Today I have played my 60th course in six countries since I started golfing back in July 2014.
It sounds ridiculous – who would have thought when my Canadian cousin, Jenny, asked me if I wanted to take up golf when I moved to Canada that I would have become so addicted?
I guess there are worse things to be addicted to.
I have now played five courses in Spain; Club de Golf Barcelona, Club de Golf Montanyá, Club de Golf Llavaneras, Golf Platja de Pals and Golf La Roca. I have another two courses to play this month – Real Club de Golf El Prat and Golf Peralada.
I have had some wonderful experiences, made some new golf friends, had some great golf chats and unfortunately was also verbally abused for the first time ever on a golf course (this wasn’t such a good experience).
I have had the pleasure of speaking with the managers at three of the five tracks I have played. Discussing golf in Barcelona, what is happening at their individual courses and how to turn the declining numbers around.
As I travel and golf at most courses I get to speak to the managers and discuss what is happening in their part of the world with the game. It is pretty much the same story with slight variations. Golf membership is in decline and I think that golf needs to reinvent itself a little to connect with younger generations.
I always ask what junior and ladies learning programs are in place at their facility. Ladies programs is of particular interest (and not just because I am a woman). I had an amazing visit to Long Island last summer and golfed with the EWGA – Long Island Chapter and each lady had a similar story. They played at a corporate golf day and hit some great balls (and let’s be honest there is nothing more satisfying than getting a good whack on a ball) and thought they would love to learn and take lessons. They had a look at their local clubs and either felt too intimidated to walk in and discuss learning or there were not very good learning programs in place.
Nearly all of the women only have one regret and it is that they didn’t take it up sooner. The ladies of Long Island are lucky as the EWGA is a great way for women to learn the game with fellow novices in a comfortable environment.
Hence my question about ladies programs.
I also ask is mentoring available to connect a current member and someone who would like to start playing? Are you engaging with your local community to encourage them to come to the course?
I also offer strategies and advice, discussing what courses in other parts of the world are implementing and what may work in their particular area. Not only is each country different but each course has their own particular hurdles to jump, be it a hesitant board, the lack of interest from the locals or difficult members.
While there are some members at clubs all over the world who would like golf to stay a little exclusive and out of reach for everyone, what they don’t realize is if the current business model is not adapted to encourage social golf groups, getting local women and children attending the course regularly, they won’t have a golf club to play at.
While it is a club, at the end of the day, as with everything, golf is a business.
A few clubs are running at a profit but most I have spoken with are running at a loss. Some have wealthy patrons or businesses behind them who can take a loss year after year but that cannot be sustained forever.
The top golf courses in Barcelona are joining forces and promoting Barcelona as a New Golf Destination. Representatives from the courses recently attended the Goexpo Golf Fair in Helsinki to do exactly that. I must say they have an amazing product.
I may be biased as I love golf and would play in a paddock with a hole dug with a stick if that is all I could find, but the tracks I have played in Catalonia are fantastic (and I still have two to play).
I am also returning to two I have already played. I will visit Club de Golf Llavaneras to experience it on a better day (hopefully) as a massive storm swept through and the greens were flooded the day I played. It was the first time I ever took a drop on a green.
And Club de Golf Montanyá – this track is special. Everyone I have spoken with who has played here agrees. This course is so unique, from the location in the mountains north of Barcelona, running alongside Parc Natural del Montseny (so it will never be encroached upon) every hole could be a signature hole. I have not experienced another course like it anywhere. They day I played my golf was very ordinary but it did not dampen my experience of this amazing track. As my playing partner Guillem said “it just fills your soul”.
I am returning to play another round with Guillem to do exactly that – fill my soul with golf.
I can only hope as I continue my travels on to Ireland and Scotland next month that golf courses are adapting to new technologies utilizing social media to reach a greater audience to ensure their product stays viable.
I want everyone to love this game as much as I do and as I have said before I am of the belief there are those who golf and those who have not yet played.
What I would like is for those who have not yet played to pick up a club.