Manager warns of death of non-flexible clubs

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick February 23, 2012 10:29

The manager of Lincoln Golf Club has warned that golf clubs will die unless they start offering flexible membership packages to their customers.

Craig Innes, a former Golf Club Managers’ Association ‘Manager of the Year’ finalist, stated that members of clubs will continue to convert to ‘nomadic’ pay-as-you-play golfers if they are only offered limited subscription packages such as either full or five-day memberships, even if they can pay in instalments. The key, he stated, is to offer golfers packages tailored to their requirements, which involves flexible schemes in which golfers pay a relatively small amount to benefit from being a member of a club and then pay reduced green fees every time they play the course.

“People are queuing up to leave golf clubs, not join them,” he said.

“There is a need to offer different products to suit different lifestyles and today’s golfer is fearful for their job security as well as being value-for-money-orientated and technology-savvy. So flexibility is key.”

Craig accepted that golf club committees and treasurers fear flexible schemes, and many members dislike them, but added that they are proven to work and can secure a golf club’s future.

He cited China Fleet Golf & Country Club in Cornwall which, more than 10 years ago, surveyed former members to find that many had left the club because they were playing too few rounds of golf to justify the annual subscription of £600.

The club, therefore, in 2002 introduced a flexible membership scheme in which members pay £200 per year plus £8 green fees in the summer and £5 in winter.

The scheme attracted 200 new members in its first 18 months. Ten years on it consists of 300 members who have an average age of 45. The average age of members of the club’s traditional scheme, which also has 300 members, is 59.

“I really do feel most private members’ clubs within the next 10 years will be operating on a flexible membership scheme and unfortunately the best thing that can happen if clubs do not, is if some start going to the wall,” stated Craig.

“I do not wish to see any organisation fail, however all the trends are there and failure is a guaranteed way that will kick-start the thinking process to change, and the product to evolve, for those clubs that are left.

“The average age of full playing members at a club I managed at was 60, and only 5.5 per cent of members were under 40. This is not healthy.”

Craig’s comments support research by golf blogging website of 32 clubs in London, in which the average annual membership subscription is £1,189 and the average standard weekend green fee is £41.82, meaning that members need to play at their club at least 28 times a year at weekends for it to be better value for money than being a visitor, and that excludes joining fee costs. For some clubs in the UK, members have to play more than 40 times per year – almost once a week – for it to be more cost effective than paying green fees.

“There are also so many other ways for individuals to dispose of their income. To try and justify one large subscription payment for a few rounds per year does not add up,” said Craig.

“Most private members’ clubs must offer a flexible membership in order to survive. We have become too expensive for a lot of people and we must take that leap of faith to accommodate our customers or we will die.”

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick February 23, 2012 10:29
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  1. Tim February 26, 15:46

    Using the China Fleet Club as an example is hardly balanced research.

    Although the point is valid, clubs need to start running as a business and not a sports club. Making a profit and running a sports club are not mutually exclusive.
    Consider these points:
    1. Its cheaper for a club to retain a member than recruit a new one
    2. Every golf club has a limit for members, what other forms of revenue have they explored?
    3. Making savings does not have to mean making cuts
    Time for an overhaul!

    Reply to this comment
  2. John March 27, 05:36

    Attract more ‘nomadic’ pay as you play golfers? This is what 600+ TAX PAYING pay as you play golf courses are there for. If ‘PRIVATE’ members clubs are going to target these golfers then how can they keep their tax free status? Every other article in GCM is about clubs acting more commercially. Is it right that golf is on the verge of becoming a tax free sport?

    Reply to this comment
  3. Andrew Smith March 2, 18:14

    As the supposed average rounds per annum of a member is 35 the figures don’t work. I’m not advocating golf has to be more expensive but that sustaining a golf course for 300 members paying an annual subscription is a great benefit for each of the 300 members and isn’t representative of cost either!

    Reply to this comment
  4. Stephen February 24, 15:59

    Its interesting how many clubs are saying this, and yet dont offer flexability in their memberships.

    Reply to this comment
  5. (@AnthonyHastePGA) (@AnthonyHastePGA) February 24, 12:04

    Golf clubs need to be flexible and available to all. » Manager warns of death of non-flexible clubs

    Reply to this comment
  6. Paul (@4everadevil) February 23, 22:53

    @mickycantona flexible memberships the future of golf? This club manager thinks clubs will die if they dont introduce

    Reply to this comment
  7. Craig Innes February 23, 16:48

    Rich, many thanks for your feedback. However there is no irony intended. This is a call to arms for every Private Members golf club that is experiencing a shortfall in membership income and a different approach is required to improve the situation. Best wishes CI.

    Reply to this comment
  8. Rich February 23, 14:41

    Must be an ironic article as Lincoln Golf club don’t offer flexible membership options.

    Reply to this comment
  9. BBO Golf Partnership (@BBOGP) February 23, 12:45

    » Manager warns of death of non-flexible clubs

    Reply to this comment
  10. Flexible Friend (@FlexibleFriend1) February 23, 11:52

    Golf courses in England getting on the flexible membership bus – it is needed!

    Reply to this comment
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