Golf club membership dilemma: Why clubs must brace for difficult year

Golf clubs should prepare for a challenging renewals period next year with players weighing up what to do with less disposable income as the coronavirus pandemic continues to bite.

Speaking on the NCG Podcast, Alastair Sinclair, chief executive of PlayMoreGolf, said there was “no doubt” the traditional January and April months when clubs asked members to renew their subscriptions would be difficult.

Sinclair, whose company partners with clubs to offer flexible membership schemes, believes the boom that has bathed the industry since the ending of strict lockdown in May will continue for a few weeks yet.

But he reckons a natural drop-off in October, combined with the ending of the Government’s furlough scheme, could be a turning point.

“That’s going to really begin to provide the indicators to companies like ourselves, and golf clubs as well, as to what the next six months might look like with regards to the full membership renewal that is obviously something that everyone is very keen to discuss now,” he said.

“It’s something that is cause for concern. We haven’t gone through a 20 per cent decrease in GDP as a consequence of Covid for no reason.

“It is going to obviously have a deep impact on people’s disposable incomes as we come into 2021.

“We are having to prepare people for that. We can’t be short term. We have to look mid-term and say, ‘Actually, there is going to be an impact. We can’t avoid that.’ But what we need to do is keep these people at golf clubs and do everything we possibly can do to retain them.

“Because once people leave as a member of a golf club, it’s very hard to get them back.”

Asked whether the next golf club membership renewals period would then be difficult, Sinclair added: “Inevitably. No doubt about it. Reading some of the surveys that have been done recently, there are people quoting that 43 per cent of private club members are saying they are going to have a reduction in their disposable income into next year.

“That’s going to have an impact within the industry. It has to. There’s no way we can shy away from it. But what we have to do is really prepare people for the next stage and saying, ‘Look, what you need to do is make sure you’re getting revenue coming in.’

“If you don’t get revenue coming in, and you just leave it so the choice is binary to say ‘I’m either a full member or I’m not a member at all’, then that’s going to cause you some trouble because it’s going to be quite a hard process actually to make up in green free revenue that loss of membership income.”

The NCG Podcast on the golf club membership dilemma

PlayMoreGolf’s Alastair Sinclair joined me on the NCG Podcast to discuss more about the golf club membership boom, flexible membership and its critics, and the way forward for golf.

How is your club going to handle the golf club membership renewals period? Let me know what they have in store by commenting below, or tweeting me.

Want more? