FRIENDSHIP
Social engagement and friendship are key in attracting & retaining golfers.
People Bind People
Community building is key in engaging golfers to the facility. No matter if the customer has a membership or is a green fee player, he/she should feel safe, welcome and appreciated in order to return to the facility. At the end of the day it is not the activity that binds people, its people who bind people.
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Why are Friendship, Community and Tribe so important in engaging and retaining golfers? Why do we need to understand the basic needs of humans before we can begin to successfully attract them to our golf facilities?

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So how do we put all this theory into practice? Below we have suggested a number of tools and models to engage your customers and creative an environment of loyalty & tribe.

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What examples can I learn from and what can I do to create tribal community engagement at my facility?

Why?

Why are Friendship, Community and Tribe so important in engaging golfers?

In the increasingly complex society of 2020, golfers want to combine many activities. Playing golf is not primarily about sport, it is about spending quality time with people with whom you share more than a passion for the same sport.

In an era where time is money and where loyalty is on the decline, time spent on leisure activities should yield multiple benefits. Feeling part of a tribe or community will be a strong motivator to be committed and to be loyal. In the end people are not loyal to an activity or venue: people are loyal to people.

Retention = Challenge

friendship icon
Golf’s biggest challenge is the retention of new golfers. Throughout Europe the new golfers are the first ones to leave the game. Often after only one or two years. The new golfers are our future. We better keep them on board. Why are we not able to make them fall in love with golf like we are.

Why is that? The most common answered reasons in surveys are “Time and Money”. However, people still spend time and money on their hobbies. What makes them choose one over the other? Many researches that look a bit deeper point in the same direction: The main reason is that newcomers are not engaged enough into the golf community. Social is the biggest challenge in golf.

The BIG Opportunity
The golf industry seems to have a big opportunity to make new comers really part of the community of golfers by not only focussing on the player abilities of the newcomer, but also on the social connection of that new player within the golf community. If you connect him/her with a group of golfers who become friends: they are very likely to stay. Make them a friend and they will stay.

“Clubs need to provide the right welcoming environment. We need to make people feel welcome in golf clubs – and we need to do better at that.”

Hamish Grey CEO, Scottish Golfing Union

Tribal acceptance of newcomers

''People need people---Their Tribe, unique, welded together through experience, amplified through stories told “round the campfire”. Some primitive part of our brains craves people, herd, the gang experience, the unique, the different, the exclusionary. People hunger for The Magic great tribes provide---a powerful intangible something that transforms the routine into the exceptional and the ordinary into the profound.''

Gregg Patterson General Manager, The Beach Club
The strength of a tribe is its weakness at the same time. The stronger the tribe the more likely people will stay but also the more difficult it is to become part of this group. The community of golfers does not easily accept newcomers. “Existing members do not want more golfers, because it is not in their interest” is an often heard quote.

Probably it is the tribe not accepting newcomers. A good procedure should be in place where newcomers are made comfortable with the existing golfers and the other way around. Etiquette are an excellent tool to help the newcomers feel more part: they want to know how the “rules” of the group are to feel more at home.

The existing group wants to make sure newcomers understand those “rules” also. So a big focus on managing the connection between newcomers and the existing community should be in place to keep the future golfers on board.

The Trend

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

Individualisation, Tribe & Community

Ever since the 1960’s the western world has made room for individualisation, a development in which individuals are increasingly offered the option to construct their own lives. We have created a society in which market segmentation is becoming increasingly difficult as we are now divided into highly individual segments of one that are not as predictable as before.

On the contrary: with the use of information and telecommunication technology, it has become quite easy for individuals to bond and to share. The same happens in the off line society where people are beginning to re-discover the importance and power of sharing and communicating, resulting in a series of local activities and initiatives

community
The ongoing trend of globalisation appears to have offered room to a counter development in which people rediscover the value of their local community, culture and heritage.

Underpinning

The foundation of this trend is rooted in basic human needs. The good old pyramid of Maslows Hierarchy of needs helps us understand it better

Maslow's Hierarchy of Golf Needs

The good old pyramid of Maslow helps us understand it better. We need “Love/belonging” first, before we need “achievement”. Probably this also counts for golf. People first need the social context before they feel a need for achievement or a good round of golf. Which can be translated as: social aspects form the base in engaging golfers to the game. But also in the “esteem” part there are a lot of social aspects that golf can bring.

maslows
Love/belonging: tribe, be member of golf community, feel at home in that community. Esteem: self-esteem/respect of others and by others: when you have a group of good friends people want to feel confident in the group. Getting respect by the others is important. achievement: you are part of that successful group, but also your achievement in golf gives a good feeling.

E.g. If you played a good round of golf you want to share the achievement you’re proud of. You want to share this with your friends and family, the ones you have a good relationship with. Without these people having this achievement is a lot less fun.

''When people are financially invested they want to return. When people are emotionally invested they want to contribute''

Simon Sinek

Research

Below we have listed several researches that underpin the importance of social aspects in engaging golfers to the game: focussing on the social side & most importantly identify the WHY factor.


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    How?

    So how do we put all this theory into practice? Below we have suggested a number of tools and models to engage your customers and creative an environment of loyalty & tribe.

    Tribal Marketing

    Tribal marketing is a marketing strategy that attempts to create social groups or communities that are centered around a product or service. The credo of tribal marketing is that postmodern people are looking for products and services that not only enable them to be freer, but can also link them to others, to a community, to a tribe. (MACH, John 2005)

    What are tribes?

