Golf and the economy

Experts are predicting that the economic crisis is far from over and it appears that the UK is heading for a second recession.
This is bad news for golf courses in general, with green fees waning and memberships down.
However, the savvy golfer will recognise that this is actually a great time to be a member of a golf club and a perfect opportunity to negotiate with the powers-that-be that are in charge of membership sales.
Options to include the entire family into the golf package for a bargain price abound as clubs struggle to entice players to join their ranks. There really has never been a better time to enjoy the benefits of the game at an affordable price.
The growth of golfers in the United States rose dramatically in the 1960s, during which time most courses were low-end, mainly of the municipal type, while conversely in the 1990s the courses built were mainly high-end or in gated communities when the growth of the game dropped dramatically.
So, the message is fairly clear. To survive in these tough economic times, deals have to be struck. Already there are opportunists offering cheap memberships from being associated with golf clubs as opposed to having the overhead of owning and operating golf courses themselves – virtual golf clubs in fact.
Amateur golfers are the lifeblood of the game, spending millions each year on equipment and keeping golf courses afloat.
The professionals may be battling it out for millions on television, but they would not be around to play for that kind of prize money were it not for the amateurs who support the game.
The great professionals of the 1930s, such as Walter Hagen, made their living by playing for wagers or setting up challenge matches against their peers.
In the 1960s, Arnold Palmer had the charisma, and the television cameras loved his attacking come from behind style of play that made him into a hero and icon and brought millions to the game.
Arnie’s Army –  as his fans who followed him around the course were known – were often accused of helping the ball back into play by lining the back of the greens when he fired the shots into the flag.
Reputedly Palmer knowingly used this army of fans to assist his attacking style of play, the ball sometimes bouncing back onto the green off one of his ardent followers.
But golf was known as a rich man’s sport, its country-club reputation and private members club appeal setting those who played apart from their fellow man.
It would take players of the ilk of Lee Trevino, the Mexican professional, and Calvin Peete, an African-American professional, to change the perception of many who had never considered this a game for all.
Tiger Woods, ultimately, would come along and influence millions of youngsters in all parts of the world and the game would be changed forever. Golf no longer has that snob appeal that existed in its early beginnings and can now be enjoyed by all.
Joining a golf club has never been easier. In earlier times, potential members were forced to go through the gauntlet of meeting the committee members, and being interviewed before being allowed to tread the hallowed halls of the club.
Now the committee is lining up to welcome new members as their numbers have dwindled because of the crisis. Indeed all are welcome as the days of private clubs are numbered and semi-private clubs abound.



Alan Rogut

Cape Town-born Alan Rogut is Director of Golf at Pravets Golf & Spa, Bulgaria.