Since 2021, Players 1st has been supporting clubs across England as part of England Golf’s Membership: Give it a Shot campaign. The company behind the trusted customer experience platform, has been used by clubs in England since 2017, and has gone on to launch experience surveys within nearly 250 clubs across the country.
In the wake of the Covid-19 membership resurgence, affiliated clubs have been able to access the membership suite of surveys as part of the campaign’s support offer. Equipped with this armoury of three valuable and specific member experience survey templates, clubs are awakening to a new level of holistic insights, directly from their members.
From this growing database of new member feedback, some key findings are starting to create a not-so secret sauce towards a healthy membership retention strategy for golf clubs. We’ve aimed to highlight some of the most impactful areas that a club can consider through a new member experience lens. It’s these areas that become the ingredients in the secret sauce, and the ones that clubs should pay most attention to.
What can clubs do to anticipate the needs and expectations of the new member experience?
We’ve explored the areas that have been identified as either the most important to the overall satisfaction of new members, or, have a low satisfaction score from new member population. With efficiency and impact in mind, these are likely to be the lowest hanging fruit for any club manager.
One of the most important touchpoints that clubs might consider addressing is the introduction to the rules and etiquette of the game. Whilst it scored 75 out of 100 in satisfaction amongst those new to golf, it is the most important touchpoint relating to the impact on overall experience.
More broadly across all new member respondents, it is the ‘Welcome by the club’ that has the potential to influence overall experience the most, whilst ‘the attention given to me’ and the ‘integration into the club’ are the two least satisfied touchpoints overall. Armed with this insight, clubs could consider the process around new member education across the rules and etiquette of the game. Where could the club’s Professional and committees take responsibility for this within new member onboarding? Roll-up days, social events, and direct approaches from the wider membership can also add value to the
induction experience. The human interactions from staff members should not be underestimated. From pro shop, club house and out on course, all staff have a role to play in making sure the new members are made to feel genuinely welcome.
Taking the analysis to the next level to identify which golfers are most susceptible to churn.
One background variable which showed prominent differences in the potential future loyalty to the club was when looking at age group. This has been taken from the survey question “How likely is it that you will renew your membership at the club next year?”.
The data suggests that 18-30 year olds are most likely to give up their memberships versus any other age bracket. This has been a continuous trend since 2020. When looking specifically at its peak churn in 2022, 63% of 18-30 year old new club members were at risk of churning their membership within the next year. Only 37% would continue their membership versus 68% of 66+ year old new members.
What if a club could alleviate some of the need to recruit in future, by asking and understanding why their new members have joined their specific club? Or, why they decided to take up golf in the first place? If the organisation can ensure that the needs and expectations of these new joiners are being serviced from the get-go, then the foundations for a healthy retention strategy have started to be laid.
It is amongst this same younger age group that naturally have a limited history to experience golf prior to their membership (29% of 18-30 year olds were new to golf vs 13% for all other age groups). These younger new joiners who are new to the sport itself, cited the two most common reasons for taking up the sport from data across 2020-2022 as:
- 45% said ‘It was recommended I start playing golf (by friends, family, colleagues, etc.)’ and highlights the importance of referrals and word of mouth from your current members. Does your club promote a referral scheme? Or for those with a waiting list, is there a social membership to be able to integrate into the club even earlier?
- The second most cited reason for taking up golf was because they ‘Tried it socially and enjoyed it’. The 41% of new golfers who said this, might expect a similar social experience within their membership. Does the club make it easy for these young new golfers to play with other members they enjoy playing with? Or, do they have the flexibility to access the course, club house and facilities which compliments their lifestyle and leisure time?
When drawing out insights from the wider pool of young new members in response to the question ‘What is/are the primary reason(s) you chose the club?’, the four most cited reasons since 2020 are shown below:
So, if your club offered a special new joiner’s rate, it is important for clubs to consider how they can influence the value for money proposition beyond the introductory offer. And, whilst location seems the key influencing factor in any new member initiating a membership at a particular club, setting up opportunities to play with familiar playing partners could be an easy addition to the proposition that the club can facilitate.
Setting up for retention success
Whilst golf is unlikely to be gifted the abundance of new members as has been enjoyed for the past 2 years, it is important for clubs to seek and learn what they can regarding recruitment and joining motivations from their recent recruits.
Clubs can utilise their learnings from the specific new member experience to put in place the hygiene measure in the areas that they now know to be the most important to creating a great induction. And hopefully hitting the sweet spot of the new member expectations so that they move along the seniority ranks.
Focussing on the areas that the club can manage, influence or control, is likely to positively impact the wider club and become inherent in the delivery of a successful data-led and meaningful membership retention strategy.
A summary report of findings from Year 1 of the England Golf and Players 1st retention support is available to access, along with further information regarding how affiliated clubs can take up the support offer from England Golf in the following link: https://www.englandgolf.org/players-1st