Are golf societies contributing to demise of clubs?

2010-06-30 00:00

IN South Africa there are supposedly 500 000 people who play golf, but only 180 000 of them are registered club members and there are fewer than 500 golf courses.

Many of the 320 000 non-club members in the country are casual golfers and it is believed that more than half of them belong to golf societies of which, believe it or not, there are hundreds.

These societies are social and inexpensive to join, they have their own handicapping system and they enjoy playing on many different golf courses. Wherever they play, they receive reduced rates because large numbers of them turn up to play.

Not all golf clubs allow these societies on to their courses, but these clubs are in the minority.

Most golf clubs these days do allow them to play on their courses. In fact, they are often welcomed because the clubs need the revenue from the rounds of golf as well as the bar and catering turnover.

Very few of the members of these societies are bona fide members of golf or country clubs, which means they don’t pay a subscription fee that amounts to thousands of rands per year, as with real members; it’s merely in the hundreds.

They get to play quite regularly and enjoy the camaraderie with the same bunch of guys each time they play. The difference is that they don’t have a home course, but financially they are much better off. One could argue that it is these societies that are contributing to the demise of golf clubs.

The statistics speak for themselves. The number of registered members of golf clubs countrywide is declining and the members of societies are increasing.

Let us say that all golf clubs got their heads together and decided not to allow these societies privileges to play on their courses. The members of these societies would then have to either play golf as visitors (meaning visitors’ green fees, which are considerably higher) or join golf or country clubs and become proper members.

The other downside to having the societies on our courses is that they have no pride or obligation to observe the basic course etiquette of the ‘big three’: fill in divots, fix pitch marks and rake the bunkers.

A large majority of the players belonging to societies either don’t know or don’t care about these things.

Members of golf clubs are seeing their subscriptions increase annually, which will undoubtedly continue, and they feel that they are indirectly subsidising the non-members of clubs.

The unfortunate golf clubs don’t want them, but they desperately need the cash.

It’s a case of “be damned if you do, be damned if you don’t”.

Last week’s results:

On Saturday, Maritzburg Golf Club held a betterball bonus bogey, which included the Family Cup for those members who are eligible.

The winners were B. Redman and L.V. Nel on plus 12. In second place on a count-out were R. Cumming and B. Edmondson on plus 11. The Family Cup was won by D. Holcomb and Captain Grant on plus 11.

Victoria Country Club on Saturday held a four-ball alliance.

In first place on 97 points were D. Swan, J. Yeats, S. Wuth and D. Thomson. In second spot were B. Meredith, D. Sutton, S. Davidson and K. Ferguson on 90 points.

From the 19th hole:

Three old golfers, Sam, Harry and Fred, were sitting together after their weekly game of golf. These are some of the things they were overheard saying to each other:

Sam said, “I have developed kleptomania. When it gets really bad, I take something for it.”

Harry said, “I went to buy some camouflage shorts the other day, but I couldn’t find any.”

Fred said, “I want to die while asleep like my grandfather, not screaming in terror like the passengers in his car.”

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