A Matter of Opinion: Membership and retention

Will player numbers continue to boom or will they revert to the mean as we get back more freedoms? We asked a trio of managers to consider how membership looks this year Some clubs are bulging at the seams with new players but renewals are on their way and we’re in lockdown.  Eventually the coronavirus pandemic will ease and we’ll start to return to some of the other sports and hobbies we’ve had put to one side as coronavirus has restricted movements. What does that mean for golf? Will the perfect sport for social distancing continue to bask in increased participation, or will clubs have to work hard to avoid members edging back to other interests? We asked Chris Fitt, director of golf and leisure at Foxhills Club, in Surrey, Ali James, manager at Cumberwell Park, in Wiltshire, and Jon Dry, general manager at Fulford, in York, to give us their thoughts... How do you think this year will look for membership renewals? Chris Fitt: There are a couple of factors at play, from our perspective at Foxhills. New member recruitment has been really strong for us. Our renewal is May 1 so, in the short term, I don’t think this new interest in golf, and these new members we’ve all got, are going anywhere anytime soon. I don’t think their personal circumstances, be that professionally, work, or socially at home, are changing anytime soon.  So these new habits, and these new golfers that have been created out of Covid-19, aren’t going to be changing – certainly not this year and potentially next year either. That spells quite good news for this year’s renewal. More of the challenge comes next year, and the year after that, and that’s where we’ve got to be looking and focusing our concerns. But it’s the work we do now which is going to impact that renewal in 2022 and 2023. Clubs are doing all sorts of things at the moment, with membership credits for closure periods this year and they might be applying that credit to this next year’s renewal like we are.  If we’re doing that it means that a member is not actually paying a full year’s subs next year anyway. So, in effect, they are getting a discounted membership year. Some clubs might be applying that in 2022 or 2023. You’re sharing the load a little bit. Having said that, there will reach a point where people will start to go back to work. They will start to travel into the city again. Restaurants and pubs will open. When that happens, there’s going to be a real boom in hospitality.  People are going to want to go and eat out a lot. They’re going to want to go out and drink and they will want to go and make up for lost time.  That’s when there will be distractions from golf. That’s when you’ve got to make sure that – whatever you’re offering your members – they see enough value in...
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