FLEXIBILITY - Society goes flex, how does golf respond?
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Flexible memberships will live side by side with the full membership Diversification in memberships will bind more people in the game. Explore why Personalisation & flexibility is key in engaging people to the golf facility.
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How are we going to find solutions that attracts the new player and minimises the damage in the revenue of our current members?
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So what can we do with all this research? What examples can I learn from and what can I do to make golf more attractive and appealing to each generation.
Why?

Flexible memberships will live side by side with the full membership. Diversification in memberships will bind more people in the game. Explore why personalisation & flexibility is key in engaging people to the golf facility.

The flexibility facts....

With loyalty on the decline and the speed of change increasing, the consumer of 2020 want to keep their options open. Flexibility is the keyword and the number of “strings attached” to any activity should ideally be limited to “none”.

The willingness to buy Memberships will decline and will focus on those activities that are so unique that they add value in many aspects.

For all other activities, the premium will be on flexibility. This development puts a bomb under existing business models for golf and will require a new approach.

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Time to change....

After roughly 400 years the time has come for golf to change the two product strategy: from just selling unlimited playing in membership and one round green fee to a variation of products. Different phases in life and different life styles need different products.
The 65 year old retired dentist is more likely to pick up a full membership to enjoy his social live at the club on a weekly basis than the 25 year old career starter that might be looking for more event-golf like he is used to with other activities.

'‘The golf industry is under pressure to increase golf participation. As owners and operators we need to be looking at all available tools to increase this and flexible membership should be a strategy for all clubs to utilise.’'

Colin Mayes CEO, Burhill Golf & Leisure

The one and only solution for all?

No solution is a one size fits all. There will always be a market place for the good old collective model where all members have the one option of unlimited playing rights, depending on the location of the course.

onsize
If the product and offering including the social factor in a certain market can be strong enough, the collective model can still work very well. But certainly not for all golf courses where the market is demand driven.

"Golf in Asia is relatively new compared to the US and UK so we have a different attitude to the game and we can adapt more quickly. Simply, we see it as inclusive rather than exclusive and we strive to make it a sport for all. By adding facilities other than golf to create integrated resorts, we are far removed from the traditional country club image, but we never compromise on service standards"

Tenniel Chu Vice Chairman, Mission Hills China

The Trend

This trend resulted as one of the top trends out of EGCOA questionnaire and development sessions.

Instantisation and Loyalty

Web

Previous generations lived in a world of lifetime choices. The combination of rapid change and the growing life expectancy is changing the definition of loyalty. New generations have a completely different definition of loyalty and do not view it as a lifelong commitment.

With technology allowing us to satisfy needs in a split second, the need for instant solutions is growing. Consumers are not willing to wait unnecessary. This process of “ instantisation” is putting a lot of pressure on companies but is also changing social structure of society.

Underpinning

Here are the hard facts that times are changing…

VISION 2020 Survey

Golf course owners expect the number of full memberships to decline and instead more green fees and modern memberships will be sold:

moder memberships
*Modern membership structures stand for, non-collective memberships, engineered on the needs and wants of specific target groups.

Research

So whats all the fuss with flex. Below we list some of the cold hard facts from the 2013 report from Sports Marketing Survey Inc.

Sports marketing surveys

What are the opportunities of flexible, non-collective membership structures?

“Flexibility in membership offerings has been key to success. Essentially clubs have recognised that one package no longer fits all and that the member who plays occasionally is still a member worth having.

They also recognise that the member who is keen to play, but cannot make the financial commitment they might have made in the past and may make again in the future, is still worth holding on to even if this needs to be achieved by asking for a more modest financial contribution from them than would previously have been the case

Accommodating these people achieves some revenue that would otherwise be lost. It also serves to retain an interest in and aptitude for golf and, crucially, feelings of goodwill and loyalty towards the club which, it is expected, the club will feel the full benefits of in later years when the golfer has more time at their disposal and is more comfortable I meeting a greater financial requirement.” (Payne, R. and Stone, M. 2013)
How?

The good old collective model of a 1.000 members paying a 1.000 euro’s per year does not seem to attract most of the new golfers. Waiting lists to become member are now replaced by waiting lists to get out of the club. Participation and entry fees are gone. How are we going to find solutions that attracts the new player and minimizes the damage in the revenue of our current members?

Flexible Models

The graph below shows a possible outcome of more flexible products vs the collective model. The model shows an income of € 1 million existing of a 1.000 members paying a fee of € 1.000,- per year.

The flexible model shows some members paying more than € 1.000,- per year and other paying less, depending on the product, privileges connected to the membership.

