NEWCASTLE United has become the first traditional golf club in the city to announce a pay-as-you-play membership scheme following a 10% loss in members over the past 12 months.
Golf in general has suffered from the double whammy of the severe economic downturn and one of the wettest summers on record in 2012.
United secretary Peter Jobe said: “I predict many other clubs will soon be doing the same – golf cannot turn a blind eye to what should obvious to everybody by now.”
Jobe insists there is still a market for regular golfers wanting to pay the club’s full annual membership fee of £552.
For that, members play unlimited golf and enjoy the benefits of belonging to a community-conscious club such as United for what amounts to just over £10 a week.
Jobe added: “We still have 450 people joined up here taking into account all our categories of membership.
“Quite apart from the weather and the economy, take the example of a golfer in their early twenties with a young family and a busy career.
“Whether such a person can afford a full membership or not might well become irrelevant if he or she does not have the time to play golf once a week.
“That means it is not value for money.
“All the statistics we get from England Golf tell us that, although club membership is dropping, there are more people than ever playing the game – they are just not necessarily members of clubs.” It is that transitory group of “floating voter” United are aiming at with an associate membership introduced following a committee meeting on Tuesday evening.
Jobe added: “This costs £150 plus £10 a game, the associate membership giving the golfer the right to a CONGU handicap – the only official golf handicap it is possible to have – plus all the other benefits of membership, including a 10% discount at the bar.
“This is unprecedented for a traditional-style golf club in a city, although out of town clubs and clubs run as a business and not by a committee have had a variety of membership schemes for many years now.
“We feel it is up to the more traditional clubs like us to catch up and join the 21st century.
“Doing nothing is not an option when your membership drops by 10% in a year.
“It’s time to get real, face the situation and do something about it.
“We believe this sort of associate membership is going to become more and more widespread when economic reality sinks in with golf clubs in general.
“It’s all about keeping up with the times, which is not something all golf clubs have always been good at.”
United have appointed new caterers in the Newcastle based firm D-Lite, who take over on January 22.
:: ANYBODY who would like to know more about United’s associate membership should contact Liam McNulty in United’s Golf and Gossip Shop on 0191 286 9998 (ext 2), or email firstname.lastname@example.org