Clubs battle to halt falling membership
IRISH golf is in a healthy state in terms of profile, but at grassroots level the ongoing recession means plenty of belt-tightening and initiative as clubs seek to ensure their survival.
The AGM of the Golfing Union of Ireland was held last week and there were no major issues arising.
However, GUI honorary secretary Albert Lee admits that the number of Union-affiliated golfers is expected to fall in 2012.
Figures are known only at the end of each year when clubs submit their annual return of members, but for the last few years an annual drop of between 5pc and 6pc (7,000 approx) has been the norm.
In 2004 the membership was 177,000 GUI golfers; since then approximately 30,000 have left, leaving the total as of October 31 last at 147,000.
GUI affiliation fees of €13 have not increased in the last three years, and will not increase in the next three years, but a loss of around 7,000 members a year means a decrease in income of about €90,000 per annum.
The Union has taken cost-cutting measures and is committed to continuing that in the future.
"Clubs are under pressure, there's no doubt about that," said Lee. "And nobody knows how the next few years are going to go.
"The bright spots are that because of the success of Rory (McIlroy), Graeme (McDowell), Darren (Clarke) and Padraig (Harrington), the profile of Irish golf is very high, and we've a good crop of young players coming up.
"Our junior golf programmes to get young people interested in the game are working very well and our coaching and development is paying dividends.
"A new feature is the extent of movement of golfers between clubs. With entrance fees disappearing, particularly in the urban areas, people are changing clubs.
"Sometimes they go back and rejoin the one they left after a year or two.
"That hasn't happened before. In the past, once you joined a club, you tended to stay in it for life, unless you were transferred because of your job."