It’s a case of survival of the fittest for Norfolk’s golf clubs

There are lies, damn lies and statistics but there is no hiding from the fact golf membership numbers are on the wane. So what does this mean for Norfolk's golf clubs? Don't miss tomorrow's Eastern Daily Press for Deputy Head of Sport Matthew Chambers's special report.

What does the future hold for golf clubs in Norfolk?

This year has seen one club sold and turned into a pig farm while Thetford Golf Club has desperately restructured its business activities to avoid closing in what is its centenary year.

The Breckland club is, however, certainly not the only course in the county feeling the pressures of the current financial climate and the consequences of a rapid decline of membership numbers.

According to the European Golf Association membership numbers of clubs across England have fallen from 872,665 in 2007 to 761,335 at the beginning of this year – a drop of 111,330 or 12pc.

There is no escaping the reality that traditional membership clubs need to adapt to survive or face the very real threat of going out of business.

In tomorrow's Eastern Daily Press we speak to some of the people facing up to this reality head on and what it is they are doing turn the tide. The days of annual membership being the only option would appear incredibly outdated and they need to offer a more flexible membership model and be more open to green fee-paying customers if they are to prosper.

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The prospect of forking out hundreds of pounds of their hard-earned cash in fees at the start of every year has forced golfers to look for more cost-effective alternatives to membership. The huge availability of cheaper tee times be it because of visitor deals or the rise of online tee times, and there are quite a few different companies that do that, has seen the rise of the 'nomad' golfer who searches around for better prices and who plays a selection of courses.

In order to snare this new breed of fairway-goer they must appeal to non-traditional golfing profiles, market themselves better, appeal to women, offer free coaching, cut costs, employ professional staff and offer flexible membership solutions.

It's these kinds of proactive measures which are helping clubs become lean, mean and ready for whatever the current economic climate throws at them – it's survival of the fittest.

See tomorrow's Eastern Daily Press for the full investigation.