Has the shine come off flexible memberships?

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir April 16, 2018 11:48

A new survey has found that the number of golf clubs offering flexible memberships has fallen sharply following years of record growth.

Flexible memberships involve golfers paying a relatively small amount to be a member of a club, and then they pay reduced or free green fees every time they play a round. They can more than halve the traditional cost of one-lump-sum-for-unlimited-golf for golfers who only want to play their course a few times a year, and the issue has been one of the biggest trends in golf in the last decade.

Just one in ten golf clubs offered a flexible membership policy in 2007; the figure was two in five by 2017 – a fourfold increase in 10 years.

 

 

However, a new survey by Hillier Hopkins LLP has found the percentage of private members’ golf clubs that offer the membership fell from 39 per cent to 30 in just the last year.

“The number has fallen by nine percentage points back to the 2015 level of 30 per cent,” said a spokesman.

“Deals include fees from £195 to £600, benefits such as reduced round costs, credits and points schemes, four-day memberships and easy payment plans.”

It’s not clear why such a significant number of golf clubs have turned their backs on flexible memberships, but in 2013, Peter Townson, director of Surrey Downs Golf Club, warned that the drive towards the policy could be a race to the bottom.

“There’s a bit too much replication of ideas rather than new thinking when it comes to golf membership,” he said. “If we all go down the low sub / discounted green fee / points route there’s a danger that all we do is eat away at our margins and end up struggling. It’s happened to some extent with the 2-for-1 green fee deals that we all claim to hate, yet too many offer, and there’s a danger that we get stuck in a discounting culture that is so prevalent in many leisure settings.  That’s great for golfers now but not so great for golf clubs that have significant fixed costs.”

Several golf clubs that brought in flexible memberships in recent years have said they saw growth as a result of the policy, such as Crowborough Beacon Golf ClubGolf At Goodwood and Haywards Heath Golf Club.

 

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir April 16, 2018 11:48
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5 Comments

  1. Abbie April 16, 17:07

    It would be good to know the size of the sample? England Golf Club Questionnaire results, based on c.600 clubs suggested that 34% of clubs were offering flexible membership, which was also a key area of growth.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Tim April 17, 09:20

    It’s not real commercial commonsense to reduce the offer and water down probably a clubs main income stream.
    If you have a database of members who play weekly in the summer and not in the winter (20 rounds if your lucky) and membership is £800. How does does a club become encouraged to offer one at say play 15 times for £350. You won’t lose a member but just downgrade him and lose income.

    The point is what’s on offer to make the proper membership offer look unbeatable, Or maybe design Winter or Specific Day Membership for when it’s traditionally quieter at member clubs because the Nomadics are at the local corporate pay n play for a Tenner.

    These schemes as well as 2fore1 greenfees and the lack only erodes your brand and encourages bottom feeders who are only after a bargain before going onto the next cheapo deal. As well as giving part of the club profit to the promoting company.

    Reply to this comment
    • Philmac April 19, 15:09

      I agree, hopefully clubs are realising that there is no money to be made using this format, Wychwood Park advertises play more golf every day. This only tells me that Wychwood is desperate

      Reply to this comment
  3. Andrew April 19, 13:34

    My very basic knowledge of economics tells me that where there is an over supply of a product (in this case, approx. 1,900 18 hole golf courses in England) alongside rapidly reducing demand for the 18 hole version of the game, product value/pricing decreases rapidly. When you add the ever increasing costs of operating an 18 hole golf facility on an average of 150 acres, financial stress results rather quickly.

    A flexible membership offering creates a consumer perception of a low price point, which devalues the product regardless of the examples many will hear about getting more income from “some” flexible members than full members.

    The golf industry should now admit that England’s golfing infrastructure (in fact, much of the UK’s) is under considerable financial stress and rapid change is needed to:

    A) provide options for golf clubs to avoid bankruptcy/closure, etc.
    B) provide a varied golfing infrastructure that creates new golfers.

    If any golf businesses/committees want to know how, I might be able to help. I will be happy to chat to discuss options. Send me a message if interested. (LinkedIn: Andrew Lloyd-Skinner; Director of Melior Golf)

    Reply to this comment
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