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Is cycling really the new golf?

We’ve all heard that “cycling is the new golf”. Apparently, we now live in an age of MAMILs (Middle Aged Men in Lycra), WILMAs (the female equivalent??) and corporate cycling events, which has left company golf days and member-only clubs sliced into the rough.

In terms of the corporate audience, how do the sports compare? Here’s a look at the corporate leaderboard - an assessment of the “front nine” (along with the golf scorecard) to compare their "rounds":

Golf v Cycling - An assessment of the front nine:

Hole 1: Participation – Firstly, there are more than two times the number of once a week cyclists than there are golfers (APS). Golf club membership in England has dropped 20% from 2004 to 2013, the number of golf clubs has also fallen. In cycling, the number sportive events has trebled in 5 years and British Cycling membership has more than doubled since 2012 - 4% of whom spend £3k-£5k per year on their habit. Cycling wins the hole.

Hole 2: Atmosphere – Both sports are conducive to large groups but both are also at the mercy of the elements. In terms of networking, both deliver. In golf you may only really get chatting to three other people for the four/five hour round but the 19th hole does provide further opportunity. Cycling can involve greater numbers, not fixed in size. It is less competitive and the coffee stop replaces the bar. Hole tied.

Hole 3: Audience – Both audiences are highly affluent. Golf’s tradition of “being in the club” and being “well connected” seem slightly out of date in today’s world. If you’re looking for a more social and informal activity, cycling’s probably your “preferred lie”. Cycling wins the hole.

Hole 4: Workability – We’ve all heard of deals being done on the golf course but cycling is now hitting back with C-Suite cycling groups regularly heading out of town. Both sports frown on the use of mobile phones mid-round/ride, so your ability to get away from the office is absolute – but then again that is all part of the appeal! Hole tied.

Hole 5: Accessibility – Cycling is a doorstep sport. Despite the decline in number of golf clubs, there are still 2,500 golf clubs in the UK. For the city-worker keen to get their fix of the sport there are a growing number of bespoke venues; urban golf, spin studios, even city-centre crazy golf centres! But with a few laps of Regent’s Park at lunchtime or a nice cycle commute, cycling wins the hole.

Hole 6: Affordability – Not sure how to score this! In a competitive, possibly ostentatious corporate world is a higher cost good or bad? Is the fact that you can easily spend upwards of £10k on your Pinarello Dogma with electronic shifters mean cycling wins? Golf is not a cheap sport and certainly has its fair share of exuberant kit. Despite the expensive kit, both golf and cycling can be relatively cheap sports. You can race on a £200 bike and play a round with just 3 clubs, if necessary. Two “gim’me’s” - Hole tied.

Hole 7: Time – The most valuable of all commodities. Whilst you need to dedicate a reasonable amount of time to any interest, when it starts taking up whole days, weekends and sometimes weeks, then you have to consider the implications on work and family life. Both are time-consuming but cycling is less fixed in timescale. Yes, you can always shorten your round but who wants to walk a mile back to the club house from the 14th green? Cycling wins the hole.

Hole 8: Inclusivity – In golf, Muirfield’s previous decisions to uphold their policy of preventing women from becoming members stands out. Cycling isn’t perfect but for participation, cycling is probably more inclusive. Cycling wins the hole.

Hole 9: Technology – Tech has led the cycling revolution. According to the tag line, if it isn’t on Strava, it didn’t happen! Golf has its own tech with apps, par-savers and range finders but the game is still beholden to the pencil and the scorecard. Cycling wins the hole.

So, cycling is winning the round (well, the front nine at least). There are some fantastic opportunities for companies and employees to connect through cycling are being created.

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