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Are Flexible Memberships The Future For Golf Clubs

By: | Mon 19 Feb 2024

The traditional model of golf club membership has retained its place at the heart of the game and this particularly significant cohort of the golfing population remains in robust health despite the challenges of the pandemic and subsequent cost of living crisis.

However, by its very nature, this long-established setup is somewhat archaic. It remains a lifeblood to institutions across the country, but there is a nagging question about whether it's the most suitable way to conduct business as we look towards the latter half of the third decade in the 21st century.

When deploying our annual surveys, we are keen to gather the thoughts of golfers just to see how views may be evolving, and it's no surprise that for many out there, a standard 12-month membership just isn't desirable or even feasible.

Flexibility is a common phrase that we routinely hear. It's what many prospective members wish to see more of, but what exactly do they mean and what form could such adaptable arrangements take?

We already know that for some golfers - the cost of a membership is simply too high. But it's generally related to time pressures as well. For those who work and have to balance family demands, it's an often insurmountable challenge to play enough rounds to justify the price of a membership fee.

For those who have the freedom to play regularly, the standard membership can offer tremendous value and benefits, which is why it's such a popular model for older and retired golfers.

But what can be done to make being the member of a golf club a viable option for all age groups?

The Demand For Flexibility

Flexible Golf Memberships

(Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography)

Like most other areas of life, people these days value choice and flexibility. Increasingly this mindset is moving into golf. Whereas in the past, golfers would happily pay for a 12-month, seven-day membership, a growing number are questioning why they should when they don't play during the winter or can only participate at weekends or in evenings.

There are clubs who have tried to adapt their subscription offerings to different demands - and often successfully - but it's clear that there are still establishments that could look to cater more to those golfers who simply don't match up with a traditional model. Here is what some of you have had to say on the subject:

"There needs to be some more flexibility in membership terms such as a five-day membership or a points system so you don’t lose out when the course is closed."

"Clubs need to be more flexible. One day per week membership, winter only membership, or post-4pm membership, to consider those who can't afford the luxury of full membership."

"More flexible packages, such as countdowns where you get playing credits, busier times cost you more credits, etc. Limited number of very cheap or free guest passes to enable guests to take more prospective members out."

"There need to be more flexible memberships. Some ‘weekend only’ or summer season memberships or short term learner rates so newbies can see if they will stick with the game or not. It’s a hefty commitment if you don’t know if you’ll be any good. You won’t lose the die-hard members but offer some financial movement for those that can’t afford seven-day membership. Those members who require buggies and can’t play when the conditions are too bad in winter should have a financial break. Lots of options.”

"A wider range of memberships for those who do not want or need to play during the busy early morning during the week or at weekends. Many golf course are deserted after lunch and this must present an opportunity for additional revenue."

Points Based Memberships

Alternatives to the traditional model of memberships have sprung up in recent years in the form of points based systems like that offered by PlayMoreGolf. It allows golfers to play at one course or at any of the scheme’s partner venues, meaning that golfers have the opportunity to enjoy different layouts, effectively bridging the divide between traditional members and nomadic players.

"I have a points based membership, which is extremely good value and allows me to play when and if I like, especially in winter, but also gives me the flexibility to play other courses."

How About Multiple Courses?

The idea of a points based system could offer a template - of sorts - to everyday golf clubs. While members love their course and are passionate about the relationships they have built up there, many golfers would welcome the chance to be able to mix things up a little and play different courses throughout the season. How that would be established is another issue - but golfers would relish seeing an extension of reciprocal arrangements into something more formal.

"The traditional membership model is inflexible. Happy to play golf two or three times a week but not all at the same course. Why don't clubs investigate groupings where, although you have a home course, you can play other courses in the group?"

"Maybe partner up with other local clubs to improve/increase reciprocal arrangements. Where second-club membership is offered, it is invariably costly - often more than 50% cost of a regular membership. If this were reduced to, say, 25% then many more would take advantage - with maybe a limit of one round per week availability at the second club?"

"I've always thought that memberships that can cover more than one golf club, with reduced rates for participants, are a great way forward. I know that such schemes do exist, but I think a wider range of these would be useful, especially where people still want to experience more than one course when they play. A course we play regularly in Tuscany offers 10 tickets for the course (18 holes) for half the price of the normal green fee when bought in advance. These can then be used over what seems to be an unlimited time frame, and means that we play the course far more than other similar courses in the area. Marketing, and making the course more accessible, has to be a positive step for attracting both new members and casual golfers."


Traditional golf club memberships have been remarkably resilient - which proves that they still have an essential place in the game. But it's also clear that as societal trends continue to change during the coming years and decades, adaptability needs to be found where possible to ensure that our beloved venues stay relevant with emerging and future generations of golfers.

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

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