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How to Turn Unattached Golfers Into Golf Club Members

By: Golfshake Editor | Fri 24 Apr 2020

Industries have been upended by the coronavirus pandemic, including golf, limiting rounds and travel across the world, but that unique situation may provide the ideal opportunity for clubs to reset themselves, including taking time to reflect on how they market and target the growing market of nomadic golfers, those players who are unattached.

Golf will likely see some major changes once it is able to resume and we are back out on the course, but having reviewed data from the 2019 Golfshake Survey, there are five key areas to be addressed that could help to increase membership.

The survey was conducted at the end of 2019 and completed by over 1500 respondents who stated they were not members of golf club. These golfers were asked "I would become a golf club member if ....." with them rating each factor out of 5. The data table below highlights which areas are most important to the nomadic golfer, and with 20% stating they were thinking of joining a golf club that offered the right package, this is an opportunity in the current climate. 

We have rounded up the topics and feedback from those completing the survey, and you may also find some additional data within previous articles we've have featured.

Main Reasons Why Golfers Join Golf Clubs

Are Membership Costs Too High And Green Fees Too Low?

Survey data

In an era where the consumer is now in complete control of how, when and where they spend their money, it does provide challenges to clubs offering a product to golfers made up of a wide and varied demographic which may well look completely different from those of 50 years ago. The data chart above highlights that the key to encourage nomadic golfers to become club members is the desire for variety, choice, ensuring value for money, and aspects of modern day attitudes. All of which are summed up in the two comments below:

"Don’t agree with joining fees. A dated concept. More flexibility to play other courses as part of a membership would be essential for me. Plus more flexible membership options for people who work full-time during the week and can only play at weekends."

"It's massively a cultural thing with a lot of people. I love golf but look round any clubhouse and 90% are 60+, this is a real turn off for joining. Who wants to hang out at multiple events with their parents/grandparents. I don't know how you change this."

Affordability & Value For Money

This will always be the toughest challenge for golf clubs and it could be argued that nomadic golfers do not have the lifestyle to benefit from the traditional golf club membership. However, there is a real opportunity here if membership packages can be adapted to cover this demographic that may only be able to play at the weekend infrequently or after 5pm during the week, providing the balance can be struck to ensure this does not detract from existing membership packages.

"It's very simple. I would sign up for membership if it represented a saving on paying green fees. Unfortunately, most memberships seem to assume you can play twice a week. Also, it's very important that I can play with my daughter and that rules aren't restrictive about when juniors can play."

"I wish they offered different type of memberships, not just 5 day and 7 day. I would like to see a twilight membership where I could play at 4pm in the summer and afternoons in the winter. I could have 9 holes done easily a couple of times a week but I'm not prepared to pay £800 for it plus a joining fee as if I am busy at work or family needs me then I have wasted my money."

"Only have time to play fortnightly so no value in being a member."

"To obtain the best value from club membership you need to play regularly on the same course and this would restrict the variety of other course that could be played. Perhaps when I'm older and not as active."

"If you can play in the week you can get a 5 day membership at a reduced cost, but if you are working and can only play weekends there isn't a weekend option, only a 7 day membership. If there was an option even if only slightly less in cost than a 5 day membership that meant I could play at weekends, and only weekends, I would join a golf club. The 7 day option is too expensive at my local clubs, when I can only play at during 2 of 7 days in the week."

Course Variety & Reciprocal Deals

This is arguably the crux to incentivise nomadic golfers to become golf club members. There is a bigger picture for clubs and county unions to consider, rather than simply having venues competing with each other. The points based membership scheme offered by PlayMoreGolf provides a basic example of this with golfers setting a home club but then able to play other clubs through use of their points. If the governing bodies could unveil a national scheme that offered golfers buying a certain membership type from a golf club providing access to other courses, would this help drive membership? Variety is something that appeals to a lot of golfers.

"I would be a member if golf clubs could talk to each other and arrange this. EG have one membership for four golf courses in my area, each course you have a max of 20 rounds per golf club to play."

"Should be able to simply buy a "season ticket" for a course/club to cover a certain period of time or number of rounds, without needing to be introduced/approved/interviewed or be expected to participate in club competitions or events."

"I think playing just one course would mean I would get better at playing that course but not necessarily improve my game overall so prefer to play at different courses for interest too."

"I like playing different courses and would not like to have to play the same course almost weekly to justify my membership. I like to travel around the country trying as many other courses as possible."

Is it Just an Annual Membership or Monthly Membership for 12 Months?

This is something we have covered before in - Is Golf a Sport For Just 9 Months a Year? - and a tricky topic to cover. As already outlined the modern consumer is completely in control of how they spend their money and value is paramount to this. So why would anyone pay a monthly annual membership when the product is only at 100% of its best for eight months of the year? Drastic decisions can't be simply made for this due to the impact on current membership structures, so golf clubs need to think about more than just the 'course' and think about what the 'club' offers. Once we hit the periods where the golf 'product' may not be at its optimum level, how is the 'club' given greater priority, what else could be offered? Could the Club Pro offer group coaching or free coaching incentives or even reciprocals with a nearby course that may be quiet but may still be open?

"There should be a nine month membership as my game gets worse in the winter."

"If a club could offer me a six month April - September membership I would be happy to pay them slightly more than 50% of a full membership. I think golf clubs are missing out on a huge business opportunity - my friends and I aren't the only golfers who don't play in bad weather and winter months. It's a sunshine game!"

Attitudes & Antiquated Structures

Quite simply you can't please everyone and with golf being a sport for all this may be something that could never be fully addressed. How do you offer an environment and complete product to such a wide range and diverse demographic of the population. Does a 20-year-old golfer want the same as a golfer in their 70s? Ultimately this comes down to respect and social attitudes and it is great to see so much change in this area during the past few years, but from the comments below there is still work to be done.

"Pace of play needs to be addressed - seems to be getting worse rather than better. Seems to be two extremes on course at moment. Either slow play and having to wait every hole or people firing balls up behind you and you end up rushing shots."

"Tried a local club membership for 3 months and found it to be to elitist and cliquey for my taste. I paid a full year's membership and was then told I could only play one of the two courses and only at certain times. Very quickly asked for my money back and we play different courses as and when we can."

"Being proposed and seconded when you know no one at the club. Joining fee on top of membership."

"Reducing the inherent snobbery some still apply to being members of the club and joining fees."

"I have been a member of cricket and hockey clubs and loved the friendship and camaraderie, but golf clubs make me cringe. As soon as i see the captain's reserved parking spaces i want to leave. As for jackets with badges and ties, don't get me started."

Every industry is looking ahead to what a post-COVID-19 environment will look like and plans are being made accordingly, how golf clubs adjust to that new reality is a challenge, but it could be translated into a positive if opportunities are grasped. Transforming unattached golfers into members is a key objective for the game to thrive into the future.

Related Content

Main Reasons Why Golfers Join Clubs

6 Things Your Golf Club Must Do in 2020

What Golf Needs to Change in the 2020s

What do you think? post your thoughts and feedback on the Golfshake Forum: https://forum.golfshake.com/

Tags: Survey Memberships industry insider Green Fees Golf Clubs daily picks covid 19

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