The rise of corporate memberships

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick December 25, 2020 13:21

With many professionals working from home due to the pandemic and unable to entertain clients in city centres, several golf clubs in suburban areas have seen a sharp rise in memberships – and have introduced new corporate membership packages to meet this change in demand.

Several golf clubs this summer introduced new membership categories due to both the increased demand to play golf and to reflect the socio-economic profile of these golfers this summer.

Perhaps the most lucrative have been corporate memberships.

The Financial Times reported recently that The Wisley in Surrey saw the biggest influx of new members in the club’s history from June to September 2020. A large number of the new members had recently moved from London to the county due to the pandemic. ‘Londoners are decamping to the commuter county. With home working now widespread, members are using the course significantly more during weekdays, often entertaining clients,’ it added, with the club’s chief executive, John Glendinning, stating: “Now that they’re not going into work [in London], they are networking here.”

This shift towards professional people joining golf clubs because the game is an attractive way to carry out socially distanced networking has led to some golf clubs revamping their membership offerings.

Foxhills

“Flexible working arrangements are set to become much more common after the coronavirus pandemic, particularly for those living in and around London, with workers looking for pleasant spaces to work, meet and entertain clients,” said a spokesman for the Foxhills Collection, which operates two golf clubs in south east England, and has brought in what it calls ‘a wide range of bespoke options’ of corporate membership packages that ‘removes the need for professionals to travel into central London’.

“Both Foxhills and Farleigh golf clubs are offering flexible corporate membership packages that are perfect for remote working for those looking to swap the boardroom for the golf course in a time where outdoor, socially distanced meetings are the safest alternative to online video calls,” he added.

Another venue near to London that might have gained from business people losing the option of taking clients out to bars and restaurants in the city is The Grove in Hertfordshire. This summer it introduced a flexible membership ‘frequent player, dynamic points-based programme’ primarily aimed at professionals.

Managed via its own online portal and app, customers can use their points from one of two available packages – Hyde (800 points for £3,200 plus VAT) or Villiers (1,500 points for £6,000 plus VAT) – to pre-book golf on the Kyle Phillips-designed Championship course, at preferential rates.

Anna Darnell, director of Golf and Leisure, said: “Customers can now use our flexible points system all-year-round and have greater control of when they wish to play golf, and what savings they can make. This is our way of offering an attractive, pre-purchase package to golfers. It is also the perfect platform from which customers can plan smaller group golf outings – that may be with clients, colleagues or friends – as up to eight rounds per day can be redeemed by each customer.”

The dynamic nature of the portal means customers can choose when they redeem points, with a slightly higher value required to play during peak hours, while off-peak tee times require the use of less points.

Golfers purchasing a Hyde experience could, in theory, book up to 20 rounds of summer peak-time golf. If summer golf was played in the twilight booking period, for example, this would increase to 40 rounds. For the maximum playing time, 53 rounds would be possible if every point was used in the winter twilight period.

In addition to receiving points for green fee purchases, account holders receive additional benefits, including a complimentary playing lesson from one of the PGA professional team, a Trackman game analysis session on the range, further discounts on future golf lessons, plus savings on food and retail.

The UK’s largest golf resort operator, Almarose, also introduced a new corporate membership scheme due to coronavirus this summer.

“Professionals looking to spend more time outdoors because of the pandemic are now combining boardroom meetings with the fairways of seven of our stunning golf courses,” said a spokesman,

The group brought in ‘Fairway’ corporate membership, “ideal for golfers looking to mix business with pleasure and enjoy the fresh air of the courses, offering the chance to meet colleagues and entertain clients in a safe and enjoyable environment,” he added.

Also a points-based membership, it allows members to play up to 250 rounds a year across Belton Woods in Lincolnshire; Dunston Hall in Norwich; Oulton Hall in Leeds; Slaley Hall in Northumberland; Telford Hotel & Golf Resort in Shropshire; DoubleTree by Hilton Forest Pines Spa & Golf Resort in Brigg and DoubleTree by Hilton Glasgow Westerwood Spa & Golf Resort; from £1,565 per year.

The membership package gives golfers multiple membership cards and all the benefits of a full club membership – including the facility to hold a handicap and playing rights for club competitions – while offering discounts on food and drink, shop purchases, tuition and hotel bed & breakfast rates.

Points may be used for golf, leisure club and spa facilities, the driving range and buggy hire – all whenever and wherever the member requires, meaning it is completely flexible and can be tailored to each individual’s needs.

Group chief executive at QHotels Group, Richard Moore, said: “Not only does it give you access to seven beautiful golf courses across the country, with a 30-day priority booking window, but also is effectively bespoke to each individual. Whether you play once a week or once a month, there will be a points level to suit you. If you start playing more, topping up the points is quick and easy to do. This is a great option for professionals.”

 

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick December 25, 2020 13:21
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