“There is no movement in the golf swing so difficult that it cannot be made even more difficult by careful study and diligent practice.” – Thomas Mulligan
By Ian Hardie
It’s no secret that participation in the game of golf worldwide has been declining for some years now, in almost every country that has traditionally played golf
Golf clubs and courses that were once flourishing and filled with golfers, have been closing at an alarming rate, many more are about to be forced to close or are struggling so badly financially
That it’s only a matter of time before they too will simply become a part of history
Many people around the world are busy offering their opinion as to why this is happening and most of them are able to come up with a bunch of extremely valid reasons as to what is causing this decline
However, while knowing about why this is happening would seem like a useful thing to do
All of these opinions don’t really seem to be helping much
This is the same problem that some golfers have by the way, they spend all of their time searching for all the things they are supposedly ‘doing wrong’ in their golf game, so that they ‘know what they are doing wrong’ but very little if any time is spent actually looking for things that work well
As a result they continue to struggle along playing bad golf – which is shame, when it’s abundantly clear to most people that building on the things that are going well
Is pretty much the secret to improving your golf game or anything for that matter
Anyway, back to the decline in the game of golf that I have been talking about, instead of adding my many, varied and sometimes downright odd opinions to the list of things that explain why this has been happening
I’d like to share with you something that works extremely well in stemming the decline by retaining golf club members in the game
As without these people, the game would be declining even quicker than it is now
Now before I do, I need to point out that what I’m about talk to you about will come as no surprise to the people who perform this role around the world – me being one of them
It’s something that we have all known for a very long time and no doubt, the people who trained us to do what we do – knew it as well
A significant chunk of the rest of our industry though, either don’t seem to realise just how effective this role is at a golf club or they are too focused on short term numbers to understand just how much of a long term impact the people that perform this role can have in retaining golf club members
To illustrate this I’m going to share with you a couple of small parts of a study that I came across the other day (if anyone reading this knows where I can get hold of the whole study please let me know) that was done by the PGA of America, which is titled
“The value of quality golf coaching to golf membership retention”
I’m sure that the title alone will be giving you a clue as to what I’m suggesting here
Anyway, the study was apparently carried out with 6,600 private club golfers in South Texas with a multitude of questions covering many aspects of their golf club experiences
Here are the most important highlights:
The study showed 100% member retention among those golfers who engaged in a golf coaching program!
That’s right – all of the golfers who had coaching of some sort at the golf club remained as members of the golf club!
Just take a minute to think about that one – it’s fairly important
The golfers who took golf lessons played 20% more golf than golfers who didn’t
That’s not so surprising as they will be more engaged in the game but still interesting
The golfers who took golf lessons tended to be more affluent and spend more money on food and beverage, golf equipment, golf events and tournaments, cart hire and golf incidentals than the golfers who didn’t take lessons
Now, I’m no accountant but that sounds like extra revenue (or at least retaining the same level) for the golf clubs!
The professional teachers were able to cultivate a better culture by driving deeper connections among the golfers / members, ultimately increasing their retention and overall satisfaction with the golf club
After all, what would you rather have at your golf club – an experienced golf teacher who is passionate about the game of golf and happy to talk to you about your game or a cost-saving, scorecard dispensing kiosk?
The golfers who took golf lessons tended to bring more guests and refer more new members to the golf club than the golfers who didn’t take lessons
Let me think, a golfer that has golf lessons is more likely to bring in extra green fees from guests and more new members for the golf club – that seems like a good thing, doesn’t it?
To be honest, having been involved in the golf industry for most of the past 30 years – none of those survey results came as a surprise to me, and I’m sure that those of you reading this around the world who fill a similar club pro role will be nodding your head in agreement
The challenge that the entire golf industry faces though is an attitude of cost cutting and rationalisation due to the declining participation in order to keep things going for as long as possible
A battle that will be lost without the club pro on the front line
Providing the advice, wisdom and encouragement to the existing members of all golf clubs – to keep them engaged in the game for as long as possible
So, what’s a simple way to retain golf club members?
If your golf club still has a club professional, encouraging your existing club members to have golf lessons with your club professional would appear to be the most effective thing that can be done to enable your golf club to not only retain those existing members but also it will in the long term, increase both the revenue to your club as well as the membership
If your golf club doesn’t have one currently, you might be well advised to do anything possible to make sure there is an effective golf professional available at your golf club that can teach the game of golf to your members
Before your golf club becomes nothing more than a part of history