Today saw the first public day of the NI Open, on our doorstep here at the Galgorm Estate, so the LEXXER Team took a break to soak up the spirit of the event, and to meet potential new clients. Mixing business with pleasure we got into the swing of it, as minds were focussed on the best course for local golf clubs to take to up their game. In the run up to the NI Open we have been looking at the Golf Tourism market for a client and realised that local clubs were missing out in millions of pounds of funding and support.
The research we conducted looked at the policy frame work surrounding Northern Ireland Golf, as well as the plans for the future. The official Tourism Strategy sets the ambitious target as
To grow the value of golf tourism from the current estimate of £33m p.a. to £50m p.a. by 2020
Central to this strategy is the objective to – Develop stronger clubs, however there is little guidance to show how this will be done.
LEXXER conducted research and found that local clubs are backbone of the Golf Sector yet they are being ignored in terms of government funding. There are 94 golf courses in Northern Ireland, of which 31 are quality-assured by Tourism Northern Ireland. Of these, two are amongst the best-quality golf courses in the world: trophy courses which the international golfing community wants to play. A number of our other courses also have the potential to be trophy courses in the near future with the right investment and innovation.
There are 88 golf clubs, here with 31 are quality assured. This again shows that the majority of clubs are not participating in the official bench marking process and stand outside the main schemes set up to assist them. This is due to a range of reasons, many of which are not down to the individual clubs. They do not see the benefit, they are not constituted to take advantage of the schemes or the funding around them, they have their own traditional ways of doing things, the bureaucracy and paperwork involved outweigh any potential benefits.
Whatever the reason the result is the same – clubs are not benefiting from the support and funding they should be getting. They rely on fees and local sponsorship, which is a constant drain on members and friends. However with falling membership figures, and revenue many clubs are facing difficulties, and they need to look at alternative sources of revenue and membership
We have so much to offer in terms of golf tourism with a variety of choices – links and parkland – at different pricing bands. Internationally we have earned our reputation for links courses, and the home grown talent that is
McIlroy, McDowell and Clarke. The next decade is the window for local clubs to take advantage of our time in the sun.
However there are obstacles to development and accessing funding. The majority of courses are private members’ clubs, often with restricted visitor access, especially at weekends, with key times of day reserved for members. As an external consultant we are willing to ask the hard questions to start the difficult questions and to sponsor the change needed. Clubs such as Galgorm have benefitted from this sort of approach as they retain an exclusive experience without excluding anyone.
This week as the public descends on the course and estate we see what golf can be, a popular, international, family, community sport which allows the club to win. So the key issue with the clubs is which ones are willing, or might be in the future, to generate additional revenue from participating in the golf tourism market, and to increase access to their facilities as part of a strategic community engagement and membership programme as well as investing in the future in terms of their members and their facilities.
This week LEXXER Solutions will be Opening their doors to the golfing world, as they offer free consultations to clubs. As you experience what success looks like at Galgorm, come and speak to one of the team today to see what we can do for your club.