Sandy Jones: Clubs need to focus on golf

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir April 18, 2013 11:14

The chief executive of the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) has warned golf clubs against offering non-golf services that could raise income.

Several golf clubs, such as Wentworth, have responded to the industry trend of diminishing membership income over the last few years by diversifying – providing services such as weddings, gyms and accommodation, in order to increase revenues.

However, Sandy Jones, one of the most powerful people in the golf industry, has said that golf venues need to focus on golf provision if they are to improve their finances.

“There was a spell when every golf club thought they should have a squash court,” he said.

“But where are those squash courts now? They are indoor driving ranges.

“Let’s focus on what we do – golf – not diversification.”

Jones was speaking at the Golf Business and Industry Convention (GolfBIC), at the Marriott Forest of Arden, which looked at revenue-generating schemes for golf clubs.

Colin Jenkins, chair of the Organisation of Golf & Range Operators (OGRO), added that adventure golf, such as the ‘Pirate Island’ at Abbey Hill Golf Centre, is successful at bringing new people into golf venues and adding value.

“The returns on adventure golf are astronomical – that’s new revenue not available anywhere else in golf,” he said.

“If you look at diversity, putting is the simplest game to play. We are not giving enough people the opportunity to putt. It’s an inexpensive activity and it is fabulous fun for everyone, from cradle to grave.”

However, not every industry leader was in agreement with Jones. For example, Mike Tinkey, of the National Golf Course Owners Association of America, said: “Non-golf revenue has been a saviour of clubs in the United States. Food and beverage in particular has brought different people into golf venues.”

Gregg Patterson, general manager of The Beach Club, Santa Monica, California, also said that golf clubs must improve their marketing to women, and offer more than simply golf.

“People are looking for relationships and community in a club,” he said. “Just having a great golf course isn’t enough, it doesn’t distinguish you.

“And research shows women are more active than men, but only 17 per cent of golf rounds played in the UK are by women. Women are the growth market for golf.”


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir April 18, 2013 11:14
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  1. Golfprotrgc October 10, 17:20

    As usual Sandy Jones giving an opinion on issues. The man needs to focus on what he is supposidely good at as Chief Executive of the PGA. He has no clue what clubs go through as he is always on a jolly on the revenue generated by PGA MEMBERS. The man is a joke and the association he runs does not care about its members as the hike in PGA subs again this year shows.

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  2. trentparkgolf April 24, 14:17

    No self respecting proprietor of a golf club has ever paid any attention to what his Golf Pro thinks about how to run his business. Certainly now is not the time to be listening to dinosaurs like Jones

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  3. Ian Hamilton April 19, 09:18

    Sandy Jones, as ever, completely right. Golf clubs need to do what they’re good at.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Lou Sewale April 19, 06:20

    I completely agree with Sandy. Too many golf clubs think they can make a quick buck out of something they know nothing about. They need to focus on their core business model: golf!

    Reply to this comment
  5. Matthew Orwin April 18, 19:33

    I particularly like the irony associated with the location of where he said it – the Forest of Arden! Did you open your eyes at any point during your visit Sandy?

    I mean, whilst walking from your hotel room to the conference centre, maybe whilst passing the gym, spa, swimming pool or bar & grill restaurant, did it not occur to you that your pending pontifications on what golf clubs should be concentrating on may just be a little bonkers?!

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  6. Karl Hayler April 18, 19:25

    No two clubs are the same – what’s works at one may not work at another! Adaptability is important as you cannot survive purely on golf course revenue. The club that operates with vision will succeed over the all too many clubs that struggle to forward plan and show little or no vision.
    The key is to keep re-inventing what your selling. Be different, don’t offer the norm, different is good as long as you have substance behind your vision.
    How many country clubs in the States rely purely on golf course revenue? They have diversified and adapted to market changes. Appreciate not all UK clubs want country club status but not all UK golfers just want golf, they want a club that has an identity and can offer greater choices!

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  7. Adrian Stiff April 18, 17:44

    It is not a one size fits all so I dont wholy agree with that advice though he may have been quoted a tad out of context. Some golf clubs can earn good money from their food and beverage and parties, weddings and celebrations can be great extra earnings, utilising the clubhouse long after the golfers have gone home but it wont work everywhere and there will be plenty of situations where you can lose money promoting resturants and fine dining. Equally, clubs should realise the main reason why golfers join a golf club and that is to just play golf and not be suprised that 65% of your members have virtually zero interest in the clubhouse and eating and drinking. £3.50 for a pint of beer is the main reason why pubs are avoided when you can buy a pint in a can from the supermarket for 50p.

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  8. Golf Repro Ltd April 18, 17:39

    Has Sandy Jones been misquoted ?
    If not, it’s a completely ridiculous opinion that he has ;
    a) Recession and the recent winters have decimated income at Golf Clubs and in Pro Shops – if Club’s don’t find additional income streams then either membership has to go up (which will see membership numbers reduce further) or clubs will have to cut back on areas such as maintenance or at worse, close down.
    b) I wonder what the Marriott Hotel chain thought of his comments, they’re not exactly “just a golf club”, they have a rather large hotel on their golf courses Mr Jones !!!!!

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  9. Miklos Breitner April 18, 15:12

    Probably, the good, old hedgehog concept should be used? Let’s find out on personal and golf course level what we can do best in the world + what drives your economic engine. Intentionally I left out that we should be passionate about what we are doing…I assume we are passionate about golf.

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