For golf clubs to survive and prosper in the future, we have to overcome the current supply and demand problem.
There are only two solutions this problem. We either close golf courses until the remaining ones all have enough golfers or we create more golfers to fill up the courses that we have.
None of us want the first option to become a reality, so that leaves us with creating new golfers. With the correct vision and action plan, we can start to really grow the game once again. By retaining golf courses, we already have the infrastructure in place to manage the future growth of the game.
Through the nineties and early ‘noughties’ as golf boomed, there were golf courses sprouting up all over the place as developers and land owners tried to cash in on the game.
The rate of this expansion was rapid and as the participation numbers began to level out and then started to drop around a decade or so ago, we have been left with an over supply of golf courses and not enough golfers to fill these memberships.
Over the past few years, all I keep seeing are golf courses battling it out with each other for the membership base that is currently in their geographical area. The problem with this approach is that in many areas, there are just not enough golf members to go around – the pie is just not big enough to feed everyone. This can leave us in a situation where nobody gets the share that they need to survive and prosper.
The pie has shrunk and we need to make it bigger
Traditionally, (well certainly here in Scotland), most people have been introduced to the game of golf via a parent or close family member. There have not been the schemes in place to introduce new adults to the game from non-golfing backgrounds.
I say adults, because there are lots of great junior golf programs in place and these are going to be key to the long term future of the game, but for many clubs they need a more immediate fix.
The reason I am highlighting adult golfers is because it’s these guys who are going to help a golf club grow in the short to mid term and get back on to a sure financial footing. We need to get more people playing golf, of an age who will be in a position to pay a full membership fee within a year or two taking up the game.
So, what is stopping more adults from taking up the game?
For me it’s simple, there are simply not enough golf clubs operating schemes to help introduce new adult golfers to the game (They are all still trying to win the membership battle!).
We need to look at club membership from a different angle and start creating our own members rather trying to steal them from another club. There are some great schemes starting to show real results like ‘Get into Golf’, a UK wide initiative. This way you create new members who will be loyal to your club as you have invested the time and effort in getting them started at this great game.
Finding potential new golfers is not that difficult, there are lots of places to find them. You can try making contact with the areas large employers or taking stands at non golf related public shows and gatherings. This is where you will find non golfers.
You can also try High impact sports clubs like football and rugby, where participation often drops off at mid 30’s once the body can’t take any more punishment.
There are lot’s of targets out there, you just have to put a little thought into it.
Golf Club’s need to offer an affordable starter membership category that can be accessed for just a year or two, allowing a ‘newbie’ golfer to get to grips with the game, before upgrading to full membership.
Build up a stock of rental clubs that your beginners can use on the course. These don’t need to be fancy, just ask your existing members to donate their old unused sets (golfers always have these!). Most new players will not want the burden of having to invest in all the gear before they even know if they will like the game.
Your Golf Pro is a major asset
Engage your clubs golf pro in the whole process. Any new members that you create at the golf club, will be potential new customers for his pro shop and coaching business. I have found that ‘Get into Golf’ memberships are most successful when some level of coaching is included, but this has to be affordable and is best done as a group.
Make your Golf Club friendly and approachable
As a golfer, you may be unaware that the general non-golfing public see golf clubs as unwelcoming places where badly dressed old men spend their time, with rules and regulations from the dark ages.
As a golfer, you also know that to be completely untrue (well for most clubs anyway!)
Golf clubs have to shake off the old stereotype and promote themselves as a place where you and your family would want to go, play some sport and spend your free time.
If someone walked into your golf club tomorrow and enquired about taking up golf with the outlook to join your club, would they be able to walk away with all the information and an action plan to do so?