Those who have occupied positions on golf club committees over the last few years have been at the sharp end of the fortunes of our clubs, and for many it has been an uncomfortable experience. With waiting lists and joining fees a thing of the past, there has been an inexorable slow downhill slide in revenue taking us to where we are today.
Unsurprisingly, some of the chat around the lounge tables in clubs has been rather negative; how many times have we heard that one or two clubs will need to fail in order for their neighbours to survive. Sadly during 2015 we lost Blairbeth, a result of the drink driving laws being tightened. It may be that other clubs will follow, but what can be done to stabilise our sometimes shaky industry? There are certainly some things over which we have no control, like the weather, but rather than waiting for the good times to return many smart clubs have started to play their way out of trouble by strengthening their approach to marketing to help mitigate the effect of outside influences.
Courting local businesses for sponsorship, creating that all-important responsive website, leveraging social media and building the valuable visitors database are just some of the marketing tools that the smart clubs will be using, and there are many more.
The Trophy courses will always attract a steady flow of golf business, underpinned by generations of well-heeled members and golfing tourists who clamour to book a first tee spot on the likes of the Old Course, Royal Troon, Muirfield and Turnberry. The Heritage courses have to market that bit harder for their slice of the action but the business is out there if they are prepared to go for it. But what about the remaining 90% or so of Clubs in Scotland, competing for their share of revenue in what used to be a seller’s market? If this large majority are serious about being players in the future they will already be marketing themselves to potential members and visitors with renewed determination, and if they are not yet doing so they need to up their game, and quick.
Market research published by HSBC and compiled by The Futures Co is painting a changing but positive picture of what the game of golf will look like in 2020, with the emphasis on family-friendly, developing the youth market and using technology to grow the game. There are even plans to develop courses based on a clover leaf design where every 6th hole returns to the clubhouse, allowing for shorter round formats. Scottish Golf’s Clubgolf is attracting more junior participation through the Clubs, and this national body are on the ball when it comes to providing advice and support, which is reassuring as we look to the future of golf in Scotland.
If the stats are to show a slight improvement in the fortunes of golf clubs during 2016, largely it will be because the individual clubs have taken advice, taken responsibility for their own success, and marketed themselves as if they mean business. Their very existence may depend on it.
for CB Golf Marketing
14 January 2016
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