Ten Steps to Ensure a Healthy Membership

September 23, 2009

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If you do NOT have a short waiting list, or at least a strong list of 50 plus people that are currently interested in club membership then you already have a problem with declining club membership, whether anyone wants to admit it or not! Golf membership sales take time to grow and close. Yet every year, you know a few more people are going to drop off your roster (Most clubs close between one in fifteen and one in twenty enquiries).

Private clubs are facing three huge challenges:

A) Continued Increase in Competition
Not only do private clubs compete with other private clubs but, increasingly, private clubs must also compete with high-end municipal or daily fee clubs. Add to that the fact that despite the slowdown in building golf courses more than 200 new clubs are in various stages of construction across the county. In addition to larger supply than demand, is the fact that more and more people are now looking at how often they play and doing the economic math instead of the social and emotional math.

B) Declining Number of Total Players in the Market
We have all seen the stats on this and it is not very encouraging. Golf participation has essentially dropped five or six percent since 2000, depending on whose numbers you believe. On the plus side, more and more people are retiring younger and will therefore have more time and money to play.

C) Ageing of the Current Golf Membership
This is something the typical private club could do something about, but because of the very nature of ‘clubs’, rarely do. Older members do not want younger members and since it is the older members that are in charge of all the committees and boards, they typically do nothing until it’s too late!!!

I had a club last year that called me after their membership had shrunk from 410 to 87 in five years and had an average member age of 75. “The Board”, the caller said, has decided, “We have a serious problem!” I wonder what clued them in. Despite the obvious problems, there are many things you can do to ensure a healthy club membership for years to come. There are still millions of people playing the great game of golf, and if you follow some uncomplicated advice, they might just choose your golf course to play at!

Ten Steps to Ensure a Healthy Membership:

1. Always be prospecting for new members, have a marketing plan in place and start it before you THINK you need it!

2. Add eye-catching junior memberships (under 40) and corporate memberships to attract younger members.

3. At the same time consider a lifetime or super-senior membership at a reduced rate to make it easier for older members, now playing less, to stay involved.

4. Expand your efforts in promoting social memberships, make them attractive. Once the social members have been interacting with people at the club and making friends, some will want to upgrade to a full membership.

5. Institute an active ambassador program; get your best members active in promoting the club.

6. Encourage members to bring guests with several, one day, member-guest events in season. (You can’t bring the same guest twice in the same year.)

7. Send your monthly newsletter to people of influence in your community including local media, property developers and leading businessmen. Keeping your golf club in front of 50 people of influence will do more good than 5,000 others.

8. Add membership info to each Monday outing gift bag.

9. Market only what you are, not what you wish to be! Focus heavily on the social, networking and emotional benefits of golf club membership, not just the quality of your golf.

10. Last and by no means least, keep the members you currently have happy. Use you website to survey them, ask for feedback and communicate, at least weekly, what is going on at your club. Poor member communications is the number one complaint at most private clubs. Get your current members to participate in more events so they are active within the club and they will have more reasons to stay a member.


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