Clubs that have adopted flexible membership schemes are seeing huge growth
Two golf clubs that have adopted a flexible membership scheme are reporting large rates of growth in members at a time when the majority of UK golf clubs are experiencing losses.
Flexible memberships, also known as golf credits, associated memberships and pay as you play memberships, typically involve golfers paying a discounted annual subscription to be a member of the club, and then reduced or free green fees for a certain number of rounds they play.
This seems to be popular with golfers who do not play enough golf to make a typical annual subscription to a golf club cost effective – one of the most cited reasons why memberships at clubs have dropped so dramatically in the last decade. Several clubs have introduced such a scheme in recent years.
Golf At Goodwood was one of the first, and it has seen 250 people join the club in the last 12 months, while junior membership has also grown ‘significantly’, said a spokeswoman.
“At a time when many clubs in the United Kingdom and Ireland are concerned about dwindling numbers and revenue, Golf At Goodwood has reported an impressive increase in credit membership to almost 2,000,” she added.
“Moreover, Golf At Goodwood has maintained a healthy and notable 90 percent retention rate of members over the past 12 months.”
Lord March, the owner of the Goodwood Estate, explained: “Members purchase a modest annual subscription and a choice of three credit bundles to suit their lifestyle. It is a popular system that has already been studied and followed by other clubs throughout the country keen to replicate the Goodwood success story”.
Meanwhile, Haywards Heath Golf Club introduced a scheme in which its members receive 365 golf credits in return for a subscription payment of £390, which is less than a third of the price of a full annual subscription. Credits are then deducted according to the time of day and day of the week rounds of golf are played (365 gives 12 rounds of golf at peak times during the weekend or nearly 18 on midweek afternoons) and if they are left over they can be carried forward to the following year, or extra credits can be topped up if necessary.
Secretary Graham White said the scheme has been responsible for bringing in 118 new members in the last year.
“For many years golf clubs across the UK have suffered from declining memberships and rising subscriptions,” he said.
“We took took the brave decision in an attempt to buck the trend by making golf membership affordable for those who can only play occasionally – the vast majority of golfers, last year.
“Five percent of the flexible members have already transferred to full and five-day categories – a way of trying the club before committing to a full subscription.
“Nearly 40 existing members have transferred down to flexible, but research indicated that some 20 would have left the club completely.”
Club chairman, Phil Williamson, added: “Our members recognise that the club can no longer rely solely on the old, traditional form of membership – it is not suited to the modern lifestyle pursued by many younger and busier people. With flexible we have developed a category of membership that has proved to be very attractive to those who can play only occasionally, particularly as it is priced low at a subscription that is justifiable.
“The benefits of flexible have been over 100 more members adding to the already vibrant life at the club, a welcome lowering of the average age of members and an important contribution to our ongoing success.”
Graham White added that when you factor in all the gains and losses from the new scheme, it equates to a profit of about £50,000. He also said that 17 of the new members are former members who had quit, eight transferred up from social membership and that 62 percent of the new members are under the age of 55.
The developments come as another major golf club – Lincoln GC – has agreed this week to introduce a flexible membership scheme.