Could golf clubs be the hardest hit by soaring energy prices?

As energy prices soar, membership numbers are likely to go the other way. Club reaction could shape the game for years, writes Steve Carroll

My new energy bill has arrived and it’s watering my eyes. The government is about to take part of my salary for national insurance.

The price of diesel has skyrocketed – that’s when I can get some – and although hybrid work has saved my pocket from the biggest hits of £1.76 a liter I can’t fill the tank now for less than £100.

The weekly shop keeps climbing, and we’re told the worst of inflation and the cost of living crisis may yet be ahead.

Thank God I’ve already paid my fees for this year. I have to dot the i’s and cross the t’s on the calculator, and maybe the October energy price cap review won’t be the total disaster that commentators seem to think, but a loose analysis numbers show that there will probably be a hole the size of a golf club in my finances.

Obviously I knew it was on the cards – I’m watching some news – but now it’s here, rather than on the horizon, I wonder what it could do for us and our golf clubs over the course of the year to come.

Because the increases that affect us will hurt them too.

The clubhouse will cost more to run because gas and electricity are more expensive. The fuel to run the machines, although they can use subsidized red diesel, will be more expensive.

And you might not know it, but food and drink is a financial black hole for many golf clubs in this country. They are absolutely thrilled if it breaks even. Now they will pay more for supplies.

I don’t have a crystal ball. I don’t know my club’s financial situation or what they have in mind for next year’s subscriptions.

But I’m a punter, and I’d bet that clubs – if they haven’t already – will have to look at increasing subscriptions 12 months from now.

It’s an increase that will go to a collective that – like me – will have this membership hole in its income.

After the huge Covid gains, the industry started to wonder what’s next? How can they keep hold of those extra people who have rushed to their clubs over the past two years?

Retention is the number one topic of conversation in the office.

When they first got into these conversations, as the lockdown was lifted for the last time, I’m sure they weren’t expecting an anti-inflationary energy crisis and a European war to make burst the bubble.

Experts often say that in times of hardship, recreation budgets are the first thing to go. It’s a choice of what you like, versus what you need.

Maybe some of you don’t care. You may be able to continue regardless and pay your fees even though your monthly expenses have increased significantly.

But for those who can’t, and for those who have recently joined clubs, how will they react if they are soon presented with a lumpy bill on top of all their other new tax pressures?

I believe the upcoming renewal period in early and spring 2023 will be the most crucial that golf has faced since we were all surprised by the sheer number of those who showed up in May 2020.

I’m interested to hear what you have to say. Could you comfortably afford your subscriptions as everything else around you climbs this year, or will a £3,000 energy bill – among all the rest – force you to reassess how you spend your money ? Has your golf club gotten ahead and raised prices yet?

How you as a group respond to these financial pressures could ultimately shape the game for years to come.

Have your say on how golf will tackle the cost of living crisis in the comments, or contact me on Twitter.

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