Health of golf in Kent looking good
Health of golf in Kent looking good

Golf club membership in England has experienced a significant rise in the last two years and, although the position where Kent is concerned is not quite so dramatic, Kent Golf Union chairman Peter Long believes there is still plenty of reason for optimism.

Nationally, England Golf’s biennial survey of 426 clubs in 2018 found that the average golf club membership was 484 – a rise from 460 in 2016 and the highest it has been for six years.

Where Kent was concerned, Mr Long said that returns to the KGU from clubs as to their playing membership revealed that “… average club membership numbers at worst levelled out in 2018 after suffering decreases over the previous 10 years, which is a definite positive.”

Speaking at the Kent Golf Union’s AGM at Knole Park GC, Mr Long was responding to a negative press report about the health of golf in the south east, partly provoked by the recent closure of clubs such as Deangate Ridge in Medway and Broke Hill near Bromley.

He said: “There are pressures on clubs because councils are looking for land that they can use for housing, but the number of clubs that we have got in Kent is still quite high for the size of the county.

“The average membership of Kent clubs is in the region of 300, which is a viable figure, but there are some major variations. My club, Sundridge Park, for example, has theoretically got 1200 members on its books while Langley Park has around 900.”

The chairman did admit that he felt England Golf and county unions, including Kent, had failed to “communicate properly” with their clubs for a number of years and that this was an issue which the KGU had been addressing over the past 18 months. He said: “Since last year we have been making a big effort to get out there and visit all our clubs and I think that’s crucial because we have got to understand what is happening on the ground and what the clubs want.

“And we are also trying to be more ‘joined up’ with England Golf in knowing what they can offer to clubs because England Golf have got a whole range of workshops and materials which they want to take out to clubs and help them to solve any particular problems. The bottom line is that we are a service industry and if a club isn’t providing the right service, or a warm welcome for new members, then people will vote with their feet.

“Looking to the future, we’ve established five Approved Junior Academies at Canterbury GC, Stonelees Golf Centre, Sidcup Family Golf, Birchwood Park Golf Centre  and Tonbridge Golf Centre to give youngsters the chance to have a go at golf, while Stonelees, Sidcup, Westerham GC and Littlestone GC are also taking part in the upcoming ‘Kent Girls Golf Rocks’ programme.”

Next year the Open Championship returns to Sandwich which offers another golden opportunity for organisations such as the KGU to highlight what golf has to offer and Mr Long said: “We’ve already had meetings with the R&A, Royal St George’s and the various local authorities about how best to promote golf and the championship, when the eyes of the golfing world will again be on Kent.”


 
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