If you’re an experienced golfer, then you’ll probably have noticed that membership fees have risen substantially in recent years. Fees of over £100 a month are not uncommon at many clubs, and while many golfers have been able to stomach the price rises, the cost of living crisis has made these costs unsustainable for many others.
At the same time, what people want from golf has changed in recent years. The old, stuffy ideas of exclusive memberships and high barriers to access are increasingly being cast aside, in favour of more flexible, inclusive golf where people are able to play affordably with family and friends at times that suit them.
All this means that pay and play golf, once derided as a second-class way of playing the game, is becoming more and more popular all the time. In this guide, we’ll take a look at why pay and play golf is so appealing to modern golfers and highlight some of the best pay and play golf courses to try around the UK.
How does pay and play golf work?
Well, to an extent, it pretty much does what it says on the tin: you turn up with your clubs and kit, pay your money, and (once there’s a slot available) off you go. However, at many courses, it is possible to plan ahead, by booking and paying for a tee time online in advance.
Prices vary depending on the part of the country you’re in and the quality of the course, but you should generally be looking at somewhere between £20 and £40 for 18 holes at most courses. However, if looking for a higher-quality, sought-after course to tackle as a one-off experience, then prices can go up substantially, often into three figures.
Alternatively, some courses don’t offer single-round fees, but instead offer seven-day memberships, which often still represent good value even if you only play one round. If you’re travelling away for a holiday or short break, these can also be the best-value way of working some play into your trip.
Why should you try pay and play golf?
There are several different reasons why pay and play golf is becoming such a hit around the country, and it goes far beyond the cultural move away from old-school memberships:
You can save money
Perhaps the most compelling benefit (particularly in the current financial climate) is that pay and play golf can save golfers a lot of money. If you’re shelling out £100 a month or more for your membership, only playing once or twice a month and don’t get much out of the social side of your club, then you aren’t really getting value for money. Moving towards pay and play instead means you’re only spending for the golf you play and makes you far more able to scale your golf up and down as your finances allow.
It gives you more flexibility (especially in winter)
Without a membership, you’ll feel freer to play when and where you want and find tee times that better fit the rest of your daily commitments. It also avoids the prospect of having to commit to tee times in winter and having to play through wet, cold and windy conditions. So, if you’re more of a fair-weather golfer, you can put your clubs away until the spring and save your pennies for the following summer.
You can try more courses
It’s easy for members to lapse into the routine of playing their local course over and over again: after all, if they’re paying for it every month, they might as well use it. But not only can this get repetitive, but it often means that players are missing out on the opportunity to try different courses and holes and sharpen up different skills. Taking the pay and play approach means you can target a range of different courses, keep yourself interested and develop a more rounded skill base over time.
You can get family and friends involved
It can be very difficult to bring non-member friends and family with you to play on your local course, especially at peak times. If you have people you especially enjoy playing with, or have someone you’re helping get started in the game, this can be very frustrating. But with pay and play, these barriers simply don’t apply, all you need to do is find a course and time that will accommodate you, and away you go.
Our favourite pay and play golf courses
There are countless pay and play courses all over the UK, and it’s fair to say that some of them have better facilities than others! Doing some research into the courses in your area is an essential first step, but if you’re looking for something a bit further afield, then we’ve picked out some of the best pay and play golf courses from across the country:
If it’s good enough to host the World Golf Championships in 2006 – and even good enough to host the world’s most powerful people at a NATO summit in 2019 – then it’s good enough for you. The Grove is located just outside Watford but is more accessible for all players than you might think: every hole has four different tee positions in order to cater for all driving abilities. It isn’t the cheapest course you’ll ever play by any means, but at 7152 yards in total, you’ll feel like you’ve got your money’s worth.
The Brabazon Course at the Belfry in Sutton Coldfield has played host to the Ryder Cup more times than any other golf course in the world. That, combined with its location right in the centre of England makes it a naturally popular choice for pay-and-play golfers wanting to test themselves on prestige courses. There’s a bit of everything to catch you out: lakes, bunkers, trees and a whole lot more, but the feeling of nailing a drive on a course that has challenged the best over the years can’t be beaten. Naturally, the Brabazon Course comes with a premium price tag, but if you’re on a budget, it’s much cheaper to play the PGA National or Derby courses instead, which are no less challenging.
Blackmoor Golf Club
Any course in south-east England is always going to live in the shadow of the likes of Royal St George’s and Wentworth. But the Blackmoor Golf Club in Hampshire, nestled in between the North and South Downs, is an underrated classic. It’s a short course – par is 69 and there are only two par-fives – but with plenty of trees lining each fairway, you’ll have to consider and place your shots carefully. Rounds start from just £55, which is excellent value for the area, especially if you want to sharpen up your short game on its five par-threes.
St Andrews New Course
Any trip to St Andrews to play golf generally means a day on the mecca of the sport that is the Old Course. However, as one of the most famous golf courses on the planet, availability of tee times can be scarce to put it mildly. As a more accessible but still challenging alternative, it’s worth trying the New Course instead. The name is a bit of a misnomer these days as the course opened way back in 1895, but it brings its own set of tests with a layout that’s relatively tight compared to its historic older brother, making it a favourite among the Fife locals.
If you’re looking for a good-value option that’s within easy reach of London, then look no further than Aldwickbury Park. It’s set in rolling Hertfordshire parkland near Harpenden, and only a few miles from the M1 and the M25. The course has a good mix of different challenges within its 18 holes, and a similarly great combination of woodland and valley views. It’s an excellent golfing destination for the family too, with a smaller nine-hole course that’s perfect for kids and beginners. Rounds on the full course normally come in around the £35-40 depending on the time of week, which is a bargain for a course of this quality.
Get golf insurance with SportsCover Direct
While pay and play golf means a big change to your golfing lifestyle if you’re used to a membership, one thing that definitely doesn’t change is the need for top-quality golf insurance.
SportsCover Direct has been insuring golfers of all ages and abilities for a quarter of a century, preventing financial loss should anything unforeseen occur. Whether you injure yourself on the course, hurt someone else with a stray ball, or suffer loss, damage or theft to your clubs, our policies make sure you aren’t out of pocket. That way, you can play with peace of mind and focus on your game, wherever you might be playing.
To find out more, including our competitive rates and flexible payment options, get a quote for golf insurance.