Pay-and-play golf gains popularity as clubs slash fees

One more golf course planned in the UAE

UAE developers are working on a new state of the art pay-and-play golf course, popular in some golf-loving western countries.

As the global economic downturn has reduced the number of corporate members of several leading golf clubs all over the world including the UAE, golf clubs have been slashing high membership and entry fees and coming up with payment schemes to suit cost-conscious corporate club members.

The recession has caused several companies to slash their entertainment budget and expensive golf course membership is among the first items to be slashed as part of austerity measures.

A leading golf consultant and architect in the UAE told Emirates 24|7 that after the inauguration of the Meydan golf course, some developers are going ahead with a new golf project, most probably in Dubai, but was unable to provide more information.

Peter Harradine, golf course architect with Harradine Golf, says the concept of pay and play golf will become popular in the UAE and Middle East as in the West.

“We have designed about 200 golf courses across the world including 13 in the Middle East. The latest is the Track in Meydan, a nine-hole pay-and-play course. The Track opened up golf to those who could not afford to become members of traditional golf courses,” Harradine said.

Pay and play is a refreshing way of introducing golf to businessmen who need not take costly membership to enjoy the game. Without being member of any club, golf players can enjoy the same level of enjoyment, freedom and play depending on their mood.

The Track has no membership fee and players simply take a tee time. The Track will be open from the summer of 2012 but details of the second pay-and-play golf course in the UAE are still unavailable.

“The concept of pay-and-play golf is suitable for the UAE,” added Harradine who is a former president of the European Institute of Golf Course Architects and the European Society of Golf Course Architects.

In the UAE, Harradine designed Meydan Golf Track, Mudon, Legends, Sharjah Golf and Shooting Club, Al Hamra Golf Club, Ras al Khaimah, Jebel Ali Golf Resort and Spa and the Abu Dhabi golf course.

A leading golf club in Dubai has offered 15 months for its 12-month membership fee for 2010.

Another golf club in Dubai, which used to charge Dh26,500 for a single membership, has scrapped its joining fee and has restructured the payment schedule to quarterly or monthly basis.

However, two golf clubs in UAE have a waiting list of 2,500 golfers.

A report in the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph suggested that many of the 2500 golf clubs in the UK are struggling for survival because they have lost several members hit by the recession. Quoting the English Golf Union, the sport's governing body, the newspaper said 19 clubs had gone into administration since the start of the year. It warned that many others faced closure as their takings have been hit by recession.

A corporate rescue specialist company has reported that in the first three months of 2012, almost 130 golf clubs in UK admitted they faced "significant problems".

BoxRecession has affected golf more than any other sport. In 2008, alone 140 golf courses were shut in the United States. Over 500 courses are still struggling to survive.

Similar closures happened in the United Kingdom and across Europe. Loch Lomond, which hosted the Scottish Open for 15 years, refused to host the prestigious golf event in Scotland due to financial difficulties. In the United Kingdom, 2,500 golf clubs lost their existing members in 2009.

Golf, which was a $67 billion industry in the Middle East and Africa, is also experiencing a similar slump.

The number of golfers in the US declined 4 per cent in 2008.

With the reduction in players there has been considerable loss in the viewership of live broadcasts. The viewership of the US Open Championship has suffered a drop of six million in the last two years.

The cumulative loss of audience in the Professional Golf Association (PGA) Tour stands at 309 million for the last couple of years. The number of spectators at the courses is also shrinking. As a result, organisers have started to reduce ticket prices to woo audiences. Most tickets were available at the half the price of their previous highs in 2009.Tickets for the US Masters, which used to cost $3,390 for a four- day pass, fell to $1,944. The Sunday final round that averaged at $1,045 in 2008 was $370 the next year.

(Image courtesy Shutterstock)

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