First year blues...
After my first year of university I returned this summer for three months with a chunk of spare time that I hoped to spend playing some well missed rounds. As this was the first year I had not had a full year membership I was hoping to find a local course where I could have a three month membership or something similar?
However much my student budget disagreed I washed this aside and acceptably delved into my overdraft to pay for some golf and resigned myself to beans on toast for my second year meals; it quickly became apparent however, I need a bigger overdraft.
To elaborate, I felt a pit of regret in my stomach as I realised how much golf I could’ve played had I not decided to buy a round of 17 shots for every Tom, Dick and Harry on every student night.
Not only did this get me thinking about how worried I am if my parents check my bank account and see a regular £15 coming out to 'Player's Bar, Birmingham' every Tuesday, but to a wider and extensive problem - how accessible is golf as a student.
My scenario like so many other students will be a month at home for Christmas and Easter and three months for summer. Thankfully I hadn’t succumbed to the high risk of alcohol poisoning, and was up for some rounds with my home mates after we’d returned from our dingy, dirty can-littered flats in every corner of England.
Now the task in hand - to find a course which offers short term student membership that’s nearby, challenging and affordable.
And what a mammoth task it turned out to be!
After about two hours scouring the internet for any clubs in my area that offer monthly membership, I had drained every search on Google regarding the matter and was met with an abysmal response.
I then looked at an alternative approach of an annual membership thinking I could get the most out of it in six months at a reduced rate - but in the whole of West Yorkshire only two clubs seem to offer a student membership!!
To put this into perspective the nearest club to my house, Northcliffe GC offers either a gents membership at £889 per year or a junior membership of £100 a year and nothing in between.
That’s £17 a week out of my £75 allowance which could easily be converted into six extra VK’s, a greasy kebab and a couple of Barocca’s, still leaving enough change for a taxi to a lecture I’m running painfully late for.
In another incident one of my mates approached Shipley GC asking if they could do a 3-month student membership as he was a previous member there before he went to Uni.
They point blank refused and said no student or monthly deal could be done. Forgetting the fact he then put his green fee on the 4:15 at Doncaster, the fact remains that a local club adamantly refused any sort of deal that could’ve allowed a young local student to get back into golf over the summer, and you'd think help boost their coffers?
Some people point towards intermediate memberships and Pay and Play’s as the choice for students?
To an extent I agree with the former; at Baildon GC the intermediate rate is £195 and a student membership at Keighley GC is £145. Both of these I believe are very reasonable but if a quarterly or half annual rate was introduced at something around the £100 mark it is only a stretch to a week’s allowance for most students.
We all like a good deal, students especially; I think our entire flat kept the Sainsbury’s Basics range in business at our local store last year. So it is understandable why it is frustrating we have to pay a full year's membership if we are only home for half that time. I’d even stretch to a home and a Uni club if they offered half yearly memberships, although I may be walking past Sainsbury’s and visiting Lidl next term!
Can't you pay and play?
To the latter point that many older players make about Pay and Play’s I have a simple answer; it’s highly restrictive and expensive. There’s an inability to be involved in competitions and any rounds over 15 in six months may aswell be paid for with a full membership.
Further to this, I always get the feeling when visiting some clubs with some of my mates who own snapbacks and probably have a can of Strongbow Dark Fruits peeking out their bags, students are not very well respected by members of a club; it brings me back to how I take my hood off, even when its pouring with rain, to show the old grandma across the street I’m not interested in her purse.
Sure us students may pile into the back of a battered Micra and have to sacrifice a 3-wood to fit all the bags in.
Sure they’ll be plenty of us who will have had a couple of pre-round pints and have to nip into the bushes on the eighth .
And do you know what, there might even be one of is who turns into Olympic javelin thrower as their putter flies across the green after a five putt.
But there is still a place for students in the sport.
I fully appreciate code of conducts at certain clubs but surely the answer isn’t to just exclude student members all together.
How are young students meant to reduce their handicaps and attempt to emulate young golfers like Spieth and McIlroy if they cannot afford to play regularly at decent courses?
In both economic and sporting term it makes sense and in my opinion the quickest clubs who cater for students, will see not only a vast number of new members but a whole new perspective on how the game can be played and on how clubs should be run.
After all if clubs get students in now they will be the next group of people paying those full membership fees.
Put them off now... and well who knows... those golf clubs might end up on beans on toast themselves!
Northerner and painfully poor student residing over the border. Sacrificing meals for the love of golf.