Could this cute membership proposition help your club navigate the cost-of-living crisis?

golf club membership

Oakdale’s General Manager, James Thomas, outlines how his club have hit upon a new way to tackle annual renewals – and it is working for them

This article is part of GCMA Insights – topical content for golf industry professionals, discussing the things that matter to those who work in golf clubs.

Yorkshire Club Oakdale’s unique membership structure – which lowered the annual subscription from £1,200 to £700 and asked golfers to pay £5 each time they played – has been a huge success since its introduction in 2020.

Here, General Manager James Thomas explains the genesis of the scheme, the challenges and opportunities it has provided, and discusses how it could help his members as we face rising prices over the next few months…

Our old membership structure was very traditional: members paid a fixed fee and could play whenever they wished. The club was in some difficulty when I took over, and looking back at the company’s previous years of trading, whenever the club had increased the annual subscription there was a reduction in the number of full members and income.   

That needed to change. We used one of the only levers at our disposal at the time: price. 

We looked at various models and the previous chairman and I thought this one would suit our club and where we are positioned.

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We chose to lower the annual subscription from £1,200 to £700 and then members pay £5 per round. It’s been a tremendous success. Since launch we have added over 300 full members to the club and we are still growing.

The membership structure required policing to ensure we knew who was on the course had paid the appropriate fee. This was done by the introduction of an online booking system. This move into the 21st century did cause some friction to the change.  

When we came to draft the budget for the first year, this presented a challenge. In previous years we simply took the number of full members at the time, deducted our anticipated attrition, and then added back our recruitment plan for the year – this then became the budget for the following financial year.

However, with this new model not only did we have to go through the same process, we also had to forecast how many times our members would play in a year. We settled at 1.5 games per week for 40 weeks in the year or 60 games per annum. 

The first year, we saw an average of 47 rounds per member – this of course was impacted by government lockdowns which skewed the data. We refined the budget in year two and three and we’re tracking this year at 45 rounds per member. 


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2022’s budget was set at 50 rounds per member and we are hoping the actuals will catch up to the budget by year end. 

It’s not an exact science as there are a lot of influencing factors; weather, corporate days, tee time intervals, greens maintenance and our culture. All these factors impact our capacity.  

golf club membership

We also have a plethora of reciprocal agreements that we do not charge our members to avail themselves of. This of course reduces the average number of rounds they play on site. 

I believe a scheme like this could really come into its own during the cost-of-living crisis and beyond. Looking at the different clubs in the area, they will most likely need to increase their membership subscription. It would be a bold move for any club to reduce their fixed income in a time where their fixed costs are increasing. 

If our competitors increase their fees and we hold our price at £700, then our proposition becomes even more attractive. 

It’s about helping our customers. This platform allows our members to cut their cloth accordingly and only pay when they play. Pressure on leisure spending will be intense in 2023 and our model affords golfers the luxury of retaining their affiliation with the club they have come to enjoy. 

I think our proposition will continue to be the strongest in the market. We are helping our customers through what I believe is the brink of a recession. 

If we’re not mindful of external influences and we don’t use those to inform our pricing structure, we’d fall into the same trap we did previously – putting up fees by inflation and hoping for the best, which means minimum attrition. 

That’s not the model we have now. We have a member-based proposition that rewards them for their loyalty. We haven’t put the price up since we launched and that’s as good as a price reduction with inflation tracking at the rate it is. If we continue to recruit at the rate we are doing, we will at some point be full. That then presents us with a completely different challenge, one I have looked forward to since we launched the scheme.  

Our median [membership] age was 55, it’s now 52. We’ve found a lot of people joining us are either members from other clubs or people returning to golf. We have also had a big influx of young adults (19-35) who have taken golf up for the first time. Our proposition makes it affordable for them to get into golf. 

The background work, the data analysis, the science behind the model, and looking at all the external factors, informs our decision on price every year.

We have held the subscription at £700 for three years. What sits behind that decision is a ton of research and analysis – looking at our customer’s behavioural patterns, how many times they’ve played, and what other external factors could influence our market.

That is what has allowed us to be so successful. We are well informed about the decisions we take. 

This article is part of GCMA Insights – topical content for golf industry professionals, discussing the things that matter to those who work in golf clubs.

Get involved in the debate. To join the GCMA, click here, or to organise a call with a member of the GCMA team, just complete this form and we’ll be in touch!


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