Is this the club of the future?

Royal Norwich is reframing what we consider to be the private members’ club experience. Is it a one-off or will more soon follow suit?  It’s as much about pizza as putts, micro-brewing as bombing drives, and working out as finding fairways.   With its interior design by Kim Patridge, it looks more like a high-end restaurant than a members’ clubhouse, and it’s been hailed by many observers as the blueprint for golf in the post-pandemic age.  In the shift from once archaic conflicts like sock lengths to family-friendly function rooms and a golf experience that extends far beyond the confines of the traditional 18-holes, Royal Norwich has been held up as a beacon – a measure of where private members’ clubs can go as they seek to provide the kind of facilities that were once the preserve of the sleek proprietary outfit.  The boom has provided the spark, handing the sport an all-at-once influx of diverse and younger participants.  When Royal Norwich first envisaged the shift from their historic Hellesdon home to the remnants of a 400-year-old woodland, no one could have imagined the upheaval coming from a worldwide viral disaster.  But as golf is taking the opportunity arising from coronavirus to adapt to a new audience and a more focused experience with the customer, chiefs feel the club is in the best possible place to capitalise on the feelgood factor around the game.  “We see huge opportunity,” said Royal Norwich Chief Executive James Stanley. “It’s to capitalise on that opportunity in the immediate [term] but also to develop the experience Royal Norwich provides to the golfer, the non-golfer, the restaurant guest, and beyond that as well.    “There are an awful lot of attractive aspects to our business that we really want to be able to tell people about, to really put Royal Norwich and The Stables [restaurant, clubhouse, meeting room and conference space], onto the map as a destination.  “That’s more than just golf. It’s working with not just our membership but with all parties and people that we’ve touched outside of golf and how we’ve started to do that within the local community and beyond.”  Royal Norwich was hit hard during the lockdowns – “It couldn’t have come at a worse time”, explained Chairman David Coventry as he reflected on the hospitality shutdown that battered their business model.  But even as Omicron threatened our earned-back freedoms, the team at Weston Park are convinced their hospitality offering, and focusing on families first, is the answer to ensuring any post-pandemic drop off in volume won’t find its way onto the club’s balance sheets.  Their varied memberships are part of the answer. Playing options at the club are as flexible as you like – something that has helped them amass a huge number of more than 1,300 golfers.  Those options, and the way players interacted with them, also revealed something else. They learned it was the points members – not those who had necessarily forked out the most for the full 7-day package – who tended to use hospitality more.  “That points membership, generally, is younger,” Coventry said. “While we’ve got a premium product here, we’ve always tried to price it at a level that makes it available to all.  “Our bottom end is £650 which, in Norfolk terms, is still quite reasonable. We’ve been able to attract a...
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