Pub Golf Societies: Join the club

Related tags Pub Golf

Love it or hate it, golf is hugely popular in the UK. According to Sport England's Active People 2 Survey 2007/08, almost a million people in...

Love it or hate it, golf is hugely popular in the UK.

According to Sport England's Active People 2 Survey 2007/08, almost a million people in England participate in golf at least once a week, with 1.54 million adults having played at least once in the past four weeks.

And pubs have all to play for when it comes to taking advantage of that. The survey found a marked increase in participation among lower socio-economic groups, those with limiting disabilities, the over-65s, and women.

Once the domain of stuffy old duffers with rules about what sort of tie or shoes you had to wear in the clubhouse, golf clubs have transformed themselves over recent years to become more inclusive and provide a more friendly service - some clubs even allow women into the clubhouse these days!

And, with 2,300 courses in the UK, you should never really be more than half-an-hour's drive from the nearest 18 holes.

One of the main reasons for the sport's popularity is because it is such a social game. In fact, for many, the highlight of the day is getting back to the pub after a round, having a few beers and talking through the shots and shockers of the day.

The great advantage it has over most other sports is that, through handicapping, it is possible for people of all levels to play against each other and compete, and it's possible to play with almost any number of people.

So what's in it for your pub?

The answer lies in the pub golf society. Pubs are perfectly placed to get a group of otherwise disparate hackers to traipse around a golf course together, all for the good name of their local.

As with an affiliation to any sports team, by establishing a golf society, you help build a strong community feel around your pub, guaranteeing a decent number of people into the pub on a regular basis.

Most people who play golf will usually have at least one or two friends living locally who they regularly play with.

These people might not be familiar with your pub, but get them back for a slap-up meal after a round of golf, and they may soon come back again, bringing partners and friends with them. And what value do you put on good word-of-mouth marketing?

From the society member's point of view, they gain access to clubs and tee-times that they might not have had as an individual punter. They get the opportunity to meet like-minded golfers who also use their local pub, and they have a great way to keep a track of their handicap, as all scores can be recorded for future reference.

Getting started

The great thing about a golf society is that you don't have to provide any facilities in order to run one. All you need is a phone to call your local club.

Lynne Fraser of the English Golf Union​ suggests calling your local club to ask about discounts on memberships or green fees.

Make sure you use any contacts you have within your pub to see what they suggest. Anyone who is an experienced golfer may be able to assume the mantle of society captain.

If you are not a golfer yourself, this appointment can take a large amount of the headaches out of the day, as a good captain can ensure that: everyone knows which group they are playing with and what handicap they are playing off; longest-drive and nearest-the-pin markers are collected; and all scores recorded for future events.

Most will regard the appointment as an honour, and will be only too happy to fulfil the role.

The Thatchers Arms Golf Society

Mitchel Adams​, licensee of the Thatchers Arms​ in Mount Bures, Essex, started getting some interest from regulars about playing golf about a year ago.

Mitch phoned around some of his local courses to see what sort of deal he could get for a bacon sandwich and 18 holes of golf for a group booking. He added in the price of an excellent evening meal at the pub and charged participants accordingly. If you ask me, £36 for a bacon sandwich, 18 holes of golf and a two-course dinner is pretty good value.

The team from the Thatchers Arms have now played quite a few of the courses in Essex, and rated the bacon butties and course standard of each one.

I was present for their last golf day of the year, played at Frinton Golf Club, about half-an-hour's drive from the pub. Nineteen of us set out for a midday tee-off time.

On the face of it, Frinton looks like a straightforward course as it's very flat. However, we soon found that its undulating fairways and fast, raised greens made play a lot more difficult than it looked.

My team, consisting of pub regulars Clive (an accountant - handy with the scorecard), Richard (the country's leading tribologist - that's a friction expert to you and me) and of course licensee Mitch, had a great walk, but perhaps would have been better off if we'd left the clubs at home.

However, by the time we got back to the pub for belly of pork, black pudding mash, bacon-stuffed cabbage - cooked by Publican Food & Drink Awards Pub Chef of the Year finalist Mick Illingworth, no less - a pint of Crouch Vale Brewers Gold and a cheese board, we decided that we hadn't had such a bad day after all. A bad day on the golf course is, as they say, always better than a good day at the office!

As for Mitch, he had 19 diners in the pub on a weeknight. And this was on top of the 30 or so ladies who had turned up for the Jamie Oliver 'Jamie at Home' party in the back-bar on the same night - don't ask…

Like he says about the golf society, it's not always about making money immediately, it's about the regulars becoming more attached to the pub, and having a reason to come down.

Plans are already afoot for next year's venues, the ones with the best bacon butties being looked on most favourably in the selection process.

Golf day betting

No golf round is complete without a generous sprinkling of side bets to keep everyone interested. Here, The Publican's​ resident golf-betting geek, news editor Matt Eley, offers his guide to keeping the stragglers interested throughout the round.

Pound a hole/skins

As you will probably be playing by standard Stableford rules as individuals in accordance with your handicap, groups can also play a little match-play competition of their own (lowest gross score on each hole wins). Each hole is worth a pound to the winner. If you draw a hole, the money is carried forward to the next hole.

Longest drive

Always a favourite with the big hitters. Markers for this are usually available from the pro shop. Agree a hole with a nice long, wide fairway at the beginning of the round, and have players write their name on the marker as they place it where their ball ended up - provided of course that it landed on the fairway. The last group to play can then pick up the marker and bring the winner's name back to the pub for the announcement of the winner.

Nearest the pin

This works in the same way as longest drive, but this time it's for short par-three holes where you have the chance to land on the green from your tee shot. The player whose shot lands nearest the pin - it has to be on the green - signs his name on the marker, and leaves it on the spot where it landed. The last group to play the hole can pick up the marker and take it back to the clubhouse.


The dreaded three-putt (taking three putts on the green) is what all golfers hope to avoid. Whenever a player three-putts on a hole, they hold the 'snakes' - price to be agreed at the beginning of the round. The 'snakes' then accumulate as you go round the course until one player is left holding them - and he has to pay for the lot. This is enough to make even the most confident of putters get the yips on the 18th hole.

Camels and frogs

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