Report: Membership declines slowing in Australia

You can do just about anything with figures, depending on what “slant” you choose to put on them.

And while times may have appeared tough in some sections of the golf industry in recent years, hence a decline of about half a per cent in national membership numbers in 2015, things are actually a lot better than you might think.

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In fact, according to the 2015 National Golf Club Participation Report, there were actually more competition rounds played in 2015 than the previous year; the rise was reported as a rather healthy 1.9 per cent increase.

That alone must have been well received by Golf Australia, who commissioned this fourth annual report from Golf Management Australia (GMA).

And while there was actually a membership decline, it is actually the smallest recorded since 1999 and comes behind a membership decline the previous year (2014) which was also less than one per cent.

It seems membership pressure is more evident in regional areas, accounting for 60 per cent of the national member mix, where an overall decline of 0.9 per cent was reported.

Although club membership numbers in metropolitan areas did fall by 0.4 per cent, the latest report highlighted that 34 per cent of clubs across Australia reported a net increase in member numbers in 2015.

Just to put the real figures in black and white, in 1998 there were 500,000 registered golfers in Australia and in 2015 there were about 400,000.

The major states saw NSW peak with 189,583 golfers in 2006 and that figures has now “dwindled” to 149,023 registered with Golf Australia.

In Victoria, the drop has not been as marked – going from 117,183 in 2006 to 110,519 in 2015, proving they are protecting their mantle as the sporting capital of Australia

According to the director of Golf Development at Golf Australia Cameron Wade: “The 2015 outcome is the smallest annual membership decline recorded since 1999.

“Off the back of another sub-one per cent membership decline in 2014, a declining attrition rate and steady growth in competition rounds played, these results present an encouraging outlook for club golf in Australia.”

And here’s more good news…females now account for 20 per cent of the national memberships, suggesting there are more and more women and girls are taking up the game, despite the overall decline in golfing numbers.

And here are a few more surprises. About two-thirds of clubs in Australia have less than 200 members, while an amazing 83 per cent have less than 500 members. So you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting a tee time.

And while clubs of more than 1,000 members account for only four per cent of all clubs

across Australia, they account for 24 per cent of individual members.

NSW has the most number of golf clubs with 378, and also the highest average member size of 394.

Western Australia boasts the highest number of social clubs with 121.

Finally, for the 12-month period to end December, 2015 about 14.54 million rounds were recorded by GolfLink across the same number of facilities, a 1.9 per cent increase over the same 12-month period in the prior year.