Surge in interest in golf - but Sussex club boss says younger players want shorter games

There is a surge in golf membership sign-ups, with the new, younger players looking for shorter games than before the lockdown, says Barry Anderson, managing director of Mannings Heath Golf and Wine Estate.

Manningd Heath Golf and Wine Estate
Manningd Heath Golf and Wine Estate

The club has reopened following the Prime Minister’s statement on May 10th 2020 permitting golf and other outdoor sports to be resumed.

Anderson says that members joining now are generally in the age range of 30 to 50 years old, whereas before the pandemic most club players were retired, and many in their 70s.

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In a departure from golf tradition, sessions on golf courses must be booked in time slots throughout the day, to ensure a safe social distance between groups. Games can be played alone, with one person from a different household or up to three others from within a household group.

Barry Anderson

The time slots suit the new members, Anderson says, who are often busy people with families, as it leads to a faster-paced game.

The new players generally want to tee off at 6:30am or 4:30pm to fit in a game around their working day. At Mannings Heath, there is also the option of the 18-hole Waterfall international course and the nine-hole Kingfisher course, which further reduces time on the fairway and offers more time slots.

“From feedback, this could be the start of a new type of engagement with golf after the lockdown ends; many members are planning to work from home, for two or three days a week. They have proved to themselves that they can take time out for a healthy leisure pursuit in the working week and still get their work done.

“We are getting dozens of new enquiries each day. The number of members at Mannings Heath halved just before the lockdown; we are on target to replace and surpass that number very quickly.”

“With gyms, swimming pools and other indoor places to exercise still closed and no date for opening, many people are choosing golf. Starting at just £325 for an annual membership, it is great value in comparison to the alternatives. In addition to the course, members can use a driving range, putting green and tennis court - and then all the facilities of the clubhouse when the lockdown is finished, two bars and a dining room, with meeting rooms available too.”

Anderson says there is a programme to attract young people to the sport, with Mannings Heath club staff visiting local schools and also offering weekend courses for children’s groups. Membership is free of charge for children up to the age of 12, and priced at £50 for 13 to 17 years, on the Kingfisher course.

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