More golf clubs offering incentives to members to join or renew during the pandemic

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir April 11, 2020 12:05

A number of golf clubs are now offering incentives to members to renew their subscriptions during the lockdown – particularly as early April is the traditional renewal period for many in the UK.

One historic venue has said its annual income is 30 per cent down as only 400 people have purchased a season ticket in early April when usually twice that number buy one. And this excludes any loss in green fee income.

Recently we reported on clubs such as Haydock Park, which has said it will pay the interest on direct debit subscriptions for all members who renew their annual policy by April 15, Tiverton Golf Club, which has said anyone who buys membership now will find that the year won’t kick in until their first tee shot and Brora Golf Club, which has brought in various initiatives – such as green fees redeemable in the future and new life membership categories, which brought in £70,000 in one week.

Now, Fortrose & Rosemarkie Golf Club is offering an overseas membership starting from June at the cost of just £175, which has already attracted interest.

Club secretary Mike MacDonald told The Scotsman: “I got two emails last night from groups looking to join from overseas, which is a start.” Bookings are also now being taken for 2021 and he added: “We are trying to work ahead at a time when many clubs are standing still.”

In addition, the world’s fifth oldest golf club is also considering launching an overseas membership category – and has set up a GoFundMe page as only 50 per cent of its 800 season ticket holders have so far renewed their annual subscription, which has been due to since the beginning of this month.

This equates to a loss of 30 per cent of its annual income – excluding revenue losses from visitors and secondary expenditure.

Montrose Golf Links has seen golf played at the venue since 1562, and it has staged final qualifying for the Open in the past, as well as EuroPro Tour professional events, the British Boys’ Championship along with other top amateur events.

“Our income is split between season-ticket holders and visitors,” head professional Jason Boyd told the paper. “Obviously visitor income has been affected for obvious reasons, although, in fairness, I’d say 99 per cent of advance bookings are deferring until later in the year or 2021.

“We are also looking to launch an international membership category. No other club can claim to be the world’s fifth oldest and this gives us a unique appeal for international golfers.

“Season tickets were due on April 1, so lockdown has hit us particularly hard in that respect. We are relying on the loyalty of our season ticket holders to renew. Our season ticket holders are very important to our business.

“I get it that they can’t play due to the course being closed, but every course is in the same predicament. Our team continues to work hard to improve our golf courses and we will be ready and excited to welcome everyone back when we return to normal in the future.”

“From the smallest club to the largest club, we are all in the same position. Golf has been played here since 1562 – this is a great attraction to golfers from all over the world and our golf courses are full of character. Scottish links at its best.

“We’ve got Carnoustie, Monifieth and Panmure and a host of other courses close by, which is fantastic for our visitors. The Angus area is blessed with fantastic courses. Long may we be able to say ‘continue the journey, enjoy our history and make more memories’.”

The GoFundMe page has so far generated more than £500.

The Scotsman has also featured Kingsbarns Golf Links, where all the revenue comes from visitors and around 2,000 golfers had been due to play in April, a figure that almost doubles for each of the summer months, with most golfers paying three figure sums for a green fee.

“It is mind boggling,” Alan Hogg, the chief executive, said.

“We are preparing ourselves for the worst-case scenario while hoping for the best. We have gone with a best-case scenario of being able to start up again in July, though that, of course, is dependent on world travel being up and running again. Then we have worked on saying what it would then look like in August, September and so forth.

“Before you know it, we could be looking at a scenario where all Kingsbarns have this year are costs because we’ve had no income coming in at all. In our business model, where we’ve had all the advantages over the previous years profiting in the boom of tourism to Scotland, you are now looking at us possibly taking the complete hit.

“We are preparing ourselves for a complete loss of the 2020 season and, for us, it could be a zero revenue year. With the success we’ve had, that amounts to a hell of a lot of money going missing in the coffers.

“Fortunately, we have been a successful organisation. We have been stable over the last 20 years and, in our ownership structure, with just one guy, our owner Art Dunkley, at the helm, he has been extremely reassuring to us, saying: ‘look guys, we can get through this, even in the worst-case scenario’.

“That gives the core team confidence and reassurance, although two thirds of our core team have been furloughed. As you could imagine, our people who work food and beverage, meet and greet, the golf shop etc are not needed at the moment due to the closure. We have a team of four working on essential maintenance, but that means two thirds are furloughed.

“It is kind of doom and gloom at the moment, really, and, from our perspective, we can’t bear to think about the supply chain. The tour operators, for example, the taxi drivers in and around St Andrews, the caddies. It does not bear thinking about how many people and families this whole thing is affecting.

“We had a number of things planned, from first tee giveaways to other little things for customers [for the club’s 20th anniversary celebrations]. We are going to put that on hold and celebrate our 20th next year, it just so happens it will be 2021. The party is not being cancelled; it is just being put on hold.”

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir April 11, 2020 12:05
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1 Comment

  1. Wayne April 11, 19:23

    A terrific links course Alistair. Montrose has had many challenges including erosion and COVID-19. Much history there…

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