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One Third of Golf Clubs Must Improve Their Communication Skills

By: | Mon 18 Dec 2023

I have spent my entire adult life working as a journalist. For me, communication is everything.

And I have to say that it came as no surprise that one of the issues that emerged from our recent membership survey is that UK golf clubs still have much to learn when it comes to contact with their members.

In this day and age, when so many of us use social media on a daily basis, there really is no excuse for poor or non-existent communication.

Nobody should be taken aback when they are told that their annual subscription is being increased, but 30% of existing members who responded to our survey told us that they did not receive a reason for that increase. And that really is not good enough.

And while 43% of members are asked for feedback from clubs, an alarming 32% of you told us that you have never been asked.

Marketing to Visitors & Members

Visitors are a vital revenue stream for many clubs but 35% of members believe that their golf club does not market itself well to visitors.

Here are just some of your views on this subject:

"A modern club needs to be open and welcoming to all visitors. While members are important there is always a turnover and today's visitors are tomorrow's members."

"Be welcoming! First impressions last. Whether on the phone or in person spend the time to ensure that visitors' needs are being met. Be flexible with catering and tee times. I have played at some clubs where the members are rude to visitors and the clubhouse staff appear to be reluctant to be nice to people they don't recognise. I didn't go back."

"Make them feel welcome, offer advice for the course and interact with them. Technically, they are temporary members for the day so make them feel like they are. We have had visitors join the club after a visit with a society‚”

These are all good points. Every single one of us has visited a golf club that seems to have gone out its way to make us feel unwelcome. If they want visitors they really should do more.

It seems that clubs are generally getting some things right, with 90% of members surveyed stating that they regularly received communication from their golf club. The overwhelming majority (97%) communicated via email, 17% had communication as well via Facebook and 10-15% had additional communication via Text/WhatsApp.

Where Things Could Improve

Further analysis of the members joining a golf club in the last 18 months also highlighted areas where golf clubs could improve.  

When asked - do you feel they went the extra mile to make you feel welcome - 52% stated yes, 29% sort of and 19% no.  

Of those joining a golf club in the past 18 months, 82% said they visited the club website, with those surveyed rating the website 3.43 out of 5.    

Some golf clubs still fail to fully grasp the importance of websites but if you want to attract new visitors and members then it must surely be a priority and seen as a way to showcase the golf club and golf course.

Here are some of your views on this subject:

“Clubs should be active on social media, have a good website, a positive welcome making visitors feel like VIPs. Being aware of their branding. Use all social media forums to attract all age groups.”

"Make sure website is up to date, especially at this time of year when heavy rain or fog could close course. Pro shop should also be kept in loop.” 

"Better websites, more transparent web booking of tee times, hiring of demo clubs if a friend needs to play.”

"Good website with club policies published. Plans for the future and reciprocal arrangements. A flyover with comments on how to play holes.”

"Make it easy to book over the internet, people don't want the hassle of having to phone to check availability.”

"Websites need to show more course photos and also highlight any social events to attract new members. I always look at websites before visiting somewhere new but don't always find enough photos so look on other sites for that. I use Golfshake reviews to see what people think as well.”

Windermere Golf Club

How to Embrace New Members

My recent experience when trying to find a club to join in the Norwich area let me speechless. I couldn’t believe how bad some of the websites are. May of them were clunky, out of date, old-fashioned and a complete and utter turn-off. 

A total of 52% of you communicate with your golf club via email with the communication they received rated 3.86 out of 5.  But some of the comments highlighted that more can be done.

"Invite new members in for a chat, or an interview. Give them as much information as possible and encourage them to get involved with the club as early as possible."

"Introductory packages for new members detailing who's who at the club, competitions, roll-up schedules. Round with a member option for prospective members. Range or lesson with a pro credits when they sign up."

Importance of Asking For Feedback

Most of us have left a golf club at some time in our lives and the vast majority of you leaving a club were never asked why. My job has taken me all over the country and I can confirm that no club has ever asked me why I left. 

This is summed up by the following committee member comment:

"My experience is that those who leave usually have a valid reason - health, moving location, etc, but others simply search for the best perceived offer - cheapest golf and have no commitment to a club."

However, it takes nothing to ask, send a leaving questionnaire or canvas feedback. Again summed up by this comment:

"I had a forced gap in my membership due to a few reasons and health. The club I was then at offered me a lower rate of membership or deferred payment. If they had not asked me why I was leaving they would not have been able to help me.”

Unfortunately this is rare. While things have improved, communication is an area where clubs could do better. Much better.

The Perfect Example to Follow

Perhaps some clubs should get in touch with Windermere Golf Club which, according to The Golf Business, has attracted an incredible 100 new members in 2023, taking its total membership to 580. Just five years ago it had only 427 members.

A management restructure in 2017 saw the start of a resurgence. Club manager, Martin Fishwick, said: “We’ve focused on simplifying the joining process, making it more welcoming and affordable. Examples of initiatives we’ve implemented are ensuring that all new members feel part of our club straight away.

“All new members are welcomed to the club by our team and club captains and given all the information they need to get playing straight away.

“Members are also able to spread the cost of membership over 12 months interest-free rather than being faced with an annual ‘lump sum’ payment. We’ve gained a reputation for being an enjoyable, friendly and welcoming golf club in recent times.

“Our golf course is always in excellent condition, has world-class views of the Lake District, and we’ve focused on making it enjoyable to play. So much so that we were ranked as the ninth most enjoyable course to play in England by Golf World in July."

“We offer show rounds / tours of our club to anyone that is thinking of becoming a member so we can introduce ourselves and answer any questions that people may have before committing to membership.”

This is how it should be done.

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

Tags: Survey industry insider GOLFERS Golf daily picks

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