How Private Club Members Feel About the State of Golf

by Mr Business Golf on August 8, 2011

I was leaning on the fence one evening talking to a few of the golfers on the fairway waiting on the two groups ahead of them on the par four to clear so they could play.  Naturally, Pace of Play was the topic for the day. 

However, since there was more than a 15 minute wait until they could shoot, they just pulled their carts up to the fence and we had a decent conversation about the State of Golf today.

Discount Golf Causing Problems

In asking this foursome of 40 something men and women golfers what they thought was causing the slow play on a private country club they where very quick to list a few issues.   All seemed to agree it was due to the club doing a number of things to boost revenue which just does not work for private golf clubs. 

Some of the reasons they readily offered were:

  • opening up their doors to non-members to play golf
  • promoting discount green fees
  • selling discounted or trial membership packages
  • club signing on with online tee time sites
  • handing out free guest fees to members

All of these they felt was resulting in the club placing “too many golfers on a course that is not easy for a below average golfer to play in less than 5 hours”.   Seems this club is doing what many private clubs are doing to survive, but obviously is backfiring for this club.

Wrong Message Being Made

This group of private club golfers, who report to have been members of the club for over 15 years, all feel the new ownership of the club has lost site of the club being a private club and who is paying their bills. Even though the member’s do not own any equity in the club they do provide for the club’s operation’s operations budget..including salaries and profit for the owners..through their monthly membership dues.

Comments made..  The clubhouse has a “resort” look that is very uncomfortable. “The look and feel give me the impression they don’t want us staying in the bar very long”.   “The focus of the club is to get more members which is OK, but this means more demands on the tee time availability which makes it hard to get on the course on the weekend.”  “Having a full roster of members is good, but how they manage a large number of members is driving many of the current members to think about continuing to be a member.”

This group sited things like:

  • Onslaught of promotional emails sent to them from the club, or other members of the club for the club, announcing bargain membership packages and soliciting members to solicit their friends.
  • Newsletters placed in their bill from club manager and board of governors reporting how well the club is doing financially but not addressing making any major capital improves to the club infrastructure.
  • Overpricing of food and beverages served by over stressed employees
  • No personal contact by the club ownership with “full” membership

From what I gathered there are some morale issues developing to a fevered pitch which, along with bad management decisions, are proving to not be very productive. 

State of Golf

Truly the state of Golf in general is making operating a Private Golf Club very stressful.  With discretionary funds drying up, uncertainty in the stock market and golfer’s incomes at risk many people’s livelihoods are being threatened for the fist time EVERY.

What is a Private Club, whose soul function is to service the Golf market, to do?  The golfers I had the privilege in interviewing seem to feel the ownership of the club treating the current membership like people would be a start.  From there, trust can be built in the management of the club knowing what they are doing.  It was also mentioned the need for the club’s ownership procuring good outside advice on how to go about building, rebuilding or maintaining trust amongst the membership, cannot hurt.

Listening Works

A lot can be learned about how well Golf is doing by taking the time to get out on the golf course and ask golfers what they think.  Most of the time, golfers are never lost for words. 

For you golfing members of a private club, ask your general manager to join you for a round of golf.  If he/she obliges you then take the opportunity to casually get to know what he/she is thinking and get the point of view used to guide the club into the future. It’s your money that is paying the GM’s salary..at the very least they should at sometime get out on the golf course with you.  If he or she does not play golf..well, then..I think you might see where the problems begin.

It probably would be good for your club’s management to get out and find how the membership feels about things.  It would be good for them to see how the golf course plays during a peak period instead of residing on what the golf director or course superintendent reports.  In this uncertain economy, maintaining a private club’s membership, or customer base,  is solid advice to follow. 

I got a lot out of the few minutes I had to talk to a group of fellow golfers.  I wonder how many club managers take that amount of time to talk to their members?

Let me know how I can help.

Mr Business Golf

Scot Duke, aka Mr Business Golf Located in Addison, Tx, the capital of North Dallas. CEO/President of Innovative Business Golf Solutions Founder of the: -Business Golf Country Club -Business Golf Advisory Group -ClamBake Cafe Author of: How to Play Business Golf

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