It’s easy to argue that golf is going through a bit of a ‘moment’, with more spending and initiatives to increase participation than ever before. But are we tackling the right issues and giving golfers – and golf clubs – what they really want?
By Charlotte Ibbetson
Women & Golf recently wrote about the flourishing women’s section at High Legh Park Golf Club. Over 140 women and girls make up their thriving membership – a number that most clubs can only dream of. They put their success down to two things: plenty of opportunities to play and a friendly atmosphere at the club.
But that sounds too simple, surely? So, we asked our trusted readers what they really want from a golf club, and the overwhelming response was almost exactly the same: regular competitions and somewhere friendly to spend their time.
When I dug a bit deeper, it was screamingly clear that what everyone was talking about was opportunity: to be able to play at times that suited them, with more competitions at weekends and no restrictions on when anyone can play, more mixed competitions, better representation on the committee – that includes more women and juniors – and somewhere they felt included. And those comments didn’t just come from women, they were echoed by men as well.
So, we know what golfers want, but how do we turn that into clubs in hands and more members? By focusing on the most under-represented demographics of any golf club – women, families, juniors and young golfers.
We spoke to Lauren Spray, Women & Girls Manager at England Golf, to find out what she thinks the golf industry can do …
To protect the future of the game, it’s clear that we need to attract more juniors and young golfers. What do you think golf clubs can do?
Not every club has an offer for juniors and just like the adult membership model, it’s not one size fits all. You need to understand exactly who you want to target – families are a great place to start – and create a robust marketing plan to define how to reach them most effectively. Are you optimising every channel you have; website, social media, the local community?
The best place to start is with your existing membership. They’ll be able to give you a great insight into what they like about the club, as well as areas you can improve on. Remember, your existing members are positive advocates for your club and can help to promote it on your behalf – they are your sales force! Recommendations through word of mouth are extremely valuable.
It’s important to consider how you can attract families; people have less and less free time, so if golf is something they can do together, it’s more likely they’ll keep doing it! What do you offer so that everyone can make use of the club? Is it an inclusive environment for everyone, regardless of whether they’re a golfer or not?
Attracting new members is important, but retaining your existing members is critical. Develop retention plans to keep everyone interested. Coaching academies are a great way to keep juniors coming back every week. They’re also a great way for new starters to get out on the course in a relaxed environment and make friends too.
Do you think more children and young people are taking up golf?
There’s huge potential within the junior market; our research tells us that in 2017, 67% of all young people took part in some form of golf activity. That’s about 5.35 million young people in England, and 1.65 million have gone on to play more golf. These are the people you could attract to your club if you make them the right offer. The research identified seven young people profiles that clubs can access to help them develop their junior sections and get more young people involved in golf.
What do you think is stopping families from getting involved in golf?
Sometimes people just simply aren’t aware of what golf clubs have to offer. Community outreach programmes and working with local schools are both really good ways of giving people a taste of what to expect. And, it might sound simple, but making sure that your website is up to date, with clear, relevant and useful information is really important.
What do you think the golf industry as a whole can do to attract more women, families and young people to the game?
It’s really important that as much as we can we talk positively about golf and champion the opportunities the sport has to offer. We need to be creative with our offers, not be afraid to do things differently and share in our successes so that as a sport we can continue to grow. Initiatives such as Girls Golf Rocks, Get Into Golf and Women on Par are just some of the things we've implemented to help clubs across England, and there are similar, fantastic things across the rest of the UK too.