Thinking outside the (tee) box

In February, you may recall that we suggested that there may be too many golf courses in Australia, and that the industry was ripe for consolidation. Well, last month, we learned of multiple courses across the country that are currently affected by this phenomenon. Corowa Golf Club (NSW) is in dire need of a financial injection; Richmond Golf Club (NSW) reportedly went into voluntary administration; Burleigh Palms Golf Course (Qld) announced it was considering selling; Halls Creek Golf Club (WA) is struggling to stay viable, and Amstel Golf Club (Vic) announced that they would likely begin management of Settlers Run.

As stated, mergers, acquisitions and closings are elements of any business. So this is all part and parcel of a cycle that will doubtless continue for a while.

At the heart of the matter, some believe, is the inability (or lack of desire) of some clubs to embrace a new way of thinking as they try to attract new members (or retain existing ones).

So let’s look at a few things your club can do to generate more interest by prospective members:

1: Embrace technology. Simple fact: the vast majority of prospective members (and many of your current members) are on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, online golf forums and the like. These sites are free, easy and all provide a two-way communication avenue between you and members/prospects.  If you don’t use these sites, you are way behind your competitors.  Adopt apps like SmartCart to get your Food & Beverage up to par. Update your website with daily comp results. Look into online tee-time bookings and packages from sites like iseekgolf or Golfnut (but not Scoopon), to fill your slow days. Remember: Technology is your ally. Clubs like Eastern Golf Club in Melbourne do all of these things extremely well. Your club should too.

2: Embrace Social Clubs and Open Days: believe it or not, these guys (and ladies) are not always the disruptive hooligans that you may think. They are bona fide golfers with money to spend, respect for the course and a real opportunity of joining in the future.  And they represent an enormous segment of our golfing public. So when they play at your course, welcome them with a smile – show them the friendly side of your club. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

3: Embrace Juniors and Families. This is a biggie. Embracing juniors is a lot different than simply letting juniors join. Get them involved. Give them significant discounts to play/join. Host junior days, or Father/Mother and Son/Daughter junior tournaments. Have, say, a 6-hole tournament with tees half-way down the fairways. Get a Caddy program started at your club –if a junior can pull a buggy for 9 holes, it will teach them a lot about the game, not to mention the life lessons that go with it. Growing the game helps everyone.

4: Embrace alternate membership models, pricings and reciprocal arrangements. Unless you are a top-echelon course, the high-priced entry fees and long waiting lists to play only one course are the most common gripe/obstacle for many golfers. Many people claim it is outdated.  Explore things like twilight memberships, seasonal memberships or anything else to lower the cost of entry. Just make sure it’s financially feasible and doesn’t upset current members.  And get a solid list of reciprocal courses in your stable. Melbourne’s Yarra River and Sandbelt courses have great reciprocal deals to let members play in the other member courses in their area.  Give golfers more than one course to play, and they’ll stay happy.

5: Embrace the media.  Have you ever noticed that some clubs get regular media attention in magazines & newspapers? This is not by accident – they work at it. Sending a weekly/monthly email to an editor/writer – with specials, news, photos, events and the like – will do wonders for getting your club into the spotlight. It doesn’t have to be a proper press release. Just a friendly email with useful information is often enough. And don’t forget to also advertise your club once in a while. Ever wonder why so many clubs place regular ads in Inside Golf month after month? It’s because they are getting good ROI. (And no, my publisher did NOT ask me to write that – it’s just a simple truth. Ask any advertiser in our magazine.)

These are just a few things that your club can do. By thinking outside of the (tee) box, you can help ensure the long-term health of your club.

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