The huge crash in membership numbers that have kept officials awake at night for the past few years might have eased but, make no mistake, clubs are still having to work hard to get new people through the doors – and keep them there.
So when you hear that Hillsborough have welcomed 135 new faces to the South Yorkshire club in just a year, there will be plenty who will want to know the secret.
We caught up with head professional Mark Allen to see how it happened…
How have you managed to bring in so many new members in such a short space of time?
I’d been at the club for a couple of years and membership numbers weren’t really changing.
I’d started to hear about flexible membership options and rang a few golf clubs, asked how it worked and whether it was seen at a benefit.
I did a bit of digging around and it sounded like a good way forward. I approached the committee and, if I’m honest, it got knocked back at first because they thought lots of full members would drop down to it and they would lose revenue.
From my perspective – trying to sell memberships to people – it gave us another option.
After about three or four attempts, the committee decided to go with it and we went with PlayMoreGolf, who have become more and more popular in the last year or two.
Now we offer a flexible membership package and, over the past couple of years, we have gained about 100 members on that.
They get 100 points for £325 and each time they play they lose points. On Saturday mornings when it’s busy they use more points and on Monday afternoons when it’s quiet they use fewer.
It’s using it as a way to try to feed them into the club. They can’t play in all the major competitions but at least they are in the club rather than joining another down the road that might be doing a deal.
The club established a marketing committee for the first time as well…
I was playing with the head pro at Lindrick and he mentioned he was due to go to a marketing meeting at the golf club.
I thought ‘what does that do?’ and in all my years at the club there had never been a marketing committee.
I suggested we formed one, approached various people I thought might have the skills, and we formed one.
The two main people who have driven it are myself, and Ian Fletcher, who has been instrumental with his project management skills.
We’ve come up with the ideas of the various offers and he has been able to make them happen.
We’ve met regularly, put various offers together, and each has been really strong and good.
We’ve also made the website more interactive and easier for visitors and members to use and those three things – flexible memberships, creating a sales and marketing committee and the website – have been huge.
Was that cheer for a birdie or a goal?
Hillsborough was founded in 1920 and while it isn’t quite as close as Sandwell Park to The Hawthorns, for example, you can still hear the roar of the crowd when Sheffield Wednesday are at home.
“It’s very close to Sheffield Wednesday’s ground,” said Mark, who has been the head professional at the club for five years.
“It’s so close in fact that when we’re teaching the kids at the junior academy on a Saturday afternoon you can hear quite clearly the chanting of the crowds at Hillsborough.
“Some of that gets a little bit risqué, shall we say, and it’s not always great for the kids to hear but it just shows you how close we are.”
Allen said the club has always been renowned for its great greens and is an interesting layout – with clear views of the steel city and the surrounding countryside on offer from its elevated position.
As well as benefiting from a surge in membership, work has been completed on a drainage project to keep the greens in play all year round. “The condition now is fantastic,” he added.
“It’s got a fantastic history, really good members and it seems to be back on the up now.”