    ”A tribe is a group with deep interpersonal connections build through shared experiences, rituals and traditions. (Druker, 2011)”

    There are two types of tribes, an old (Tribe 1.0) and a new (tribe 2.0) version. (Mulier Instituut, 2014)

    In the change process from Tribe 1.0 to Tribe 2.0 there is a decreased meaning of origin and an increased meaning of life choices. We choose our own identity. The church is a typical Tripe 1.0 environment, a role the golf facilities can take over with the new Tribe 2.0 environment. Golf is the new church!

    TRIBE 1.0

    • Shared language, age, values and norms
    • Traditional local communities

    TRIBE 2.0

    • Shared interests
    • Accession by ‘life choice’
    • We belong to many tribes
    • The spaces we occupy are not necessarily physical

    Why do people join tribes?

    Humans have a basic need to connect with others, share experiences and develop relationships
    Involvement in a tribe is an expression of self-identity.

    Belonging to a tribe can be very helpful in guiding one through life, as well as increasing happiness (Druker, 2011)

    The next step to look is on consumer level. Consumers form tribes around a product or service. A so called ‘consumer tribe’. “Group of people emotionally connected by similar consumption values and usage, who use the social “linking value” of products and services to create a community and express identity” (ibid)

    Benefits of marketing to tribes

    • Social influences play a crucial role in an individual’s consumption decisions
    • In addition to sharing moral values and opinions, consumer tribes also share consumption preferences
    • This provides opportunity for marketer to access a specific market segment and to create lasting loyalty through establishing both an emotional connection as well as a rational reason for commitment

    Building a bonded loyalty through a firm’s support of the tribe:

    Tool II

    The ideal social space for the tribe to meet and interact and socialise is a modern clubhouse with a warm welcoming feel. It provides the golfers with an open and social place to meet and socialise.
    The importance of such a location to enjoy before and/or after playing golf, or even without playing, is enormous. It is all about being social and the clubhouse is key in providing this social space. Instead of intimidating old style clubhouses where newcomers will not feel at home: ity of golfers.  

    Tool II

    • Getting to know the “chiefs” within the tribe can be achieved by meeting the president of the club. To know the president personally helps people feeling part of the big community.
    • When the newcomer feels at ease and chooses for a membership, a next step could be to invite that person for a committee function. People will feel part of the organization and will also become a strong advocate of the association.
    • Committees have 2 functions, organizing and engaging, where the last one is probably the most important one.

    Tool IV

    It is of great importance that the association provide the tribes with sufficient accommodation for activity. In everything that is organised there must be a group/social aspect. Some examples:
    • Golf matches for the beginner groups in team setup: scrambles, teams of two, possibly with golf buddies also joining. 9 holes with price giving and speeches: get into the tribal etiquette of the group: we play together and we celebrate after the game with a price giving with a speech of the winner. All to make sure the newcomers will feel part of the group/tribe and understand how that group works.
    • Tech: Open thee sheets: members can see what other members will be playing
    • Tech: Smartphone applications such as golf Golf Gamebook (social interaction platforms)
    • Tech: make sure beginner groups are connected within each other by means like whatsapp to also tribe outside golf
    • Junior league -> see best practices/initiatives (http://www.pgajrleaguegolf.com/)

    Tool I

    People want to know what is going on and how it works in a tribe (information) and want to meet up with others.
    • Beginner groups: biggest opportunity to make the beginner group a tribe, get them to know each other, make sure they are connected, invest time in social: drinking coffee together with the group, let them tell about themselves, make sure they are connected also outside the golf lessons: whatsapp group. This little tribe will make the newcomers at home in the bigger golf community.
    • In an association it is all about engagement. The best way to engage somebody to the bigger tribe is to give the person the opportunity to play golf with a golf buddy who is part of the bigger tribe. This golf buddy can make the newcomer at ease with the etiquette of golf, the morality of the group and gives the newcomer a direct line of connection with the existing community of golfers.

    Communication Channels

    Golf course owners and managers expect ‘social media’ to become communication channel number one. Email moves from place 2 to place 5. Together this is a strong indication that golf course owners expect the effective communication moves from “spamming” to “engaging” by active communication between golf course and members and amongst members themselves. This is in line with the tribal thinking and the general trend. Communication between business and customer by e-mail used to be very important

    Top 5 communication channels in VISION 2020 Questioner

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    With the technology development we see new communication directions. From spamming to engaging. More and more do people want to be part of the products and services, part of the experience. This means that brands do not only have tangible products but give an online live to these products as well. This creates community and engagement for a product.

    Customer to business communication contains feedback about the products and services, an excellent way to get customer information to update your products and services.

    Read more

    The different social media channels offer a lot of ways to build a well-rounded communication program. By using social media a broader audience can be reached, people will become online advocates. This is customer to customer communication. With a good social media campaign an online community will be formed, everyone can decide for themselves whether to be part of this community or not.

    For golf this is a perfect way to implement technology at the facility. These communities can become an extension of the clubhouse. People like to share their experiences with their peers and this is huge opportunity for golf to make the transition from a product offering industry to an experience offering industry. With a bigger group of customers, the amount of possible connections is also growing which increases again the group of possible customers.


    What?

    What examples can I learn from and what can I do to create tribal community engagement at my facility?

    Best Practices and Industry Initiatives

    Below we have selected a number of forward thinking best practices and initiatives across the golf and sports industry. These examples are creative ways in which clubs and organisations have created a sense of tribe and community to engage and retain their members.


    Share your best practices and initiatives with us, click here to submit.

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      Technology Tools

      With technology playing a major role in the development of the golf industry we have selected a number of new online platforms and applications available in the golf industry that can be used as both tools to manage and build social interaction and communities at golf facilities.


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        Video Resources

        Additional Reading

        Tribal Magic – Gregg Patterson, General Manager The Beach Club
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        The Opportunity to Grow Golf: Youth Participation (Syngenta 2014)

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