Growth of independent clubs shows youth, energy, creativity of new golfers
STUDIO CITY, California – Penmar Social Club. Tropicana Golf Club and Barbershop. Raza Golf Club. Tiny Putters. Babes Golf. These are just a few of the 800-plus “affiliate golf clubs” registered with the Southern California Golf Association (SCGA)—25% growth in the last two years.
These independent clubs bring together like-minded golfers for fun, friendly competition, and socialization on—and off—the course.
“There’s a group of golfers waiting for every type of individual,” according to Evan Belfi, the SCGA’s Director, Membership Development. “Forming a golf club builds community, and we at the SCGA are here to provide the resources and training needed to build and strengthen these clubs.”
Unaffiliated with any specific golf courses, these clubs—comprised of golfers from all walks of life—play at public facilitiesthroughout Southern California, from the southernmost part of California, north through San Luis Obispo County.
“The SCGA’s affiliate program fosters the entrepreneurial spirit,” according to Belfi. “The most successful clubs are those that build and market their brands as an outgrowth of the community. Club leaders who do the best are those who take the reins, organize the group, and put the most time into it, including some who have made running these clubs their full-time jobs.”
Working with the SCGA, a club leader can create his or her own golf ecosystem and run things in a way that reflects the vibe of their particular community. This independence is why there is so much diversity under the SCGA umbrella and why there is a golf club for everyone at every age, gender, and skill level.
The growth in independent clubs mirrors the growth in the game. Over the past two years, a record 6.2 million beginners have taken up golf in the U.S. while overall participation also has grown. But the key to keeping these golfers long term is to make sure they find a local golf community that matches their style of play.
“We feel the affiliate program is a perfect bridge to help connect beginning golfers to experienced ones. When you have a golf community that can help you learn the rules, make new golf friends, and, most importantly, improve your game, people are much more likely to stick around for the long term. The more we can get these beginning golfers out to play consistently—and clubs almost always play weekly or monthly—the healthier the industry.”
Johny Pearson of the Westside Golf Collective (WGC) is one of the golf entrepreneurs who formed and built his club over the past two years. He notes, “Members travel all over to play different courses—from the South Bay to Wilson and Harding, even to Ventura.”
Why should someone join the Collective or any of these independents? “We’ve got an interesting group of guys and a wide range of players from ages 20 to 45 who are friendly and have formed a real community. Friends tell friends and the group grows.”
Pearson has created a logo and branded WGC apparel, in addition to offering monthly events. The Collective also holds occasional non-golf outings, contests, and skins games while strongly encouraging players to join with fellow members to schedule rounds together when the club isn’t holding an event.
The Collective is one of the affiliate clubs featured in a new YouTube series (https://youtu.be/Qhno4BlyfyE) the SCGA is launching this week. This new lively video series illustrates the variety and camaraderie that comes from joining others who love the game. Bradford Wilson (@bradfordwilsongolf), a superstar golf influencer and advocate who works to make golf a more diverse and equitable game, serves as the host.
The video series illustrates the SCGA’s ability to advance the game for all types of golfers. The clubs featured are just a sample of the ages, interests, and styles of the 40,000+ golfers in the SCGA’s affiliate program and the 180,000+ members that are part of the SCGA in total.
Wilson praises the SCGA’s model. “I believe the SCGA has tapped into something that the rest of the country should be paying close attention to. The SCGA has social groups for literally every type of golfer and is working hard to grow the game. If the rest of the golf world follows what they are doing, I think it opens worlds of possibilities for other programs in Southern California, Northern California, northern Illinois, southern Florida, and wherever. There should be more programs modeled after the one that the SCGA has built.”
Belfi debunks the myths that golf clubs are too expensive—memberships start as low as $36 a year—uptight, or unfriendly. “Whether you are a 4 handicap or a 34, there’s a welcoming golf group for you. The World Handicap System exists specifically so that golfers of all ability levels can play together equitably and have a great time on the golf course. Allowing everyone to play together with a Handicap Index is the foundation of almost every healthy golf community.”
To learn more about forming or joining an SCGA club, go to https://scgamembership.sca.org/what-are-you-waiting-for