Thinking outside the (tee) box

Embracing Junior memberships and families are one way to ensure your club will survive

In February, you may recall that we suggested that there may be too many golf courses in Australia, and that the industry was ripe for consolidation. Well, last month, we learned of multiple courses across the country that are currently affected by this phenomenon. Corowa Golf Club (NSW) is in dire need of a financial injection; Richmond Golf Club (NSW) reportedly went into voluntary administration; Burleigh Palms Golf Course (Qld) announced it was considering selling; Halls Creek Golf Club (WA) is struggling to stay viable, and Amstel Golf Club (Vic) announced that they would likely begin management of Settlers Run.

As stated, mergers, acquisitions and closings are elements of any business. So this is all part and parcel of a cycle that will doubtless continue for a while.

At the heart of the matter, some believe, is the inability (or lack of desire) of some clubs to embrace a new way of thinking as they try to attract new members (or retain existing ones).

So let’s look at a few things your club can do to generate more interest by prospective members:

1: Embrace technology. Simple fact: the vast majority of prospective members (and many of your current members) are on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, online golf forums and the like. These sites are free, easy and all provide a two-way communication avenue between you and members/prospects.  If you don’t use these sites, you are way behind your competitors.  Adopt apps like SmartCart to get your Food & Beverage up to par. Update your website with daily comp results. Look into online tee-time bookings and packages from sites like iseekgolf or Golfnut (but not Scoopon), to fill your slow days. Remember: Technology is your ally. Clubs like Eastern Golf Club in Melbourne do all of these things extremely well. Your club should too.

2: Embrace Social Clubs and Open Days: believe it or not, these guys (and ladies) are not always the disruptive hooligans that you may think. They are bona fide golfers with money to spend, respect for the course and a real opportunity of joining in the future.  And they represent an enormous segment of our golfing public. So when they play at your course, welcome them with a smile – show them the friendly side of your club. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

3: Embrace Juniors and Families. This is a biggie. Embracing juniors is a lot different than simply letting juniors join. Get them involved. Give them significant discounts to play/join. Host junior days, or Father/Mother and Son/Daughter junior tournaments. Have, say, a 6-hole tournament with tees half-way down the fairways. Get a Caddy program started at your club –if a junior can pull a buggy for 9 holes, it will teach them a lot about the game, not to mention the life lessons that go with it. Growing the game helps everyone.

4: Embrace alternate membership models, pricings and reciprocal arrangements. Unless you are a top-echelon course, the high-priced entry fees and long waiting lists to play only one course are the most common gripe/obstacle for many golfers. Many people claim it is outdated.  Explore things like twilight memberships, seasonal memberships or anything else to lower the cost of entry. Just make sure it’s financially feasible and doesn’t upset current members.  And get a solid list of reciprocal courses in your stable. Melbourne’s Yarra River and Sandbelt courses have great reciprocal deals to let members play in the other member courses in their area.  Give golfers more than one course to play, and they’ll stay happy.

5: Embrace the media.  Have you ever noticed that some clubs get regular media attention in magazines & newspapers? This is not by accident – they work at it. Sending a weekly/monthly email to an editor/writer – with specials, news, photos, events and the like – will do wonders for getting your club into the spotlight. It doesn’t have to be a proper press release. Just a friendly email with useful information is often enough. And don’t forget to also advertise your club once in a while. Ever wonder why so many clubs place regular ads in Inside Golf month after month? It’s because they are getting good ROI. (And no, my publisher did NOT ask me to write that – it’s just a simple truth. Ask any advertiser in our magazine.)

These are just a few things that your club can do. By thinking outside of the (tee) box, you can help ensure the long-term health of your club.

4 Responses to "Thinking outside the (tee) box"

  1. Mike Smith  April 5, 2012 at 6:06 am

    Like your thinking Richard. For golf’s sake, i hope it sinks in…..Mike.

  2. John Cooper  April 11, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    I thought the idea was to attract new members, not have social clubs and players playing cheap golf and utilising the facilities that the members pay for. In the short term social clubs and players do bring in money but at the expense of the vast majority ever wanting to join a club. Why join and support a club when you can play either cheaply with a social club, play “twilight golf” or just wander onto the course without paying and be lost in the other hackers on the course taking hunks out of the fairways and greens. The members of course are not only paying when they play but are also paying a substantial amount of money each year plus in fees supporting. Of course clubs are there own worst enemy. What do they do as a group for their members? As a member visiting another club what do you get at the club you are visiting above what a non member gets when they turn up for a game? Not much, in fact even if you have a reciprocal membership you only get the competition fees at members rates. Big deal. Of course now with this “great” idea that social players can obtain a golf link handicap it won’t be long before short sighted clubs let them take a place in their competition fields. Ban social players and offer a range of flexible memberships. After a “suitable period” of membership, say five years the memberships could also offers attractive playing rates at other clubs-whether that be clubs in the golfing district, regional level, state or Australia wide. Oh yes and for those who want to argue how does a person know that they want to play golf if they can’t play a few social rounds and learn the game- think outside the square- clubs could offer packages where golfers are enrolled at a program at the club to play and learn the game over a flexible 8 play/lesson program at an introductory offer organised and run through the club match committee and the club professional.

  3. B.H.  July 15, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    Few golf clubs do little to promote themselves. They have presentations and messages are relayed to a small group at presentations. Posters are left in the bar but mainly more people are on the golf course and fewer go inside to the clubhouse, so these notices are not getting to ALL the members.

    Golf clubs have websites that are not always kept up to date so of little use.

    There are golf professionals who run pro shops that give ‘just enough’ service to members. If they have something on that can make them money, then they go for it … but unless you’re in the mix then most members are not kept informed.

    The promotions of things happening in golf clubs is fairly minimal. They send results to their local newspaper but few other details of what’s on, when and where. If you aren’t a frequent person in the clubhouse then a lot of that news isn’t readily available.

    Clubs should be flood the media with happenings, social events and golf events.
    The more publicity generated to the bigger audience the better. When the club goes knocking on doors for sponsorship, it would help if those businesses know that there is indeed a golf club in their town or city.
    Clubs can’t expect patronage come to their golf club, they have to turn the wheel.

    ALSO: your comments on golf club boards (Inside Golf July) is right on the ball. It is certainly the case at my golf club and most members wouldn’t even know WHO their board members are.

    PS: enjoy the mag, keep it up

  4. Pingback: Inside Golf editor wins esteemed Golf Media Award : Inside Golf. Australia's Most Read Golf Magazine

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