Your members represent a critical core segment of your customers. Every year you can rely on most of them to repurchase their memberships and keep coming back to enjoy your golf course and clubhouse.
Of course, maintaining and growing a membership base is a constant challenge for course managers, and many operators struggle to find creative ideas for offering exciting and appealing new memberships. In fact, many operators have seen memberships decline over the years.
This trend is due to generational changes as golf clubs are slowly losing their core membership demographic of 45 to 65-year-old baby boomers. To make things worse, millennials up until now haven't shown the same interest in the sport that young people in the 90s did.
Revamping your membership strategy means re-thinking how your golf club will appeal to younger demographics in the future, while still catering to members who have long been loyal to your operation.
Ultimately, your membership strategy should reflect the different markets you serve, your physical location, and the quality of your operation. For example, if the golf club down the street focuses on 5-day senior memberships, you might want to target another demographic instead of going into a price war.
There are number of strategies that you can apply to get the most out of your memberships. Here are our best ideas for introducing you to introduce better, more appropriate memberships that appeal to the right market at your golf course.
This strategy is currently being rolled out by some of the nation's biggest and best operators with some great results. Typically, these memberships allow the purchase of a month-long membership that renews automatically, much like a gym pass. Players can opt-out whenever they want and are not obligated to pay for a year-long membership for access.
These memberships represent a much lower cost and appeal better to millennials who prefer the freedom of monthly subscriptions over year-long commitments.
This strategy can also work well for Golf courses in seasonal markets like Florida, for example. Since they see an influx of players over specific months, players may want to only be members for a short period, so consider this strategy if you are in a seasonal market.
You need to provide a variety of memberships to capture the needs of every potential customer. Yes, those seven-day memberships work great for older players who have time to come in often, but for the younger player that works 40 to 60 hours per week, it makes no economic sense to purchase 7-day and 5-day memberships.
Offering a weekend membership is a great way to accommodate the needs of professionals who don't have time to come and play during their busy work weeks. Of course, this kind of membership should be charged at a premium since weekend slots are highly valued over weekdays. However, if these memberships are targeted towards the young professional with disposable income, you should be able to sell them easily.
One way to accommodate the economic realities of younger people is to introduce intermediate memberships with different prices based on age brackets. Consider offering memberships at a reduced price for 21 to 29-year-olds, and 30 to 35-year-olds.
If you're wondering why you should discount these memberships, consider the lifetime value of attracting a young person to your club at an early age. Building a relationship from early on is critical for generating loyal members for years to come.
Rather than offering unlimited access, this strategy gives players the right to purchase several games which they can redeem throughout the season. Many golf courses use this tried and true strategy, but moving past the "ticket book" label, and branding it as a "packaged membership" is a better method to increase the perceived value by offering the prestige of becoming a member.
The weekday membership is a very typical membership we see at many golf courses. Usually, these memberships are lower cost, since there is less demand for weekday rounds. Again, you can tier these membership prices by age, but your most typical user of these memberships are seniors and retirees since they are not tied to a job and have time to play during the week.
Some people enjoy using just the clubhouse and on-site amenities. Perhaps they are no longer able to play the game but enjoy watching family and friends play. Social memberships allow everyone to be part of course culture, without expecting everyone to play the sport.
For those, who'd instead relax by the pool with a glass of rosé while everyone else plays, the social membership is the perfect option. Obviously, these memberships should come at a much lower cost, but merely giving this kind of access is excellent for fostering better clubhouse culture.
Are there other clubs in your area? If you can collaborate with them, you may benefit from building a reciprocal network between courses. Reciprocal memberships give members a greater variety in the courses that they can play and increases the value of membership at your operation.
If you don't think the idea of a gym membership style subscription will work at your golf course, but still want to try out a monthly payment model, you may want to consider introducing year-long memberships with monthly payments. These memberships reduce the upfront costs that come with standard memberships and instead charge players on a month-to-month basis.
You may want to consider using member management software to manage this since monitoring monthly payments manually can be a significant hassle and software can dramatically reduce declined payments.
Taking the monthly payment model a little bit further means looking at how the value of a round at your golf course fluctuates from month to month. It makes sense that in the offseason golf should cost less, and in the high season golf should cost more. Flex pay memberships offer members the option to pay less in the offseason, and more in the high season.
