The R&A - Working for Golf

Compact Course Success in France

The development of smaller, more affordable and faster-to-play golf courses in urban areas across France has helped encourage new golfers, create jobs and drive revenue.

With a continued emphasis on shorter formats of the sport to entice beginners, encourage lapsed golfers back to the fairways and give more options for golfers short on time, the work of the French Golf Federation (ffgolf) has delivered success in offering an additional string to golf’s bow.

To capitalise on the staging of the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National near Paris, ffgolf has overseen the construction of over 100 ‘non-traditional’ new golf courses and venues over a 10-year period. These are primarily 9-hole, 6-hole or pitch & putt courses with short yardages and an emphasis on ease of playability in less than two hours.

Consumer demand

With a previous supply of similar golf facilities, namely large 18-hole layouts often located in rural areas away from main population areas, there was a need for ffgolf to develop shorter, more accessible and affordable facilities to meet modern consumer demands for leisure, speed, health, nature and well-being.

In doing so, short form courses in urban areas – close to a city and reachable by public transport – have created new affordable leisure options at local levels, boosted employment and enhanced tourism. Alongside public support, much of the funding for the new facilities has come from private enterprise investment.

Christophe Muniesa, Executive Director at ffgolf, says, “Any proposed change in the image of golf implies a change of user population and thereby a need to change the facilities on offer. Offering new facilities to the general public has a direct impact on participation in terms of age group, gender and playing frequency. Our research demonstrates that through these short course facilities we are able to attract more juniors and women.”

Last year, the 101st facility was opened in Toulouse and over the last decade, 80,000 golfer licence cards (handicap) have been delivered through these new facilities. Encouragingly, among this number are 17,000 new golfers, while it is likely the facilities are also playing a role in retaining existing golfers within the sport in France.

Revenue boost

In addition, over 250 jobs have been created and demand for coaching from golf professionals has increased with the economic sustainability of the courses demonstrated through an average revenue of 220,000 euros per golf centre and 3,000 green fees per course (average 18 euros for a round).

Revenues have also been boosted by a number of venues boasting practice facilities – including putting greens and driving ranges – and social areas such as a bar and restaurant.

Market research commissioned by The R&A and ffgolf and undertaken by Sports Marketing Surveys (SMS) via a survey of 17 compact course facilities and 20 golf venue operators in France, suggests that the facilities can incentivise play, improve enjoyment and therefore generate new players.

The short courses provide an important bridge between trying golf and taking it more seriously, offering a course experience without the levels of commitment required to play a full 18 holes. Indeed, 81% of respondents felt short courses made golf feel more accessible and 78% of respondents were repeat visitors, visiting more than 20 times.

Alternative option

Furthermore, 91% have at least some idea of the steps needed to further their progression in the sport. Therefore, the courses have a place as part of measures to lower barriers to entry to the sport and can help dispel some of the unhelpful perceptions of golf.

The compact courses are also enjoyed and appreciated by many existing golfers as a different, less time-consuming way to play, offering an alternative to both driving ranges and full-length courses for different groups (and associated time and cost savings). From the research, 55% who have played compact courses believe they helped their game ‘a lot’.

Duncan Weir, Executive Director – Golf Development and Amateur Championships at The R&A, added, “Organisations are learning that there is a place for all manner of alternative forms of golf, as the time and work-pressure demands placed on people in everyday life can make it difficult to commit to traditional forms of the sport.

“We are consuming more information and engaging with things faster than ever before, so golf needs to keep pace and innovate in so many different ways. Compact courses, such as that seen in France, are a great way to do this.”

If you would like to learn more information on the compact courses project in France and perhaps use this facilities model in your own country, please contact Simon Glinec at simon.glinec@ffgolf.org