Peo­ple are the heart of golf. With­out par­tic­i­pants, vol­un­teers and lead­ers at a grass roots level the game ceases to ex­ist. It's un­der­stand­able then that there's a plethora of com­men­tary on the de­clin­ing rates of mem­ber­ship and par­tic­i­pa­tion in the game g

New Zealand Golf Magazine - - CONTENTS -

Carl Fen­ton looks at what's avail­able for clubs to grow.

Fol­low­ing this com­men­tary has been a raft of po­ten­tial so­lu­tions, some well thought out and well-rea­soned, oth­ers less so. The amount of dis­cus­sion has some­what ‘mud­died the wa­ter' leav­ing a con­fus­ing abun­dance of op­tions to drive mem­ber­ship and par­tic­i­pa­tion. Club lead­ers are now faced with the dif­fi­cult task of pick­ing the right op­tions to grow and re­tain mem­ber­ship and par­tic­i­pa­tion at their club.

In the fol­low­ing ar­ti­cle we clar­ify the ex­tent of the is­sue in New Zealand, dis­cuss the trends and iden­tify the sup­port struc­tures avail­able for clubs to grow their club.


Over the past 5 years there has been a slight de­cline in tra­di­tional mem­ber­ship across New Zealand of around 2% per an­num. How­ever, 2016 saw the low­est rate of de­cline at just 0.7%. There were a num­ber of re­gions that saw growth in­clud­ing Auck­land, Bay of Plenty, Hawkes Bay and Poverty Bay, Manawatu/ Wan­ganui & Otago. Ca­sual en­gage­ment in the game has in­creased at a rate of around 7% per an­num na­tion­ally for the last five years. Golf re­mains the high­est par­tic­i­pa­tion sport for adults across the coun­try and the in­ter­est for en­gag­ing in golf is still high. Most of this points to­wards a pos­i­tive fu­ture, how­ever some clubs are still strug­gling and have some hard de­ci­sions to make go­ing for­ward.


So­ci­etal change has al­tered the way we en­gage in sport and recre­ation. There are some very ob­vi­ous changes over the last 20 years. Tech­nol­ogy plays a much greater role in our lives. We have more com­pet­ing com­mit­ments mak­ing us feel ‘time poor' and we of­ten de­mand much more flex­i­bil­ity in the way we en­gage in sport and recre­ation. In 2016 New Zealand Golf col­lated a num­ber of pieces of re­search and in­sight to un­der­stand how these trends were im­pact­ing golf across the coun­try. This re­search was pre­sented to the golf in­dus­try at the Na­tional Con­fer­ence Se­ries. Be­low is a sum­mary of the trends, the full pre­sen­ta­tion can be found on the New Zealand golf web­site.

Sum­mary of trends: • Golf is still very pop­u­lar -Even with in­creased com­pe­ti­tion from leisure ac­tiv­i­ties and greater time pres­sures Golf re­tains pop­u­lar­ity amongst both men and women. • New peo­ple want to give golf a go - 66% of adults are in­ter­ested in try­ing a new sport or ac­tiv­ity rather than do­ing more of the same – golf and tennis top the list. • Peo­ple are time poor - A lack of time is by far the num­ber one rea­son par­tic­i­pants give for not do­ing more sport and recre­ation. • Peo­ple strug­gle with for­mal­ity – In­for­mal recre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties (run­ning, walk­ing, cy­cling) have in­creased while par­tic­i­pa­tion in for­malised sport has de­creased. • Pay to play is grow­ing – The most com­mon way peo­ple par­tic­i­pate in sport is pay to play which of­fers flex­i­bil­ity in the level of com­mit­ment.


Struc­ture: As dis­cussed in a pre­vi­ous ar­ti­cle, clubs by their na­ture aren't struc­tured for rapid change. The struc­ture of boards and com­mit­tees that are voted on by mem­bers puts a lot of power in the hands of the mem­ber­ship. While this pro­vides a ro­bust, demo­cratic process for club lead­er­ship and is a great pro­tec­tion from rogue lead­ers

try­ing to push their own agenda, it does mean that the needs of the cur­rent mem­bers of­ten out­weigh that of fu­ture mem­bers or club par­tic­i­pants. With­out in­de­pen­dent rep­re­sen­ta­tives it can leave a club slightly out of touch with other sec­tions of their com­mu­ni­ties.

The need for change: The 2016 Voice of the Par­tic­i­pant sur­vey com­pleted by around 6,000 golfers showed that we're a re­mark­ably sat­is­fied bunch. Many golf mem­bers rate their sat­is­fac­tion lev­els very high but noted that we're also not overly keen on any change at our club if it's go­ing to cost us ex­tra. That makes it re­mark­ably dif­fi­cult for a club to look at re­sourc­ing change in an en­vi­ron­ment that is get­ting a lot more ex­pen­sive to op­er­ate in.

Cost: Re­sourc­ing golf clubs has be­come a much greater chal­lenge. There has been a large shift from com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tions who were well sup­ported through lo­cal trusts and had min­i­mal out­go­ings to sports clubs to­day who are asked to be mo­bile, adapt­able busi­nesses that em­brace tech­nol­ogy, tick all the boxes for costly com­pli­ance and leg­is­la­tion and pro­vide a qual­ity ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties (and de­cent re­mu­ner­a­tion pack­ages) for qual­ity lead­ers. The re­al­ity is, ev­ery­thing has got a lot more ex­pen­sive. Any change in the ad­min­is­tra­tion, oper­a­tion or pro­mo­tion of clubs comes with a price tag and find­ing the money to do this is be­com­ing a lot more dif­fi­cult.


LOVEGolf: LOVEGolf is the na­tional mar­ket­ing cam­paign from New Zealand Golf aimed at chang­ing the per­cep­tion of the game. It has gen­er­ated a mea­sur­able change year to year in­creas­ing the pos­i­tive per­cep­tions and de­creas­ing the neg­a­tive per­cep­tions of golf in New Zealand. All pro­mo­tion is driven to­wards the LOVEGolf web­site which clubs can then put their of­fer­ings on cre­at­ing greater vis­i­bil­ity.

She Loves Golf: A tar­get mar­ket cam­paign un­der the LOVEGolf um­brella, She Loves Golf is specif­i­cally aimed at pro­moted greater en­gage­ment for women

within the game. The cam­paign is un­der­way right now and of­fers a great amount of sup­port to clubs who are in­ter­ested in grow­ing women's golf. Get on the Green: Get on the Green is an­other LOVEGolf prod­uct and al­lows clubs to pro­mote what they of­fer in mem­ber­ship and par­tic­i­pa­tion ini­tia­tives to a data­base of over 150,000 emails. This plat­form helps gen­er­ate rev­enue for the in­dus­try and pro­vides a great op­por­tu­nity to make club of­fer­ings more vis­i­ble. Sec­tor Sup­port Team and Case

Stud­ies: The Sec­tor Sup­port Team at New Zealand Golf is a team specif­i­cally ded­i­cated to sup­port­ing the re­gional health of golf. They have been in­volved in sup­port­ing a num­ber of mem­ber­ship and par­tic­i­pa­tion ini­tia­tives and can guide a club through best prac­tice re­ten­tion and ac­qui­si­tion ini­tia­tives. Part of their role is to share this best prac­tice through the cre­ation of Case Stud­ies which can be found on the New Zealand Golf web­site.

If you or your club is in­ter­ested in any­thing noted above, con­tact New Zealand Golf di­rectly.

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