A membership retention expert says clubs should consider changing traditional renewal dates as well as other strategies to keep members happy. Steve Carroll reports

Golf clubs who have traditional renewal dates in January or April should consider pushing them into the summer as part of a membership retention strategy, golf club managers have been told.

In a webinar hosted by the Golf Club Managers’ Association, Gareth Jones, of Golf Club Solutions, said he was still alarmed to an extent by those who chose the start of the year to ask members to pay annual subscriptions.

With the wintry weather tending to restrict numbers – both in terms of conditions and courses being closed – the current lockdown in England, Wales and Ireland has made the experience even more fraught for club managers who are trying to persuade players to commit to considerable sums with no prospect of being able to play in the near future.

Jones, who laid out a number of strategies to keep golfers happy including Membership Appreciation Days, along with schemes that added value such as family days and complimentary birthday meals, said the current restrictions could give clubs an opportunity to perform a reset and utilise a new structure as a “really good retention tool”.

“It still alarms me to an extent that some golf clubs have their renewal date in January,” he said. “Even April, to a point.

“The reason I say that is because, notoriously, the winter months are our quietest time. Let’s take 2020 and the beginning of this year as a bit of an unusual circumstance.

“But historically, golf courses tend to be closed or waterlogged and certainly less golf is played in the winter months.

“Personally, I think you’d have an awful lot more success with a June or July renewal date – when the Open’s been on the TV, the sun’s shining, and people are playing more.

“They’re more familiar with the value they get from golf membership, certainly more so then ‘yes, we’re just about to pay £1,000 but I haven’t played golf for the last four months’, which is sometimes the case.

“This is a good opportunity, depending on how your golf club have arranged or agreed the Covid restrictions. There are a lot of golf clubs doing different incentives for their members but this could be a great opportunity to push back that renewal date and utilise it as a really good retention tool.”

Jones also revealed that the average golf club had 535 members, of which 42 would leave each year. Crucially, he explained that two out of three left for “preventable causes”.

He urged clubs to set up a retention strategy, which included analysis, member surveys and accountability.

Would you prefer to receive your annual bill for golf club membership in the summer? Let me know in the comments, or tweet me.

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