The Slow Suicide Of Spanish Golf

spanish golfFor years now the Costa Del Sol has been the number one golf destination in Europe, each year thousands of migratory golfers flock here in the winter to get their golf fix while most of the rest of Europe is under snow or water.


There is a reason why it’s called the costa del golf. With over 50 courses it really is a mecca for golfers


For many ex pats who now call the Costa del Sol their home the quality of golf and the sheer number of golf courses was a contributory factor.


However there are dark clouds on the horizon and i am prepared to put my mortgage on it that in 5 years time there will be a lot fewer courses here unless something drastic is done.


How long will the Costa del Sol’s dominance last?


Not much longer if the managers and owners don’t take their heads out of the sand and realize that times have moved on. No longer can you charge €80 for a round of golf or large joining fees.


I checked the prices for four players playing a round of golf next month at Miraflores and at Killeen Castle which is hosting the Solheim Cup this week.  Keep in mind that at the moment Miraflores is almost unplayable with greens (or should that be browns)that would shame a crazy golf course. For 4 players to play Miraflores it would cost €250 for the same Tee Off time at Killeen Castle arguably one of the best courses in Europe it would cost €300.


Have a look at what is happening in the rest of Europe. Many golf clubs in Ireland and the UK have scrapped joining fees or allowed people to spread the joining fee over 3 years.  Membership fees are now often below €1000.  You can join Tramore Golf Club in Ireland one of the oldest Clubs in Europe for €931 with no joining fee.


I can play rounds in Egypt on superb quality course for €20 or less, Morocco and Portugal are just as easy to get to as the Costa Del Sol and are much cheaper.


4 of us recently paid €240 to play a local club on a  Thursday morning we saw one other 2 ball on our round and a 4 ball going out as we returned.


How much busier would that course have been if they charged €30 a round? Personally I would more than likely play there 2 times a week , sure they would make the same money from green fees but by the time we had finished lunch and drinks they would have taken an extra €200


None of the local Golf Clubs here seem to do anything to encourage residents to join or give residents a cheaper rate. With the exception of Estepona golf club I don’t know of any club that has a monthly payment plan. Sheer madness.


I know lots of golfers who would be happy to pay up to €200 a month to have unlimited play throughout the year. Or to pay 4 quarterly bills of €600-€800. At the moment thats not possible because clubs want the payments upfront and in full. Forget about a regular cashflow.  How many courses here in the Costa Del Sol have over 100 paying members?   I know of one that has 60.


Get your heads out of the sand and start to attract members, it’s the only way you’ll survive the next 5 years.


However it’s not just the cost of golf here thats the problem.


The quality of many of the clubs has been declining in recent years, how many of the clubs now actually employ qualified green keepers?  How many just look for experienced Gardeners?   I’d hate to find out!.


Grab an iPad and see how many golf club sites or booking pages you can access. A large number of visitors don’t bring a PC or Laptop with them anymore they rely on iPhones and iPads and the number is only going to get bigger.


Fancy flash based websites are great but if they don’t work and people can’t contact you they are a liability and are costing you business.


I tried to email Santa Maria Golf Club from my PC and iPad using a Gmail and Yahoo Mail account it’s impossible to do as the site tries to hook into outlook or another email program. This is the 21st century people use webmail, they connect to their mail on the move.


Over the past fews days I have emailed 5 clubs here on the Costa del Sol asking for their membership fees, I have yet to get a reply from any of them. That pretty much sums up the state of the Golf business here in Spain.



So what is the Solution??


If I was managing a Golf Club here is the Costa Del Sol I would do the following.


  1. Reduce the green fees to summer levels all your around.
  2. Encourage more members that will support the Club all year around.
  3. Offer very competitive Green Fees to members guests, these guests in turn become prospects for membership.
  4. Scrap all joining fee’s or allow them to be paid over 3 years.
  5. Provide easy membership payment plans.
  6. Create a social environment where people want to have a meal and drink after a game of golf.
  7. Advertise on radio and in newspapers , make use of social media …make sure the website is accessible and useable at all time. Offer discounts via Twitter and Facebook.
  8. Hold open days, get people through the doors and make them one time offers.


Above all get some management in place that understands modern business, understands modern communication and above all management that isn’t afraid to make the hard decisions.

Keep watching the comments I’ll let you know if I ever get any replies!

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