Understanding Your Customers’ Needs

Having reported on the delights of attending the first day of the Ryder Cup in last month’s magazine, November has brought me back down to earth. This month has been mainly dictated by attending a number of regional meetings, which have stretched from the Renaissance Club in Scotland to Shandon GC in Northern Ireland and to High Post GC in Salisbury, Wiltshire. The majority of meetings have been extremely well supported with an encouraging number of members who wish to participate in the educational information that is coming forward. My thanks go out to the Regional Secretaries who work extremely hard in putting on these meetings as well as sourcing the educational presenters.

In addition to the regional meetings, I was also invited to speak at the Derbyshire Golf Development Conference at Morley Hayes Golf Centre at the end of October. With over seventy people in attendance (a mixture of club managers, golf professionals as well as a number of committee volunteers), the delegates were presented to by David Joy of England Golf, Joe Kelly of the PGA and Darren Ramowski of Golfshake.

A key message that was promoted throughout the presentations and discussions at the conference was the importance of understanding customer/membership needs in retaining and increasing golf club membership. To support this process Derbyshire Golf have developed an online Member’s Questionnaire aimed at assisting golf clubs understand what their ‘customers’ want from their club. The questionnaire, which took just 5 minutes to complete online, presented each club member with the opportunity to communicate their views on all areas of golf club operations. This was promoted as an invaluable tool for the golf club management personnel to help understand the performance of critical areas within their business operation.

The questionnaire template, which could be tailored to meet individual golf club’s requirements, has been designed to provide the golf club with valuable information on which to make future business decisions.

Amongst the benefits to the club are:

  • Data on customer needs/trends
  • Qualitative information for management structures
  • Assisting with future business planning
  • Enables clubs to react to market trends/conditions
  • Improved membership communication
  • Members have opportunity to influence management decision making
  • Clubs will retain existing members
  • Identify playing trends and tee time availability for re-sale

The delegates were advised that clubs that have used the service to date have generally seen over 200 responses submitted by members in the first week, with one golf club manager commenting:

The service provided by Derbyshire Golf has been great value and invaluable to the club’s future decision making and planning. It has enabled us to have a clear focus on delivering what our membership has told us they require.

Should any club manager or secretary wish to know more, Nigel Furniss can be contacted at Derbyshire Golf [email protected]

Twice a year the majority of the major golfing associations and home unions meet at the home of golf, The R&A at St Andrews to collectively discuss the issues, challenges and problems that are surrounding the game of golf. Having just returned from the forum in the middle of November it is extremely heartening to report that there is a real collective desire from all parties to meet the demands of today’s challenges.

Whilst the main problem of falling memberships and general participation tend to dictate the consensus of discussion, there are still many areas of the game that continue to flourish. A report from the PGA regarding the success of the Ryder Cup and the Junior Ryder Cup was quickly followed by discussion regarding the positive progression of the golf course in Brazil in preparation for golf in the Olympics in 2016. These are very strong messages that I personally believe we should all be embracing as we try and encourage greater participation in our own golf clubs.

An interesting statistic that was aired throughout the discussions related to ladies only golf clubs, which remained in demand throughout the UK and had not seen any reduction in their numbers, with some still reporting a waiting list. On the same vein of debate the more recent ‘pace-of-play’ research was again subject to some fairly vibrant discussion, this in turn was supported by the ‘Tee-it Forward’  proposals that have been put in the mix by our golfing friends from across the pond. Whilst I can certainly understand the rationale for the golfer playing from the tees that suits their standard (as well as the proposal to dispense with the coloured tees, which in turn could be instrumental in speeding up the pace-of-play), I am still sceptical if either gender will ever move away from the traditional ‘red’ or ‘white’ tees.

As golf club managers, we are all guilty of getting caught up in the daily intricacies of the business, however I believe it is important that we are aware of certain things that are happening at this level. It is of great importance that you are aware that The R&A are presently reviewing the rules of golf – not only for 2016 but also looking ahead to 2018. The rationale and objective behind this is to make a number of significant reductions in the wording and dialogue used to describe the rules and the ‘decisions book’.

Linked to the Rules of Golf advice, the group were also advised that The R&A will be meeting with all of the major golfing nations, as well as CONGU, to discuss the opportunity of providing a worldwide handicapping system – I will wait and see on that one!

With The R&A Chief Executive Peter Dawson retiring next year, it was fitting that Michael Hoare (GCMA Chairman) and I had lunch at St Andrews with Peter, enabling us to thank him and The R&A for their support to our Association. This is an opportunity for the main Associations to meet and discuss the challenges that are in front of us. I am extremely pleased to confirm that your Association continues to represent your concerns at this level.


By Bob Williams

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