from visitors in the short-term. Due to the furlough scheme, a lot of citizens have found themselves with extra time (and possibly money due to reduced expenditure) and have invested in golf club memberships as a result.

While this is excellent news for clubs at present, sooner or later this hype will dwindle down. For golf clubs to capitalize on this incredible opportunity to increase footfall on their course and facilities, they will have to adopt practices that not only encourages new members to sign up, but provides enough value to keep them on board for seasons to follow. Perhaps different pricing levels for different frequencies of play, as well as providing unique experience for various customer demographics found at your atypical golf club may been seen more noticeably across golf clubs in our nation in years to come.

Following the games return, golfers are teeing up it more now than ever.

Payment methods

Contactless transactions are something that a growing percentage of the population utilize in our daily lives. Especially in a time where physical contact is to remain limited, contactless payments have become even more useful. In order incentivise visiting golfers to play, Club V1 have introduced a feature on their app where visitors can use their honesty box system where visitors can pay for rounds where clubs are not currently staffed. They also now offer online scoring during competitions, meaning that a competition secretary can avoid contact with scorecards. In addition, it is expected that options to pay for competitions online will become more widespread in the near future.

 

Contactless transactions could contribute to safety and a seamless experience

 

Online Sales Channels

Whilst pro shops across the country have been forced to shut, some clubs have opted to offer a click and collect service where members could view items still for sale at their local club. Whilst this may have been a short term alternative to generate revenue in a time of scarcity, it may be seen that some clubs may adopt this strategy as a long term approach, This could be particularly effective if golf clubs offer discount to members shopping online, giving members more reason to purchase from their own pro shop as opposed to the larger golf retailers. It could be argued that similar offerings could be provided to visiting golfers, making memorabilia and other service offerings more visible to overseas golfers. Only time will tell if these strategies will be implemented as a long-term approach to deliver superior value to members and visitors, and offering a new revenue stream for our clubs.

Clubs may look to online sales strategies to maximise revenue opportunities

Whilst the changes I have mentioned may come to fruition or may not, one thing is certain. Golf clubs will be forced to innovate. Despite changing their approach may seem like a unworthy short term effort and investment, those that implement new strategies and technology that aids efficiency and automation will be the clubs that are most likely to that enjoy long term financial growth.

Written by Graham Curry.

Graham is an experienced golf caddie at the Castlerock Golf Links in Ireland, and the Founder of Handicaddie.

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