As local governments roll out their exit plans, or as us golfers like to call them, ‘return to the course’ plans, we can finally see the reopening of golf on the horizon. So what can we expect moving forward?
In May 2020, Golf was a trailblazer, as one of the first sporting activities to reopen. In fact, the course proved to be one of the first venues we could visit outside our homes. One by one, golfers of all levels and abilities flocked to the course. So how can our game succeed when bars, restaurants, gyms and other distractions reopen also?
We crunched the numbers and got to grips with booking trends throughout 2020. What can we learn from such an eye-opening year in golf? Put simply, we recognised a growing trend in shorter forms of the game. The explosion of 9-hole golf is real. Have you enabled 9-hole rates at your club? Here’s what we found…
Last year, 9-hole bookings in the UK and Ireland hit 3.47 million via BRS Golf’s members’ booking website, members’ app and visitor booking engines – up from 1.55 million in 2019 and 1.4 million in 2018. A 123% increase year-on-year from 2019 to 2020.
This increase in rounds is not just thanks to purpose-built 9-hole courses, but 18-hole courses offering the option to play nine holes as well. And it wasn’t just visitors that were enjoying a shorter form of golf last year. There was a big shift in the split of bookings between member and visitor:
o In 2019 member 9-hole golf was 40% – this changed to 51% in 2020
o In 2019 visitor 9-hole golf was 60% – this changed to 49% in 2020
A Summer fad?
Not quite. BRS Golf and GolfNow service a combined 2,000 golf clubs across the UK and Ireland, meaning it’s 9-hole bookings data accounts for two thirds of the entire market.
Researching total 9-hole rounds played across GolfNow and BRS Golf, we saw a spike in December, which was the fourth biggest month for 9-hole golf last year, behind May, June and July. Perhaps a Fall Masters encouraged our golfing community to pick up their clubs and channel their inner DJ!
As we are all well aware, golf takes time and the 9-hole option is proving more and more popular as people try to fit the game into their busy schedules.
It’s worth noting that 2020 also saw an unprecedented number of people taking up golf for the first time, or returning to the sport after an absence – GolfNow for example reported a 255% increase in 18-24 year olds booking via its website and app –shorter rounds can help make golf more accessible for beginners and infrequent golfers alike.
The attraction of 9-holes may not come as a surprise to many of you. In recent times we’ve seen leaders of our game speak out about the importance of acting on the rise in new golfers and making the game more accessible and approachable to all moving forward. Our surveys have also provided responses that suggest clubs need to prioritise new tactics that help maintain memberships. Could 9-hole golf options help this? It sure looks like it!
What’s clear from these numbers is that the appetite for a shorter form of golf is growing and clubs not yet offering a 9-hole rate on their courses should consider changing their policy, making golf more accessible for players short on time or looking to squeeze in an evening round as daylight hours lengthen.
Golfers are ready to get back out there, is your club? Enable 9-hole rates today! Learn more about the provision of 9-hole rates at your club? Speak to your account manager or contact our support team.