Golf clubs have seen 100+ membership applications in the last week

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir May 23, 2020 07:09

The membership ‘surge’ since the reopening of golf courses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland appears to have gotten even stronger in the last few days – and many of the new members are aged 30 to 50.

For example, Withington Golf Club in Manchester has seen about 100 new membership applications since lockdown restrictions were lifted, and Kirkistown Castle Golf Club in Northern Ireland is processing nearly 80 new members from a little over 48 hours, according to its general manager, Tracey McDowell.

With many people off work due to coronavirus, but golf now an allowable activity, the demand to play the game has been huge, and the surge has been partly caused by some clubs prioritising members rather than selling green fees.

Some clubs have also reported that walkers who used their course during the lockdown have joined.

As we reported recently, the pace of play has rapidly increased in the last few days, and, with many clubs concerned about an ageing membership profile, some are reporting that the average age of new members is much younger.

“We are now up to 100 new members since the lockdown restrictions were removed,” said Tony Longden, marketing director of Withington Golf Club.

“When the restrictions were lifted we were ready with a promotion which we marketed ourselves,” (for a total cost of just £50).

Barry Anderson, managing director of Mannings Heath Golf and Wine Estate in Sussex, says that the new members are looking for rounds that don’t take as long as four hours or longer to play.

Barry Anderson

He said that most of the people who have joined in the last few days have been aged 30 to 50 years old, whereas before the pandemic most club players were retired, and many in their 70s.

The new players generally want to tee off at around 6:30am or 4:30pm, to fit in a game around their working day, he explained.

“From feedback, this could be the start of a new type of engagement with golf after the lockdown ends; many members are planning to work from home, for two or three days a week.

“They have proved to themselves that they can take time out for a healthy leisure pursuit in the working week and still get their work done.

“We are getting dozens of new enquiries each day. The number of members at Mannings Heath halved just before the lockdown; we are on target to replace and surpass that number very quickly.

“With gyms, swimming pools and other indoor places to exercise still closed and no date for opening, many people are choosing golf.”

Burghill Valley Golf Club in Herefordshire is currently open to members only.

“You can’t get a peak tee time for weeks and everybody is excited to get playing,” said Jo Edgley, marketing and accounts manager.

“We have had a strong intake of members which is more than usual and we’re hoping to get people back into the game.

“We’ve had well over 20 new members in the last two weeks. I think for those who have never played before because of the lifting of the guidelines they are now giving it a go.

“Also we have those who are maybe coming back into golf and not played for some time.

“I think people are desperate to get out of the house and do something different.

“If you are a bit rusty it’s perfect for isolation as you could be picking the ball out of the opposite end of the fairway to your playing partner.

“It’s more dangerous walking around Morrisons than playing golf.”

Mannings Heath

The CEO of Almarose Hotels & Resorts, which runs nine 18-hole courses, Richard Moore, added: “We estimate golfers at our venues in the past week have walked in the region of 30 million yards and burnt nearly seven million calories. Just imagine those numbers multiplied across the whole country and the health benefits involved!”

Tony Longden says the hard work building up followers on social media in recent years at Withington has paid off in the last two weeks.

“We have always promoted the club extensively on social media. Through the hard work of a few on our marketing committee we built up over 4,000 followers. We produce content that gets good engagement, all home made but professional in content and delivery.

“Like many clubs we had a challenging late summer and winter with the volume of water so the club decided to invest in the course, building new drains and water hazards to improve water resilience and playability.

“We have promoted these to our member database of anyone that has played through our website, social media and email. When the restrictions were lifted we were ready with a promotion which we marketed ourselves – total cost £50 pinned tweet.

Withington Golf Club

“We are blessed to have Brian Eyre, director of PLS, a printing and design company as a member of our marketing committee alongside myself (I have a senior role in insurance product management and marketing) at Santander, Mike Eardley retire senior marketeer with Unilever and Nick Furness, great on website maximising the tools ClubV1 [from Club Systems] give us. We use ClubV1 extensively for email.

“We now have a team of new member buddies set up to engage and welcome (virtually) and also help get handicaps so we keep these new members.”

Diss Golf Club in Norfolk general manager Steven Peet also believes this could be a game-changer for the golf industry.

“It has felt a little bit like a race to the bottom with golf clubs during the last five or six years,” he said.

“But people will pay to play the game if there is real value in it for them.

“Right now, people cannot play at clubs unless they are members, and we have seen people join up over the last week who have previously played independently.

“Memberships are the bedrock of a club’s income, so it is down to clubs to make it more attractive and beneficial for players.

“This is a big opportunity for clubs to change the way they operate, and be confident in their product.

“Clubs have a big value, particularly from a health point of view – both physically and mentally. That sense has only been heightened by recent events.

“Everyone here has followed the procedures and you can tell they are happy that the course is back open. It has been challenging as well, but we have dedicated staff. Currently it is just myself, my assistant and a couple of green keepers, which is keeping us busy. But all in all it could not have gone much better than it has so far.”

 

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir May 23, 2020 07:09
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8 Comments

  1. Declan M May 30, 11:05

    If your playing golf in twos and the time taken is reduced for a round then people will return to the game. But if 4 plus hours is to be the normal time for 18 holes we will lose the newcomers as quickly as they returned to the game. Retention of these new members is critical to the future of the game.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Steve M May 25, 12:01

    Great news for golf and for the industry

    Reply to this comment
  3. Peter H May 24, 17:57

    Great news for the industry…. if clubs what to know how to maintain these gains talk to guy Griffiths !

    Reply to this comment
  4. Tony B May 24, 12:57

    We’ve had 35 new members at Perranporth Golf Club which is great news for the future of the club.

    Reply to this comment
  5. Michael JK May 24, 10:11

    That is great news Alistair. We are seeing that same response in many of the clubs we work with. This pandemic have caused customers to rethink where they feel safest to eat, socialize, workout, recreate, swim, etc. That is great news for the club business. The key will be to make sure the clubs satisfy that need for a safe environment. Make sure you are asking your new members thoughtful questioning as they begin their journey at you club. You want to know very quickly if you are meeting their needs. We can help with our survey tool.

    Reply to this comment
  6. James M May 24, 06:00

    Agree! Today’s digital technology and new software applications are very impressive. Golf is everyone’s game! Today’s news is an early indication of golf’s future growth potential … Awesome!

    Reply to this comment
  7. Monneypenny May 23, 12:02

    Couldn’t get onto my home course as a visitor so joined XXXXXX

    Some benefits are:
    – You hold an official handicap
    – guests pay the same cheap price as you
    – you are recognised member

    I am going out this weekend for £10 where normal green fees are £30.

    If you are looking to join email me at XXXXXXX . If I refer you we both get 10 points each (worth over £30).

    Reply to this comment
    • Boo Boo May 24, 08:22

      Watching the demise of youngsters leaving the game is very sad.
      A lot of low handicap golfers in their teens have stopped playing as University beckons and they move away from home to further education.
      The financial burden of University and not being able to play in Club Competition to maintain and improve their handicap takes them out of the game.
      Hopefully they come back in later years…

      Reply to this comment
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