Successful golf clubs have revealed their methods of recruiting and retaining new members: they’re flexible, friendly and they offer low-cost ways to try the game.
These key factors have emerged from research commissioned by England Golf to support the development of its new and ambitious Strategic Plan.
The plan sets out to inspire people of all ages to make golf a part of their life. Its ambitions include reversing the trend of declining club membership and working towards a target of 750,000 golf club members in England by 2020.
A total of 55 clubs were interviewed for the research project, of which 70% were private members’ clubs, 24% proprietary and 6% pay and play. All had all increased their memberships during 2012 and seen that hold firm in 2013. In many cases it has increased again.
Richard Flint, England Golf’s Club Services and Development Director, said: “These clubs, which are all bucking the national trend, have been very generous by describing their successful strategies and we can now share this best practice to grow the game.”
The research was carried out by SPORTS MARKETING SURVEYS INC. which concludes: “The three key principles which our interviewees have applied could easily be deployed across the country and could potentially reap rich rewards without profoundly changing the way the clubs operate.”
The clubs all placed emphasis on:
• Flexible membership packages – these recognised that one package no longer fits all and that the member who plays occasionally is still a member worth having. These schemes particularly target the younger golfer, aged up to 40.
• Friendliness – a friendly, convivial environment, where it is easy to socialise and find people to have a round of golf with, was found to be hugely important in attracting new members. Some relaxing of the rules, for example concerning jeans, trainers and mobile phones, was common.
• Low-cost ways to get into golf – clubs sought ways to help people try golf without a big initial expense. These include ‘have a go’ days, involving existing members and offering an opportunity to enjoy the facilities, and trial memberships.
Many of the clubs also made use of outside help to promote their club amongst members or visitors, for example by achieving the GolfMark award for junior and beginner-friendly facilities, and by working with England Golf’s Club Services department and with their County Golf Partnership.
Most make their facilities available commercially, say for weddings or conferences; and many are seeking to build up a database of visitors’ details, often using electronic communication.