England Golf’s CEO on changing the sport’s perception and appealing more to women

England Golf’s CEO David Joy says the governing body is looking to halt declining participation in golf and change perceptions of the game as ‘too expensive or timely’ with a new brand strategy.

The two year “Raising Our Game” strategy will see England Golf team up with 2013 US Open champion Justin Rose and Charley Hull, the youngest-ever Solheim Cup player, in an effort to connect with the declining number of active golfers.

Joy told Marketing Week: “Both Justin and Charley represented England as amateurs before starting professional careers. They’ve benefited hugely and if they can add value they’d very much like to do that.”

He said that the body hopes the duo will engage with a wider audience through their active social media presence. It will also have them work with England Golf’s commercial partners as they come on board.

Golf contributes £3.4bn to the English economy per year according to England Golf, and it’s the fifth largest participation sport in the country.

However, it is facing a decline in participation, something England Golf is hoping to change by encouraging more people to play as well as think and talk more positively about the sport.

“55% of clubs are losing members every year, and the focus is to work with those clubs to help drive change,” Joy said, adding that club memberships dropped from 882,000 to 675,000 year-on-year.

He believes this is largely due to the fact that many people golf is expensive and takes a long time to play.

“Over the past 10 years lifestyle have changed considerably, and the offer golf has made people hasn’t changed at the same pace,” Joy said. “People want choice and golf needs to satisfy that.”

He added that the body is also looking to address the myth that golf is a game for men by focusing on increasing the number of female members in clubs.

“We know there is a latent demand from women to play golf, but perceptions are a big barrier,” he said. “Too much time, too expensive, or golf clubs as unfriendly places – it’s about breaking that down.”

Joy said that over 50% of people involved in its “Get into golf” programme, a partnership with the Professional Golfers’ Association that offers low cost golf sessions and beginner courses across England, are women.

“When done properly, golf is a very attractive game to women,” he added.

Providing support to clubs

In order to tackle this he says England Golf will provide recommendations to clubs and organisations in terms of pricing and membership models, as well as the promotion of nine-hole golf, which can be played in less than two hours.

It will also continue to promote “Get into golf” with a digital marketing campaign across 11 counties in England after seeing a previous digital push drive a 500% increase to the Get into golf website.

Joy said that clubs that are offering memberships at more affordable rates and, through coaching programs, are starting to bring more players into the game, putting England Golf on track to halt decline by 2017.

“Over the last three years the decline has slowed, telling us a good number of golf clubs are now either stable or increasing their membership,” he said.

“They tend to be the ones that listen to customers’ needs and offer different membership models and pricing models. They also need to have a welcoming and friendly clubhouse that is attractive to families.”

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