A survey of all 2,500 courses in the UK. Ten year trend data shows what’s happening with all golf prices. With 862 proprietary courses this market is now highly commercial. Golf chains continue to grow purchasing financial weak courses built in the 650 new course boom of the 90’s
There have been two major development phases. The first at the turn of the century when most of the private clubs were built, and the second over the past twenty years during which most of the proprietary clubs have been built.
100 years ago, with land, construction and financial costs very cheap, it was relatively simple to get say 200 individuals together to each put up a small amount of money to build a golf course. This is why so many private member courses were built then.
Nowadays, it is almost logistically impossible to find, organise and persuade say 400 individuals to each part with £5,000 to generate the £2 million required to build a golf course. Practically, a course can only be built by a single developer or company, using one or two financial sources. Naturally he will want to be rewarded for the personal risks he has taken, and so he will require the course to make a profit. This is why virtually all the recent courses have been proprietary.
603 new golf facilities have opened since 1990. As some facilities are only 9 hole, this equates to 572 18 hole equivalent courses. 253 existing facilities have added new holes. As the majority of these are 9 hole, this equates to 155 new 18 hole equivalent courses. Thus the total new 18 hole equivalent courses built since 1990 is 727.
Much of the development was initiated by a report in April 1989 entitled “The Demand For Golf” by The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews which concluded that 691 new 18 hole courses were required to be built between then and the year 2000 just to meet demand. We have now surpassed that estimate by 36 eighteen hole equivalent courses.
This represents an increase in supply of facilities of 32%. The report correctly identified that the greatest need was for pay and play courses in urban areas that were clearly under-supplied. However, much of the development was built in rural regions and aimed at the high priced membership market. Poor location and high construction costs thus doomed the many new developments, many of which have now changed hands.
The boom of the early nineties has now subsided to a small number of openings each year. It is now very difficult to obtain banking finance for new projects as the financial institutions learnt their lessons in the nineties and are now very reluctant to loan on golf. Finance is now typically sought through private.
A New Proprietary course is one that first opened in 1990 or after. All Established Proprietary courses were built before then.
Note that the table above shows the number of UK Golf Facilities – hence St. Andrews is included as one facility (and not as 5 separate courses). Note too that 18 hole courses less that 4,000 yards and 9 hole courses less than 2,000 are not included.