By Peter Foster
The days of a 15-year wait to join a golf club look to be over after research by the English Golf Union found nearly 80,000 vacant memberships.
The survey comes as many of Britain’s three million golfers dust off their irons for the new season, spurred on by the sight of the manicuared fairways of the Augusta National, where the US Masters has been played over the past four days. The statistics reflect the number of golf courses built in the past ten years in a boom generated by the revival of Europe’s Ryder Cup fortunes and the victories of Sandy Lyle and Nick Faldo in the late 1980’s.
Ten years ago the shortage of courses was so acute that players took to sleeping in their cars to be on the tee at dawn. On some municipal courses queues were 100-deep.
The Royal & Ancient, golf’s governing body, estimated that nearly 700 new courses would be needed by 2000, as many as were built in England between 1910 and 1989. The Golf Research Group says that more than 600 courses have been built in eight years. Golfers in the South East have benfited most, with more than 7,000 vacancies in Essex, 3,500 in London, 2,500 in Kent and almost 4,000 in Surrey.