Golf clubs in Durham report huge rise in members

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir February 22, 2016 12:06

Golf clubs in Durham have collectively seen a large increase in male members in the last year.

Analysts say the success, which bucks the national trend, has been down to several clubs improving their marketing operations and offering improved membership options to customers.

14-15 south moor IMG_0955

South Moor Golf Club’s large practice facility, which opened in 2014

The county has 44 golf clubs. While 18 of these made a net loss of male members in 2015, including one club losing nearly a third of its entire membership, 24 clubs saw a rise in male members. Two clubs, Oakleaf and Woodham, saw treble digit increases, although it is thought the figures for both clubs were skewed by the 2014 closure and then re-opening of Woodham. South Moor, which in 2014 built Europe’s largest artificial short game area to teach youngsters to play the game, saw its membership climb to 438 from 350.

In total there were 17,543 male members at Durham Golf Union courses in 2015, which was a 615 increase from the 2014 figure.

‘Having seen the previous year’s number fall by approaching treble that figure a year earlier, it is little wonder that there is a feeling of satisfaction,’ reports The Northern Echo.

‘Durham chiefs are well aware that the majority of pro shops reported slowing sales and that there is still plenty of work to do to just to retain that figure at a time when there is a growing drive to shorten up the sport – with many believing golf is crying out for a quicker version of the game.

‘There are also less seemingly willing to pay for a full seven-day membership because of work and family commitments. It is no surprise then that the clubs showing the most improved numbers are among those coming up with innovative ways to attract fresh faces, be it through membership offers or selling their product.’

The union’s annual report stated: “Following a large reduction of 1,752 in 2014, we are pleased to report a membership increase of 615 across the county for 2015. This hopefully indicated that the decline in club membership is slowing, thanks possibly to the proactive activity of many clubs in recruiting and retaining members.”

The county’s development group’s Ron Baines-Bennett said: “Recent figures would suggest that in Durham at least, the drift away from golf club membership has slowed but not stopped. It is our aim to reverse the trend but clubs must recognise the crucial part they play in making memberships more attractive, flexible and available.”

Guy Carr, chairman of the South Moor marketing committee, said: “We have set a target of doubling this rise in 2016 – it is no good standing still and resting on your laurels.

“A lot of our impetus last year came from getting the message out that our course was designed by the man who created Augusta National, Dr Alister MacKenzie.

“We have formed a marketing committee which includes our assistant head greenkeeper Neil Irvin, one of our PGA professionals, Shaun Cowell, clubhouse manager Malcolm Kay, secretary David Kitto and the club’s public relations consultant, Tim Taylor.

“People with hands-on professional expertise get their heads together before offering suggestions to the main committee. Simples!

“We met for the first time last month and all the proposals were quickly ratified by the main committee. It looks like we will keep the ball rolling on and off the course.”


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir February 22, 2016 12:06
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