Attracting new blood

    While retaining members is vital for all clubs, getting in new people to essential to grow the membership base. GOLF RETAILING looks as five different methods clubs could employ to attract new members through their doors.

    For the vast majority of golf clubs, the numbers of members it has is used as a key barometer of success. While for some strong play and pay figures are important, for most membership is the heart of the club and the sign of its health. A Club membership questionnaire carried out by England Golf and SMS Inc in 2016 revealed a number of interesting figures, one of them being that the average number of members per golf club is 460, just six less than in 2014.

    In 2016 just under a third of clubs saw an increase in membership, however the per cent of members aged 65 and over increased by a pretty large 13 per cent. While golf should not shy away from its core membership this is a trend which isn’t sustainable in the long-term. That said, a study done by of 244 golf clubs found that only 18 per cent offered any discount or incentive to seniors – if seems that more could be done to attract this section.

    Unsurprisingly, the most common membership package is still the standard seven-day one but two thirds of clubs also offered social, intermediate, student and 5-day memberships. The major trend since 2014 is the emergence of junior and adult academy memberships, now offered by 47 per cent and 26 per cent of clubs respectively; and trial memberships, offered by 30 per cent. Hopefully by the time of the next study, in 2018, these numbers will be even higher. There are some fantastic flexible membership options now available at clubs across the country.

    In terms of membership there needs to be a concerted effort to both keep existing members and to attract new ones. It’s vital to ensure that existing members are kept happy as it is much harder to find new members to replace the ones that have left. For far too many clubs the first that they know that a member is unhappy is when they receive the resignation letter – this is too late. The industry could also work harder on what happens after the letter has been handed in; if you are a member of a gym and decide to leave a Virgin or David Lloyd they work hard to try and get you to change your mind and show the member how much they are valued. Does your club do this?

    Here are five ways your club can attract new members:

    1. Member Introduce a Member Scheme

    We know that one of the main reasons people play golf is for social reasons, to spend time with their family and friends, so members already have an incentive to get their friends along. Why not make that incentive even greater and offer a money off scheme for any member that brings along someone new who ends up joining the club? This could be 20 per cent off all pro shop purchases for a year, or 20 per cent off their membership fee for the year, whatever works for the club. Don’t be stingy though – think how much money that new member will make for the club if they stay with you for ten years. If a membership is £750 a year then over ten years they will have contributed £7500, making the discounted rate they paid in the first year fantastic business.

    1. Open Day

    Your club should hold a Membership Open Day every year and it should be a proper event, with time and effort invested into it. Get staff, the committee and membership behind it and offer some prizes for longest drive, nearest the pin and putting challenges. The day should also have a free buffet and drinks at the bar and literature on joining the club ready available – with a 10 per cent discount for anyone who signs up on the day.

    1. Three month membership

    This is something which increasing amounts of gyms are doing as they know that getting people to commit a large sum of money to something which they are not sure they will even use regularly can be difficult. Let people join for a shorter period of time and try you out – obviously the different time periods will have different prices, as someone shouldn’t pay the same for October, November and December as they would for July, August and September. To make this easier though you could have a high and a low season like many hotels and wedding venues do.

    1. Look up previous members

    It may at first seem counterintuitive, but it could be worth your time to go through your database and get in touch with everyone who has left the club in the last five years. Hopefully the database will have information on it which indicates if they left under a cloud or moved to the other end of the country so you can avoid contacting these people. Your previous members joined once so they obviously want to be part of a club – it is worth seeing if their personal or financial circumstances have changed and if they could be tempted back. Get in touch with a personalised message and an offer to come back to see the club and have a free round of golf. Even if just ten per cent of former members re-join this would still make the exercise more than worthwhile.

    1. Special deal for wives and husbands

    We know that over three quarters of members are male, so really this is mainly about offering special rate for wives. While there is undoubtedly a small percentage of male members who play golf to ‘get away’ from their other half, the vast majority will welcome this. Couples are always looking for something they can do together and if both play then there are no arguments when one of them is at the club. Offer a discounted spouses membership and see what the take-up is.

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    A graduate of Cardiff University’s highly respected post-graduate magazine journalism course, Andy has successfully edited four different publications across the B2B, trade and consumer sectors. He is skilled at all aspects of the magazine process in addition to editing websites and managing social media channels.