Hillier Hopkins members and proprietary golf clubs survey report 2017

Hillier Hopkins LLP

Chartered Accountants & Tax Advisers

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We are pleased to ​announce the 2017 Hillier Hopkins members and proprietary golf clubs survey report. Thank you to those that responded to this year’s survey. Our 2016 report was widely quoted throughout the golf press and we are pleased that clubs continue to consider this to be a valuable, informative and interesting document.

As in previous years, we have split the results by club type. The results from proprietary and members clubs have been analysed separately, enabling clubs to compare like for like. Despite only receiving a small number of responses from proprietary clubs it is however interesting to note the comparison between these and the members clubs. Clearly proprietary club are having to react quickly to changing trends in the market and are doing so.

The effects of the VAT windfalls for members clubs are also clear to see, with many embarking on course and clubhouse expenditure projects or planning these for 2018.

There is a danger that the effects of these windfalls have disguised an underlying trend of decline. A number of high profile casualties in proprietary clubs has resulted in members clubs recruiting new members. The clubs we speak to on a regular basis have also been reporting growing member numbers. We therefore expected to see this reflected in the survey, however, the survey show membership numbers in decline.

The survey does show an increase in members from the younger age brackets. This is in line with our anecdotal evidence that clubs are making significant progress in attracting younger players.

The proportion of members over the age of 50 however remains stubbornly high and it also appears that the majority of the new younger joiners are male. While clubs are reporting an increase in female membership, overall their proportion is falling.

Member subscription levels seem to be on the increase again after several relatively flat years. There certainly seems to be more confidence from clubs that any increase will have a lesser effect than previously. With inflation running at 3%, it is inevitable that some increases are necessary. It will be interesting to see the effect of any increases on the 2018 renewals. Whilst the survey shows a reduction in the percentage of clubs charging an entry fee, again anecdotal evidence would have suggested the opposite. This still appears to be a key business decision for most clubs now and in the future.

Perhaps one of the more interesting results of the survey is regarding member clubs green fee charges. After many years of static results, this year shows an increase of £2 per round. This is in sharp contrast to proprietary clubs where average income per round has dropped by a similar amount. At the same time, members clubs are reporting increased green fees and proprietary clubs a decline. It certainly appears that nomadic golfers are becoming more willing to spend a little more for each round and that members clubs have more tee times available for them.

It is encouraging to note that clubs continue to recognise that their most important asset is their course with now almost 96% of members clubs regarding this as their top priority for investment. This does however seem to be at the expense of marketing, but possibly having a top quality course is the best type of marketing in the first place.

Again an interesting part of the survey is the responses to the question on anticipated changes over the next 5/10 years. Like last year, it is a very long list, but it does reflect the variety of issues facing clubs now and those that clubs need to consider in their longer term plans.

If you would like to ​read a full copy of this report please click here. If you have any questions regarding the report, please contact our golf club specialist Robert Twydle.