No-one needs reminding just how tough things are for virtually every sector of the economy.
And nowhere is this more evident than in the golfing sector, although a snippet of news released last week suggests the first shoots of economic recovery could soon be appearing.
A friend invited me to the East Midlands last year to play at Oadby Golf Club, the course which sits inside Leicester’s racecourse.
The club, owned by the racecourse, was leased to the local council until 2015. With other, more pressing obligations, the council announced it couldn’t afford to operate Oadby and, with fewer than 170 members, it appeared unlikely the golf club could continue once the lease expired.
My mate told me the members had turned to social media in an effort to attract investors but, sadly, the club closed in the wake of huge losses.
Last week, however, Leicester Racecourse Holdings applied to build a 15-bay driving range at Oadby, a project costing more than half-a-million pounds. Should it be approved, the racecourse’s general manager, Chris Buckle, is convinced a re-opened golf club could turn a profit. The proposed project, which should hopefully see Oadby re-open, is based upon a solid, golf-related business model.
Earlier this year, at the Golf Business and Industry Convention, held at the Marriott Forest of Arden, much time was given to investigating alternative sources of revenue which would, it was hoped, enable clubs to become more profitable. This was not the view of Sandy Jones, chief executive of the Professional Golfers’ Association, who cautioned against clubs embracing every conceivable money-making opportunity.
“There was a spell when every golf club believed it should have a squash court,” he said. “But where are those squash courts now? They’re indoor driving ranges.
“Let’s focus on what we do – golf – and not bother with diversification.”
He has a point. Admittedly, some clubs make money from providing services, such as wedding receptions, holiday accommodation or converting outbuildings to gyms, but they’re in a minority. Oadby’s owners no doubt examined every conceivable possibility to make the club profitable. That they chose to concentrate solely upon keeping their assets as a golf venue is hugely encouraging.