Club membership in the home of golf had been declining until last year saw an increase for the first time since 2015 as the figure for the total playing membership at Scottish Golf’s 568 affiliated clubs rose by 10,920 to 193,597.
That represented a 6.1 per cent increase, which has now been surpassed in the 2021 figures as they were exclusively revealed to The Scotsman.
“Our latest annual returns as at 30 September are showing a total playing membership of 207,676, which is up 14,000 on the previous year, so a rise of another seven per cent,” said Scottish Golf’s chief operating officer, Karin Sharp.
“That’s across the board and includes both adult and junior membership. The adult membership is up 11,500, a rise of 6.5 per cent, and the junior membership is up by just under 2,500, which is a rise of about 14 per cent.
“Despite all the challenges of Covid, there has been some growth again. It’s a strong perspective from a club position and one we are delighted to see.”
After an initial spell of being closed when the pandemic struck in March 2019, Scottish courses were not as badly impacted subsequently as those in England, Ireland and Wales due to restrictions.
The increase in membership has meant tee times have become more difficult to secure at a lot of clubs around the country, but that isn’t stopping people from either taking up the game for the first time or returning to it.
“The anecdotal feedback coming in from clubs said, yes, maybe they were forced in some sense to have to change their approach with having to introduce a tee-booking system,” added Sharp.
“That was a bit of a challenge for some clubs in the first instance, but they now wouldn’t go back and some of the changes they adopted they are now seeing the benefits of those for their membership. So that’s how they will proceed in the future.”
While a number of clubs around Scotland had expressed fears about surviving a spell of closure, the vast majority now seem to be upbeat about what lies ahead due to the current healthy state of the game.
The R&A has played a part in that being the case, having provided crucial help for clubs with a £7 million funding package through a Covid-19 Support Fund while Scottish Golf did its bit, too, by rebating 25 per of its affiliation fees to affiliated clubs last year.
“I think despite all the challenges Covid has brought over the past couple of years, it has equally brought a real sense of togetherness with lots of different parties working together for the common good of the game,” said Sharp.
“I think we are in a strong position. The club membership piece is healthy and there’s a lot of good stuff happening.
“The conversation and collaboration with others across the industry is strong, so I think it is all very positive and here’s hoping for the same again in 2022.”