With golf clubs closed or running on reduced access for members for a number of months in 2020, there has been significant pressure on club management committees and course operators to compensate members for their inability to access the facilities at their home course. Many clubs were proactive in this regard early in the year but most have now realised that they need to do something in this regard and have acted in recent weeks and months.
Stephen Nelson from Carr Golf, who manage a number of courses in Ireland, explains the challenges faced by Irish clubs in this regard due to COVID-19:
“Subscription extensions and partial refund requests to compensate for time lost due to closures were more common from members in privately owned clubs. Unlike gym chains, the golf club operating model makes it a difficult and sometimes unworkable solution. During closure, staff wages and suppliers still needed paying, implementing COVID protocols was costly and the cash simply isn’t there for many clubs to refund. Delaying vital 2021 subscriptions cashflow will be unworkable due to purchase patterns of course maintenance inputs. Aside from the issue of precedent, what happens if courses are forced to close for periods again in 2021? The strategy could cause irreparable long-term damage.
“With rolling 12-month memberships at our six managed clubs, memberships expire throughout the year so we decided to reward loyal members sticking with the clubs with 13 months for 12 at a frozen rate, 5-10% cheaper than the rate that new members joining in 2021 will pay. Member Thank You events will also be hosted in Spring 2021 once the weather warms and social restrictions ease.”
Many clubs have provided compensation in different ways, with some happy to offer financial reductions or refunds while others, unable to do so, have become more creative. For example, New Forest has offered a €100 reduction on 2021 membership for renewing members while Dromoland Castle offered a 10% discount for 2021. Galway Bay has reduced its 2020 fees by 20% for renewals and Mount Juliet has offered 2 months off its renewal fee. CastleHume are offering membership credits for 2020 closures while Arklow has gone above and beyond expectations by offering 3-months free membership to renewing members with Palmerstown House also crediting members with 3 months’ worth of fees.
As much as players are feeling short-changed in 2020, clubs will be feeling even more pressure to do something for members. Sadly, it’s not always feasible, particularly for those in financial difficulty so if your club isn’t in a position to do something, rest assured, they won’t be the only ones.