The trick is to connect with more players than in the past. More people can have a form of membership that fits their needs, lifestyle. The total revenue should increase if the products make a good fit with the needs of the members.

Challenge & Opportunity

The challenge

Is to make sure that the total income does not decrease by going flexible. At the start it will eat into part of the existing membership. The trick is to minimize this loss. This can be done by looking at the playing patterns of the members and set the playing priviledges accordingly.

The opportunity

Is in connecting new members: for instance after 4 pm memberships for working generation X and Y. A whole range of examples can be found in the WHAT section below.

Collective Model
collective model
Flexible Model
flexible model

Possible modern memberships

Below we have listed a range of modern membership models to cater to a wide range of consumers.

Point system

A system in which the golfer buys credits and pays his/her rounds with these credits. The facility can decide how much credits a round costs at what day of the week/ time of the year. A round in the weekend might cost more credits than during the week.

If in this system the golfer gets the same social benefits as the full members, it is a good match between a full membership and pay & play. It engages the golfer to the facility with the possibility to become part of the social structure and gives the flexibility feel of a green fee player.

Negative is that it is very much rounds driven. Potentially a big revenue loss of existing members scaling down can appear when implemented.

Family Membership

One membership for the total family, this gives families the opportunity to bring their children and the other way around, if the children play the parents may be triggered to play as well.

Trial Membership

The big step into a full membership is too big for many. Let them try before they buy. Many variants have shown success, all at a friendly first year fee. the connection to the golfing community is very important. People bind people: let the newcomers bind themselves with the existing community of golfers.

A nice one is a trial membership for instance for € 200,- for 10 rounds during a year plus free participation in as many club events the player likes.

Social membership (no golf included)

A golf facility has a great social life which is an important part of the membership and keeps people buying memberships each year. But what about people that would like to have the benefits of this social life but don’t want to play golf so often or don’t want to play golf at all?

A membership that gives them all the rights as the others only without the golf or limited golf can be the answer. In this way these people will be part of the tribe and be engaged to the facility.

This can engage a new group of ‘social’ members. It will also keep a group of members than became too old to play regular golf connected to the social of the club.

The city-membership of The International is a good example. At this new, upmarket members-only club near Amsterdam, one can become a city-member and use all the facilities but not the golf course. 70% of the yearly membership fee is spendable at the bar for F&B.

Challenge is to create the social live with this group. There need to be enough city members. Lot’s of events for networking can help.

Pay & play: include 9 and multiple round cards

The Green fee model can be extended: selling 10-20 rounds in one go for an attractive fee. Selling the rounds per 9 holes make it attractive to play 9 holes, which can be the future of golf. People have much more often a 2 hour slot available than a 5 hour for 18 holes.

The pure pay and play model has a strength and weakness: strength is that the p&p course has a very welcoming atmosphere, also due to the fact there is no formal club. The weakness can be that the absence of a club minimises the social binding of the players. A structure must be in place to compensate this.

Student Membership

Students: a very nice group to keep or have at your facility. Young fun people give the place a good vibe. Opportunities back home for weekend play and during weekdays close to their university.

Interesting to offer a discounted membership. Especially for groups of students: members f student associations. Also good to gain new golfers.

Multi Course Membership

A perfect membership for people that like to explore new courses, one membership for which gives the right to play on several courses. This could be a membership to implement for a multi course owner but is also perfect as an cooperation model for golf facilities. We see different models:

  • Membership gives right on discount on greenfee other courses part of the cooperation
  • Optional: by paying an extra fee members can play for free at other local courses in the scheme
  • Collective included: a small raise in the yearly fee for all members giving them playing rights on all the courses in the cooperation.

Twilight membership

Playing rights at weekdays after 4 pm for the working golfer. Can be combined with a discount on greenfee when played at other times. Successful product to get people engaged.

Challenge is to have these members fully engage in the community of the club. Solution could be: first year of limited number of rounds in club competitions.

What?

Below are examples of golf facilities who do something different than just selling green fees and full memberships.

Flexible membership initiatives

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    Technology Tools

    A range of softwares now allow golf courses the ability to create and manage a range of flexible members packages and models. The introduction of club management softwares have made customer and member management a automated and painless task allowing operators time to focus on other key focus areas.

    teesheet
    Multi course operations now have the ability develop apps and online platforms in which members and users can manage where and when they play at their courses. This possibility also exists for golf courses in regional areas who choose to work together.

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      Video Resources

      Additional Reading

      An article by Dynamics Golf about why people might switch to a social membership.
      Read Article
      An article by Golf Club Management about the implementation of a flexible membership at Temple golf club and Lincoln golf club. Read article

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