BIGGA chief executive John Pemberton warns of more golf closures in 'difficult year' ahead

British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association (BIGGA) chief executive John Pemberton has predicted the closure of more golf clubs as economic woes triggered by the global recession continue to make their presence felt throughout 2010.

Speaking at the BTME show, where visitor numbers, hit by the weather, fell by more than 1,600 to 5,883, he told HW that the sector faced numerous challenges.

"In general terms I see a very, very difficult year. I personally don't see the country as being out of a recession," said Pemberton.

"There has got to be some realignment within the golf industry. I think there has been an oversupply of golf facilities and it is inevitable over the next few years that we will lose some golf clubs."

But despite the grim prediction and the drop in visitor numbers, there was an upbeat atmosphere at the show.

As Manchester City FC grounds manager Roy Rigby explained: "People haven't been that busy because of the weather until this week, which is just when it's really starting to pick up. Because of that I didn't think it would be that busy, but it looks good."

York City Council senior groundsman Kevin Potter agreed: "The turnout is a lot better than I expected here. I guess it is probably about the same as last year, but some of the stands do seem a bit smaller than last year."

BIGGA communication manager Scott MacCallum said that he had spoken to numerous greenkeepers who did not attend because they wanted to oversee their courses as golfers returned for the first time in weeks.

Pemberton was also upbeat about the organisation's ability to navigate the turbulent year ahead and said there was still room for them to grow. "I expect a reduction in the number of greenkeepers in the UK, but I still think we can grow our membership," he insisted.

"There are opportunities with other sports turf groundsmen that perhaps don't belong in the Institute of Groundsmanship. We are not pinching from them, but I would like to make that option more attractive."

Pemberton added that he was "delighted" with the show and highlighted the good attendance at the education programme.

"Considering the economic climate, the state of the golf industry and the weather, we were a little bit apprehensive about how this year's show would turn out," he admitted. "But overall I think it has more than met with expectations."

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