To attract couples, especially young ones, you should consider adding spousal memberships to your selection of membership options. This strategy is great for welcoming new families into the clubhouse and can be instrumental for building a young base of members that will be around for the long term. Since young couples tend to stay where they are and have kids, you might expect those spousal memberships to turn into family memberships ten years later.
Golf is a sport that people enjoy playing with their friends. Almost no one joins a club without knowing someone who will be there often and want to play with them. Offering two-for-one memberships or grouped memberships allows groups of friends to join and play with one another.
You may generate less money from the initial sign up, but adding these groups guarantees lots of play on your course, and over time these players will buy gear and visit your restaurant operation. The goal is to get a small group hooked on your operation, and they will keep coming back to play with one another and enjoy each other's company.
Generating more membership revenue is an excellent way to build reliable customers that consistently spend money at your operation. There are many strategies you can put in place to squeeze additional revenue out of these very loyal customers. Here are a few to consider:
If you are struggling to attract new members but still charge an initiation fee, you really need to rethink this one. Why create an extra barrier to generating a long-term loyal customer? It makes no sense and may be blocking a lot of new customers that otherwise would have joined.
If you don't want to lose that revenue, raise the price of the membership over the lifetime of the new customer, but don't create an immediate barrier on the first day the new customer signs.
Consider looking for ways to partner with other businesses in your area who are willing to provide special discounts to members at your golf course. Reach out to local coffee shops, restaurant, sporting equipment stores, and others to see whether there ways your operation could partner with them to provide discounts to members.
To premium members, you may want to consider offering special discounts in the restaurant and pro shop. Giving a specific percentage off or providing exclusive deals are handy for making your membership feel special while encouraging patrons to part with their cash.
Do you reward members that have been around for years and years? These are unique customers that have brought a lot of consistent revenue to your operation. Consider offering members who have been coming back for five years or more a reduced price, to incentivize them to stay. The discount could even grow as the member passes 10 or even 15 years.
If you are doing a big membership drive, offering a one time only special deal for signing up is a great strategy. Monthly payment memberships work really well for these deals since you can frame your branding around offering free months for signing up, or you can offer 16 months for the price of 12.
These one time offers work very well when initially building a membership. However, if a strong base of members already exists you may want to consider how offering a discount now may frustrate existing members and potentially overcrowd your golf course.
Leverage your currently loyal customers by getting them to spread the word about your course with a membership referral program. Incentivize your members to refer their friends with free cart passes, VIP perks, or gift cards when they successfully generate a signing with a referral. Offering a free round to guest when playing for the first time is also an excellent strategy for building the goodwill necessary to generate a referred signing.
If you've gotten to this point and haven't wondered how to put in place all of these ideas, you must have an incredibly robust member management system already in place.
If you don't, here's what you should be looking for to help with implementing these strategies.
If you want to implement monthly billing or gym style memberships, you'll need a management platform that can support automatic, monthly billing. Chronogolf, for example, partners with Stripe to offer hassle-free online billing that reduces declines and warns you when if someone's payment has failed.
Having the ability to consolidate house accounts and member profiles from all sides of the operation is critical for effectively managing member spending and house accounts.
If you want to implement packaged memberships, you'll need a system that can easily track packages. Ideally, the software you use should allow you to place the appropriate restrictions on any package you sell, such as the times and days of the week the package can be used, or whether rounds can be shared to different players.
To incentivize referrals, you need customer loyalty software that offers a referral component. These programs allow you to track referrals easily, so customers are sure to be rewarded for successful referrals, and referring customers at the point of sale is easy.
If your golf course is seeing a decline in its membership levels, there are plenty of things you can do to fight back. What's necessary is reassessing how your memberships are structured and what the strategy is behind is each member type.
Of course, changing your membership strategy can be very difficult, especially if you have to get your plans approved by a board composed of members. However, if you can present your operation's current need to generate more memberships, and demonstrate why that change is needed, it's not impossible to start the process of changing the culture in your clubhouse. Show how adding new memberships will rejuvenate the club and add young life to the patronage.
Once you have everyone on board, develop a rollout plan and get ready to do some marketing to get the word out that your operation is offering better, more flexible memberships for a reasonable price.
This year it's time to revamp your membership strategy and start building those long-lasting relationships that will keep your golf club and the sport itself alive long into the future.
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