Clearly an essential focus for golf clubs this year is how to hold onto loyal members and the new tranche that arrived on the back of Covid-19. Consider the different age groups, the different types of members, the different reasons for joining a club… and wanting to belong to a club. You will never please all of the people all of the time but assessing the best ways to keep your members is still a long and winding road of appealing not only to the largest sections of your membership, but also the most important.
There are ideas floating around already as the year of Covid-19 is put behind us. There has never been a year like 2020, so this is undoubtedly an opportunity to try fresh approaches to dealing with, talking to and retaining members. Here are some of the obvious ones:
- A Membership Discount?
Looked at in the simplest way you could offer membership discounts after the limited play of 2020. However, that doesn’t work in its most basic form as you are reducing the club’s essential income and endangering the quality of the course condition. You also have to raise that membership fee again in the future. Your loyal members will appreciate the difficult times that everyone has gone through and will stick by you because they understand the importance of what a golf club offers.
- In With The New
Much has been made of the cohorts of new members and how they will abandon golf as soon as their preferred sport/s reopen. That may be true (depending on when those sports open fully) but anyone who takes up golf and falls in love with it will be playing it for many years to come. It is one of the greatest advantages of this sport.
You may lose 50 percent of those new members when it comes to renewals but always leave the door open because you never know when they will return. At some clubs over 100 new members joined, which means that even with that loss you’ll still have over 50 new members. If you haven’t already done it – and there are many clubs that have – sort out long-term members who could take a new member under their wing, introduce them to the club and how things operate. You should also take the opportunity to ask them if there are areas where the club could improve itself. Fresh eyes could bring fresh ideas.
- In With The Old
Existing members obviously deserve considerable thanks for sticking with you in 2020. How that is implemented across golf clubs will be interesting to see. How do you reward members without spending too much? One option is free green fees for another club (do a swap with a neighbour). This has proved popular over the years for those who pay their annual sub promptly. You could have a complimentary summer barbecue, although numbers might require some clever thinking for that to work.
Some clubs have already provided an extended membership of 13 or 14 months for the price of 12. This also has the benefit of moving your annual sub cycle from the dark and depressing days of January, when golf is not high on the list of many members, to March, when members are getting excited by the prospect of the spring and summer. You might even get your subs paid more promptly. You could offer a complimentary 25 percent addition on every member’s bar and restaurant allowance, give everyone a free lunch or a free pint, or make all coffee free for 2021.
- Sign of the times
One final and simple option is to write a letter to your members. Not an email or newsletter. Make it personal. Have it signed by a real person (e.g. one of your Captains). Show members you care. And explain in that letter what difficulties you faced during 2020 (and into 2021) and what you were able to achieve thanks to the loyalty of your members. Sometimes a ‘thank you’ is all it takes. You could always throw in a 15 percent off voucher for the Pro Shop or restaurant.
From small to big there are no wrong answers here… except the one where you choose to do nothing at all. If your members have stood by you then you need to find some way to acknowledge and reward them. That builds loyalty and makes for a stronger club.