How to Increase Golf Club Memberships

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Increasing golf club memberships keeps your courses filled.
Increasing golf club memberships keeps your courses filled. (Image: Michael Neary/iStock/Getty Images)

Golf clubs face increasing competition for members, both from other clubs and from additional sources of leisure and entertainment for busy professionals and families. Increasing the membership list requires a focused marketing campaign targeting those people most likely to be interested in joining and offering incentives that encourage them to do so. Current members can be the most effective recruiters by influencing their friends and adult children to join.

Know Your Market

One of the best ways of finding additional members is to analyze the characteristics of your current members and market toward individuals who share those traits. For example, if you find out that the vast majority of your membership lives within a 20-minute drive of the club, you’ll probably want to concentrate your marketing in that geographic area. If most members have spouses and children, touting family-friendly activities or parent-child golf tournaments and classes can be an effective sales pitch.

Encourage Referrals

There’s no better advertising for a golf club that the kind that comes from current members. Encourage them to refer their friends and colleagues to the facility by offering benefits for doing so, such as a month’s worth of free dues or free rounds of golf. Referrals have a side benefit in that they can encourage current members to remain -- the more friends and colleagues they have at the club, the better their social experience when using the facility and the more likely they are to remain.

Add Benefits

The more value a customer sees in a membership, the more likely he is to buy. Adding benefits as a way to woo new customers doesn’t necessarily have to break the bank. For example, allowing members to bring a few guests a month to golf with them for free during the week offers multiple attractions -- it introduces the guests to the club, encourages members to further the social experience with a meal at the facility, and takes advantage of available course capacity during less-busy times. Limit the amount of times a single guest can be brought each month, however, or some may find it more cost effective to be a permanent guest than a new member.

Adjust Initiation Fees

Initiation fees can be a barrier when seeking new members, as the upfront costs to join can be too high for those who don’t feel they’ll use the course enough to benefit from it. Clubs can combat this by reducing or eliminating the initiation fee or by allowing it to be paid over a multiyear period, in exchange for getting the revenue elsewhere and adding conditions that encourage long-term membership rather than club-jumping. Allowing members to avoid paying the fee if they agree to be members for at least three years, for example, can ensure that the club is winning members interested in doing more than simply giving the club a trial run, and it maintains cash flow. Clubs can also waive the initiation fees for legacy members to encourage multigenerational membership and lock up a new generation of golfers.

Strategic Partnerships

If your golf club is focused solely on the course and lacks amenities found in rival facilities, partnering with complementary businesses can make up for that perceived deficiency. For example, partnering with a local swim club to allow your members to join at discounted rates gives you something extra to offer, while avoiding the costs of maintaining a pool yourself and ensuring that only those who would use a pool have to pay for the privilege.

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