10 ideas for golf in 2015

Inspired by a conversation I had over the weekend with someone working on the delivery of the Ryder Cup in France, here are 10 ideas for golf in 2015 addressing the issue of falling golf memberships, the lack of newcomers to the game and fewer rounds played per year.

10 ideas for golf in 2015


1) Stop the arms race!

Club makers need to stop the arms race of newer, shinier, better, longer, straighter drivers. I’m not bothered that someone with the cash can improve their game faster than I can improve mine through solid hard work and practice. What bothers me is that the big name manufacturers now seem to be running product launch cycles as short as 3 months. This is a race to the bottom. We have seen it in other industries, the PC industry springs to mind, one brand kept to the high road of high quality, sustainable product, and that was Apple. 15 years ago they had less than 4% market share, since then they have gone from strength to strength.

Players are becomingly increasingly frustrated as customers when they shell out £250+ on a new driver only to discover that a few months later it is in the discount bin in the pro shop at half the price. Pro shops are going out of business because of the same arms race.

2) Joining fees – how do you justify them?

Golf club joining fees are a huge barrier to entry. With the annual membership fee, you can spread that over 12 months, and flexi-membership packages reduces the cost further. The big hurdle is the joining fee, quite often it is something in the order of 2x the annual subs. And for what? The joining fee is like a golf tax. I might need to move home in a few years time and all of a sudden my joining fee is lost and I need to pay up again at the next club. Or maybe time constraints of a new family mean that I play less golf and can’t justify the annual subs. If clubs included a range of services within that fee, many of which would not really cost anything, for example: 10 guest passes (think of the extra F&B revenues, or potential new members) or a group golf clinic with the pro (this is an excellent advert for the pro to sell additional lessons, equipment etc) then the new member can put a value on that joining fee and not see it as just a golf tax.

3) Annual subscription

Clubs are moving to flexi-membership which is proving hugely popular – that may save the day. Many golfers want to be part of a club, but when dividing the annual fee by the rounds played, they realise it’s cheaper to pay and play at Wentworth – guess which option would win out!

4) Value for money

Private members clubs have the ability to provide activities that offer value for money, and present the club in a highly positive light, for very little financial outlay. For example, free range balls. I know of a local golf club with probably the highest fees around, who provide free range balls. They are known throughout the area as a high quality club because of this. Another club provides a large bucket of branded wooden tees on the 1st and 10th. Players are free to grab a handful prior to playing. These additional services cost very little in the greater scheme of things, but do wonders for placing the club brand at the top.

5) Short golf

‘Short golf’ is one of the phrases that is being kicked around. I find it strange that clubs can’t cope with the concept. I have always treated the course as a practice ground as well as a place for serious golf. If I want to play short golf, I play in the afternoon, and play 1,2,3, 16,17 & 18 – it’s strange how courses say they need investment to make this happen when some club members have already sussed out how to make it work for them!

I’m old enough and responsible enough to make sure this doesn’t affect other players. Maybe the issue is that clubs need to promote and market the pre-existing short course more effectively?

6) Marketing – act like a real business

Golf is huge industry, with intensely loyal customers who love to spend money and tell others about it. Clubs need to get smarter at marketing and learn from other industries who have all been there and done that already. One key issue that needs to be addressed is the controversial subject of the club website.

The English Golf Union still recommends that if you want a new website, don’t bother paying for it, just ask one of your members to create one for you in return for a years free membership. I have personally been offered this deal by three separate golf clubs when I was promoting new websites to golf clubs. The irony of the fact that I lived more than 50 miles from any of these clubs was lost on the committee!

7) Quick golf 1

Time after time (excuse the pun) golfers cite that time is a big factor stopping people taking up the game, or maintaining their levels of interest. So, why not help the golfer plan their time more effectively by publishing average round times on your course. I am willing to bet the difference between Saturday morning and Saturday afternoon rounds is more than 60 minutes. Make it as easy as possible for players to know what’s in store.

8) Marketing – get Social

Your club members, guests and future customers are all using social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and YouTube. (If any of those words are new to you, then we need to talk, and soon!). There is increasing evidence that people are using Facebook and Twitter as their first or sole point of call when looking for a company, product or service online – which means that if you aren’t there, they won’t be booking a tee time, or a party, at your club.

Social media is highly relevant for golf clubs as it provides a low-cost and effective way to reach all those golfers who want to discover more about your club and course. Social media marketing is also a very efficient way for you to communicate with non-golfers who might be looking for a new venue for their wedding. Or perhaps they are looking for a nice meeting room away from the distractions of the office?

If you are a tour event promoter, then social media is a fantastic platform for adding extra value to your sponsors and more importantly to the fans who want to attend your event.

9) Marketing – business networking

Many clubs already host the local Rotary Club, or maybe even a business breakfast networking event. But these organisations don’t promote your club, or put extra tee time bookings in the book. A new business networking organisation called Fore Business is doing just that. The basic premise is to run a business networking event, on the golf course. The impact could be huge for your club. The average Fore Business group has 20 players, most if not all, are not members of the host golf course. That means 20 extra golfers, playing 12 times per year. That’s 240 rounds. On top of that, each Fore Business member is entitled to an extra 4 ball every month. That equates to an extra 960 rounds of golf.

So, each Fore Business group is going to deliver something like 1,100 extra rounds of golf to your course. You already know what the average spend per round in the pro shop and the bar is for your course, so, do the math and you can see why this is a no-brainer!

10) Quick golf 2

Last year we saw the promotion of Big Hole Golf, with the recommendation of an 8 or 15 inch hole to get players putting out quicker. The concept was met with much scepticism and derision. But think about it. We all play golf from time to time with a gimme putt. So, why not formalise that idea? How much time is spent, with putt, mark, clean, line up, putt, mark, clean etc etc? If the course has designated times for big hole golf, a Sunday afternoon for example, then players know that if they are pressed for time, they can get a quick round in on a certain time / day.

It’s also a great way to get families playing golf together, and that leads us on to a whole new topic of how the kids are the future of the game!


I hope you like these 10 ideas for golf in 2015 – what plans are you putting in place to ensure that 2015 is the best year ever?

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