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golf club membership fees

Surely there has to be a better way to pay our golf club membership fees?

Subscription time came around and Steve Carroll saw his bank account take a big hit. So he asks whether golf clubs will need to change how they ask us for money
 

The membership subs have been paid once again. The bank account is depressingly lighter. Pay in one go? I’ll tell you, I’m not a big fan.

After nearly two decades of paying my fees monthly by direct debit, forking out a big lump all at once never fails to render a shock.

Yes, before you start, I’ve been diligently saving from each pay packet. But there was still a dull ache when the moths finally come out of the wallet.

As discussed on the latest episode of the From The Clubhouse Podcast, we are interested to know how do you pay your annual golf club membership fees?

I know there are schemes outside of direct debits that allow flexible payment. They can be administered by third parties and come with added interest. So you’re paying more for the convenience of spreading.

It’s feels like taking out a loan. If I wanted to do that, it’s what I’d do – and I reckon I could probably get a better deal than some of the figures I’ve seen commonly floated.

But couldn’t we just come up with a better pay to pay?

For a start, I think big bills give anyone wavering just too easy an excuse to pack in. I barely noticed the monthly payments going out before. It was just another cost – one of many on the bank statement.

I certainly noticed, though, when north of a grand suddenly disappeared. If I’m ever looking for a quick way to move on, it will be very simple to say, ‘it’s too much of a hit, I’ll pass thanks’.

Maybe it’s not possible. Maybe it’s too much of a hassle – and remember many of our clubs are largely run by volunteers who give so much of their time to keep them running.

I understand clubs would prefer to have their money up front. Maybe there are administration charges that also mean direct debit is not a great option.

But I have read that clubs can offer in-house facilities for members without requiring Financial Conduct Authority authorisation.

And there are those that are thinking about their pricing models and are finding new ways for their membership to stump up.

I’ve previously written about Harrogate-based club Oakdale and their structure which involves a £700 payment, a ‘green fee’ of £5 each time a member plays, and a cap at £1,200. It’s allows members to move the load around, and it also means what they pay is more proportionate to the amount they play.

The club almost certainly took a calculated risk in removing their traditional payment ways – albeit, I’m sure, after a lot of research. It was, though, still a risk.

I understand why golf clubs would want to be risk averse when it comes to revenue. They want to know how much income they’re going to receive by a fixed date so they can plan their budgets, their expenditure, and their investments.

No matter how watertight a membership agreement is, there will always be members in a direct debit system who cancel their payments and effectively challenge a club to take action so they fulfil their promises. How many are prepared to spend the time, effort, and possibly money, to do that?

But the world is changing, so is the golf market, and I believe there will need to be more flexibility, more innovation, and more progress in the options given to golfers about how they pay their subscriptions.

Look at the rest of our lives. Everything is set up for simplicity. We pay through our phones, through our apps, and with the wave of a card. I rarely use cash anymore.

I regularly spread bigger purchases over interest free payments and, if you think about it, the whole purpose of paying these days is for it to be as easy and straightforward as possible.

I reckon sending your customers the yearly big bill, and essentially saying to them, ‘pay this in full, pay it with some decent interest attached, or off you go’ is not a sustainable model – even if it suits the club and the current generation of members.

Will the next set of golfers, brought up on direct debits and convenience, really want to engage with that?

I’m not sure. And if they don’t, then golf – as always – will end up once more being dragged into a new era.

From the Clubhouse podcast on golf club membership fees and value

Steve Carroll and Tom Irwin talk pricing, structure, and fees on the From the Clubhouse podcast, in association with TaylorMade. To listen, click on the player below, or on your preferred podcast platform.

More on golf club membership fees

What do you think? Are lump sum payments still the way forward for those clubs that do it, or should they look to get into modernise and make it easier for members? Let me know your thoughts on golf club membership fees with a tweet.

More podcasts from National Club Golfer

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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