Building a membership base is one of the cornerstones of most private and semi-private golf courses, and attracting new members is becoming harder every day. Membership rates are in decline, and golf clubs today are facing more and more competition for memberships, from other clubs as well as from other forms of recreation & leisure. Building your membership base takes a targeted marketing campaign and a good incentive program to encourage signups and referrals. Here are some ways to combat declining memberships, entice new members and build your base:
Understand Your Market:
Your first clue to finding new members is your current members! Analyze your member lists and learn what characteristics make up your current base, then target similar individuals. If a large percentage of your members live within a 10-mile radius of the club, you may want to focus your marketing on a smaller, local area. If a common trait amongst members is spouses and kids, offering or advertising family-friendly activities or parent-child golf tournaments and classes can be an attractive value-add for new members.
When it comes to recruiting new members, your current members can be your biggest asset. Offering incentives to your members can be a great way to encourage them to refer their friends, family members, and coworkers to your club. A free month of dues or a few free rounds of golf for signing a new member can be great rewards for your members and can even have the added benefit of encouraging them to resign themselves. Plus, the more friends they know at the club, the more likely they are to enjoy their time with you and the better chance they will remain.
One factor affecting your membership numbers may be the perceived value of the benefits membership comes with. The more value a customer sees in their purchase, the more likely they are to buy. Creating benefits to attract customers doesn’t have to be a budget breaker. There are plenty of benefits you can offer that are valuable to your members, and easy on your wallet. For example, allowing members to bring a few guests a month to golf with them for free during the week offers multiple attractions -- it introduces the guests to the club, encourages members to further the social experience with a meal at the facility, and takes advantage of available course capacity during less-busy times. Just be sure you enforce limits on a person’s guest visits, or they may just opt to come as a guest rather than pay for a full membership.
Alter Initiation Fees:
Initiation fees can be a big deterrent to customers shopping around for a new club. If your upfront cost is too high, they may question if they will use the course enough to make the commitment. You can help set yourself apart from other clubs in customers’ eyes by reducing or eliminating the initiation fee or by allowing it to be paid over a multiyear period and adding conditions that encourage long-term membership. Some other ways you can change up initiation cost are Allowing members to avoid paying the fee if they agree to be members for at least three years, ensure members stick around or also waive the initiation fees for legacy members to encourage multigenerational membership and lock up a new generation of golfers.
Partnerships with local businesses can really help to boost the value of your membership for potential new players, especially if your course lacks some of the amenities provided by your competitors. Partnering with local spas, swim clubs or gyms can give you a lot of extra value you can offer your members while allowing you to avoid paying for the costs of mantling the facilities.