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KENT GOLF UNION CHAIRMAN CHALLENGES "FALLING NUMBERS" CLAIM
Kent Golf Union chairman Peter Long has challenged a claim made in a BBC news report that the number of people playing the sport in the south-east is falling.
Mr Long was responding to a feature on “BBC South East” earlier this week which reported that 12 clubs in Kent and Sussex had closed over the past five years. The report also claimed that “fewer people are playing golf these days” but the KGU chairman said that where Kent was concerned the total membership of the union’s 80-strong affiliated clubs in 2019 was 27,723, which represented a rise of over 400 on the previous year.
He said: “Where we have seen clubs close we have sought to help their members move to other clubs, so there isn’t actually a reduction in the number of golfers, and there are of course many people playing golf in the region who are not members of clubs.”
But Mr Long, who is a member of Sundridge Park GC, also added: “We cannot be complacent though. There are plenty of choices FOR youngsters in the leisure industry and we readily acknowledge there are pressures on clubs for a number of reasons.“
“Firstly, local authorities that own golf courses are looking for land that they can use for housing, while clubs which are owned by companies or individuals may well be seeing an opportunity to sell and so realise a return on their investment. “
And Mr Long did admit that golf had to continue working hard to change some perceptions over its cost, club structure and rules, saying: “Both England Golf and county unions such as ours have been making huge efforts to help clubs build their memberships and grow the game.
“As an organisation, we have to get out there and visit all our clubs to demonstrate what we have to offer to clubs and to the ordinary member and also to understand what is happening on the ground and what the clubs want. The bottom line is that we are a service industry and if a club isn’t providing the right service, or a warm welcome for potential new members, then people will vote with their feet.”
And Mr Long highlighted the efforts that the KGU was making to encourage more youngsters to take up the game, saying: “Last year we established five Approved Junior Academies across the county and these will be continuing in 2020 and we are also embarking on a new venture this year, the Invicta 10s - a series of competitions for 6-10 year olds who are beginners or relatively new to golf.”