Alistair Dunsmuir: Why the De Vere Club is the future of golf
These days it’s rare for a week to go by without me coming across a story that exemplifies the sign of the times: something that simply wouldn’t have happened before the triple whammy of the over-supply of golf courses in the last 20 years, the economic downturn of the last six years and the strange weather that’s managed to be too dry, too wet and too cold at various points over the last three years.
Recently, one that stood out was that The Belfry, host of the Ryder Cup on four occasions, has joined the De Vere Club.
If you’re not aware of the De Vere Club, it is, in my opinion, the future of golf, in that it is both a reciprocal and flexible membership scheme. For £295 golfers are given 100 points, which can be redeemed against a number of items, in particular green fees at any one of 19 golf courses at 12 different golf venues all over the UK. For example, that equates to four summer weekday rounds on The Brabazon at The Belfry in the West Midlands or 20 winter weekday rounds at Oulton Hall in Leeds.
This development comes as England Golf has revealed that between 2006 and 2012 English golf clubs collectively lost more than 100,000 members – about 12 per cent of the total. It is now thought that there are about four times as many ‘nomads’ – golfers that pay and play – than there are members of clubs.
These figures shouldn’t be surprising – in economically difficult times most people review their expenditure, and it may prove to be better value for money to pay, say, £400 per year to play at several different courses once every couple of weeks between spring and autumn, than to pay £800 to be a member of one club for 12 months.
The De Vere Club has been a huge hit – since it was launched in 2010 13,000 people have joined it, proving both that flexible deals that allow subscribers to play a variety of courses is something that golfers want and something that can give clubs a degree of financial control that they would otherwise lose when a member converts to become a nomadic golfer.
Could it work for you if your facility teamed up with other golf venues and offered your own version of the De Vere Club?