UK Golf Federation

The UK Golf Federation recently held its AGM via Zoom video conferencing - a first for many in this current climate. The board is united in striving to see golf courses reopen and trade well as soon as it is prudent and safe to do so.

The UK Golf Federation was delighted to welcome new board member, Fame Tate from Stanedge Golf Club.  Other board members include Richard Haygarth (Maple Leaf Golf), Colin Mayes (Burhill Group), Ian Bonser (Three Hammers Golf Centre), Colin Jenkins (Basildon), Johnathan Callister (Pentland Golf), Neil Burke (Horsham Golf), Stephen Towers (Crown Golf), Marc Hayton (Foxhills), Tom Brooke (Glendale Golf) and Andrew Sutcliffe (Tickenham Golf Club).

The UK Golf Federation has made fantastic strides this year and membership has increased dramatically: in fact it has more than trebled with the number of clubs, courses and ranges that have joined up, totalling just under 600. This has been due to the very hard work of Doug Poole, the chief executive, and his son Greg who spent endless hours encouraging course owners to sign up. 

The UK Golf Course Owners’ Association (UKGCOA) was formed ten years ago and became the UK Golf Federation just over two years ago. It is more than just a name change. Previously the organisation was concerned primarily with the interests of people who owned golf courses and, whilst this was useful, some viewed it as slightly selfish. The UK Golf Federation is very different. It still campaigns for the best interests of course owners, but holds a clear and committed stand for promoting open access to golf. Any course, club, range, adventure golf or golf participation centre can join, providing they are happy to promote open access to golf.

This is a step change and one of the reasons for the huge increase in people wishing to join the group.  The Federation want to see more golfers playing golf in an unfettered and easy manner. There is obviously a correlation between those keen to encourage more players and those who own facilities at which these activities can be carried out. But this is not reliant on driving membership revenues - this is more to do with increasing the ease with which people can play the great sport of golf. The simple message that golf can be played here by anyone is the key.  This is also not a battle between private, member-owned golf clubs and golf businesses seeking to make a profit from their endeavours. There are many proprietary golf clubs that are highly exclusive, and many hundreds of private, member-owned clubs, which are very welcoming and encouraging to visitors. The UK Golf Federation supports the welcoming approach.

There are those that prefer golf to be played in closed communities with no access for the general public, regardless of any tax breaks that they may be getting due to the charitable status. Whilst many of these courses are amongst the most famous and venerated in the traditions of the game, they serve no purpose in broadening the appeal of golf to the masses. Golf’s future lies in increasing participation and broadening the appeal of the game to younger golfers.

So as far as those eligible to join the UK Golf Federation are concerned, St Andrews, with its clear open access policies is very welcome to be a member, Muirfield, with its ridiculous restrictions, is not.

The UK Golf Federation is ably led by a dynamic board, chaired by Richard Haygarth, with Doug Poole its chief executive, Colin Mayes the president and an excellent board of experienced operators from widely varying courses and groups.  Jane Montgomery from the Sports and Play Federation is invaluable in providing wisdom, guidance and administrative brilliance. All in all, the UK Golf Federation is in great shape and able to move fast to adjust to changing times. 

In its determination to ensure that open access to golf is retained throughout the UK, the UK Golf Federation has stated it’s complete and utter opposition to any form of tax or levy on green fees paid at golf courses. In the current climate, such a tax, which potentially could be imposed by the regional golf unions, would be so counter-productive only a fool would think it possible. Such a tax might only be for £3 per round, but this would be too great a burden for many smaller courses that are reliant on encouraging golfers to play cheaply and easily at low-cost facilities.  These are the venues with the nursery slopes for young, new and inexperienced players - without such places golf would wither and diminish.

Richard Haygarth, Chairman of the UK Golf Federation, spoke of his passion for the Federation:

“The UK Golf Federation will always seek to help fellow operators and rarely are we competing against each other. Most golf operators face much stiffer competition from garden centres, cinemas and DIY projects than direct competition from other golf courses. Our leisure time is scarce and we need to spend it well. Those courses that make the whole family welcome will find far more custom than those that remain exclusively golf orientated. If you haven’t joined the UK Golf Federation yet, then please sign up today. The last thing we want is a tax on green fees imposed on us by people who, if the truth be told, know very little about running golf facilities.

“For many these are dark times and there is no hiding the fact that many lives will be lost and many business will fail. For those of us in the golf business, we have to look to the future and plan how to respond. Social distancing will be with us for a long time and there is clearly more of an appetite to keep these distances from each other now than before the lockdown. 

“We need to consider how we will trade when lock down measures are eased: for those with golf ranges, there is an obvious break between bays of 3-3.5m. Adventure golf courses can prohibit play on any hole until the group in front have started on the following hole. On the course, golfers can play quite safely with the simple rule that they must not get within 2m of each other and obviously never touch. These things will probably allow golf to re-start again quite easily, but we are a long way away from opening clubhouses, bars and restaurants. Now maybe is a great time for courses and clubs to ‘go cashless’. This would be a great step forward for our immediate health concerns, but also for the country as a whole looking to run more efficiently in the 21st century.”

If you agree with the unequivocal statement to deny a green fee tax for ever

more at golf courses, please join the UK Golf Federation today. Your voice is very important and will be heard more clearly if we have greater numbers in the Federation.

There are many ways to support the UK Golf Federation and we are very grateful in particular to our sponsors who have provided us with the necessary funds to operate over the last few years. They also realise that the work in creating thousands of new golfers every year is critical to the survival and health of the golf industry, which they serve. All of our sponsors are our partners and friends, and we thank them wholeheartedly.

Doug Poole, CEO of the UK Golf Federation has a wide experience of the golf industry and is a board member of England Golf. Doug is greatly enjoying his role:

“The UK Golf Federation has seen amazing growth in membership in recent months. We are over 300% up to just under 600, which now gives the federation substantial status in the golf industry and enables its members to gain a place in the development of golf over the coming years. This growth was masterminded by Greg Poole, a skilled marketing and sales person who is close to me – he’s my son – who was incapacitated due to a motor cycling injury. Greg set-up a telesales operation to keep himself busy. All members enjoy a place on our website: www.ukgolffederation.com, where members’ facilities are featured and where they can post free special events. Plans are now afoot to run a new membership campaign when COVID-19 is under control and take our membership up to and beyond 1000 golf facility members. 

“There can be no reason not to join the UK Golf Federation as all members receive free access to 12 benefits to help their businesses, these enable genuine savings on everyday operational purchases and materials.  Some people ask me how we have achieved such phenomenal growth. It’s simple really: we have grown our membership through the federation’s value offering to members’ businesses. There is a lot more to do and over the coming years we will constantly work on growing golf participation through our members open access to golf facilities. The increased use of social media will be supported by Albatross, our new digital corporate partner, making six major industry partners: Toro, ClubCar, TextronGolf, John Deere and Urban Charging. The future is very exciting and the Federation is helping golf to develop. Best of all, our standard membership is free, so please sign up today on the website: www.ukgolffederation.com.”

There are two types of venue membership, standard membership, which is completely free of charge and premium membership, which has a range of benefits. This costs £180 per annum plus VAT and is excellent value.

GolfBIC, the annual gathering of golf course and range operators, which was postponed in March has been rescheduled for 15th March 2021, once again at the Marriott Forest of Arden. We hope you can join us there, once we have emerged from this enforced hibernation.

If you would like your golf facility to join the UK Golf Federation then simply sign up on the federation’s website: www.ukgolffederation.com