golf-course

Have you become institutionalised when it comes to golf? You’ve perhaps become immune to the sight of those erratically maintained bunkers and unpredictable greens. You no longer look on with bewilderment over a near-deserted course while you queue for a tee. You’re pleasantly surprised when lunch isn’t quite as bad as you remember from last time…

You may still look back with with fondness on the day you were presented with your member’s locker key. You continue to pay your membership fee each year of course (which reminds you, it’s probably due again in January). The problem is, when clubs come up in conversation, you struggle to come up with a single positive thing to say about yours.

It needn’t be like this. Here are some reasons why 2015 might be the time for a change…

The familiar faces are no longer around

The post-2008 downturn certainly took its toll – on membership numbers and more fundamentally on the very existence of many courses. We’ve seen recessions before however, and golf has always bounced back. Is it different this time though? Despite a more encouraging economic picture, amateur players seem slow to come back to their clubs – with The Independent reporting that membership in England saw a 20% reduction from just under 900,000 in 2004 to around 700,000 in 2013.

All of this has led to a certain degree of soul searching in the world of golf. There are successful clubs out there and these, according to Golf England, are “flexible, friendly and…offer low-cost ways to try the game”. If your usual clubhouse is deserted, it could be a sign that somewhere else nearby is doing a much better job of giving members what they really want.

Take-up at your corporate golf days is no longer what it was

Even if they’re not exactly committed golfers, surely your staff and clients are not going to turn down a freebie? If invitations to corporate golf days go unanswered or are politely declined, there’s always the possibility that your client profile has changed – in which case it might be a case of back to the drawing board with your corporate hospitality strategy. Otherwise – and assuming you’re not boring your clients to their wits end with marketing spiel on the fairway, the fault could be with the location. Is there enough at your current club to pique the interest of fair weather social golfers?

There’s a one-size-fits-all approach to fees

“Not as often as I’d like”. For as long as anyone can remember, this has been the standard answer to the question, “How often do you play?” Despite the challenges faced by the industry, there remains a (thankfully small) minority of clubs that still stick to extremely rigid and limited membership options. Institutions with legendary status and a waiting list to match are of course in a league of their own here. For your common-or-garden club however, you’re entitled to expect the committee to at least recognise the possibility that you have commitments other than golf. Taking a long hard look at how many rounds you played in 2014 in the context of your annual outlay should reveal whether your current club is worth it.

Children are barely tolerated

If the groundsman has a tendency to look upon youngsters on his greens with more or less the same attitude usually reserved for stray Labradors, it’s another strong sign your club is out of touch. The norm in 2015 should be a strong junior scene – with risk assessments and golf course insurance to match. This involves not just competitive junior events and specialist coaching, but also more informal and open ways to get kids involved.

Whether it be work or leisure, we more or less take it for granted that those offering a service will at least attempt to offer us value for money. On this front, there’s a strong suggestion that some golf clubs have been getting away with offering rather too little for far too long. Now might be the ideal time to consider whether your club is actually meeting your needs.