Scotland loses another 7500 registered golfers

Carrick Knowe in Edinburgh is one of the Scottish golf clubs to shut in recent years due to dwindling membership. Picture: Jane BarlowCarrick Knowe in Edinburgh is one of the Scottish golf clubs to shut in recent years due to dwindling membership. Picture: Jane Barlow
Carrick Knowe in Edinburgh is one of the Scottish golf clubs to shut in recent years due to dwindling membership. Picture: Jane Barlow

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Golf club membership in Scotland is continuing to drop, according to an annual survey of the sport across Europe.

The KPMG’s Golf Participation Report for Europe reveals a loss of 7,521 registered golfers in the sport’s cradle between 2017-18,

The four per cent drop means there are now 180,281 golfers registered to Scottish golf clubs compared to 187,802 in 2017 and 209,812 in 2014.

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In the equivalent report in 2016, Scotland topped the list of registered golfers lost with a fall of 6,711 while it was claimed that 19 courses had also shut in the home of golf.

With a drop of 4,731, the report for the following year put Scotland fourth on the same list behind England (38,784), Netherlands (12,913) and Ireland (7,422).

The latest report lists a total of 560 courses in Scotland, with an average of 322 registered golfers per course compared to 342 in England, 463 in Ireland and 297 in Wales.

The loss of members has led to a number of clubs being forced to shut in Scotland over the past few years, with others battling to survive.

The shutters were brought down at Mount Ellen in Gartcosh in August due to dwindling membership and a battle to keep Letham Grange in Angus afloat has also been lost in the past few weeks.

Earlier this year, Eastwood on the outskirts of Glasgow also went out of business while other Scottish clubs to close down over the past few years have included Carrick Knowe in Edinburgh and Brunston Castle in Ayrshire.

A damning look at the current state of golf club membership in Scotland was delivered at the country’s first national conference in Edinburgh just under two years ago.

“You have to confront the brutal facts if you want to change your performance,” said Stewart Darling, one of Scottish Golf’s non-executive director. “If you don’t and try to pretend it is something else, ultimately you will fail because you are tackling the wrong thing.

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“The golf landscape is challenging. For the last ten years, membership has been declining. We have been losing roughly 5,000 full members every year.

“I’ve listened to people talking about the strategy that was in place for the last ten years but, if that worked so well, how did we end up here with 50,000 members less in that period?

“I kid you not, those membership statistics will not level out and there are some very good reasons for that. We need to choose to do things very differently.”

It’s a similar story on the membership front in England, Wales and Ireland.

England, the country with the most registered golfers in Europe, had a 1.63 per cent drop to 645,151, Wales suffered a 4.06 per cent loss to 42,743 and Ireland had a 0.58 per cent decline in dropping to 182,398.

The report reveals that overall the European golf market is still stable in 2018 in terms of numbers of registered golfers and golf courses in operation, with no substantial changes in the supply and demand figures.

The overall participation rate for Europe has remained stable since 2015. In fact, 54.5 per cent of local golf associations indicated that the level of participation in their country in 2018 had either stabilised or increased.

Based on the survey, the gender distribution of registered golfers in Europe is constant - 68 per cent of them are male, 25 per cent female and seven per cent are junior.

The KPMG report does not include “nomads” who golf on a pay-per-play basis.

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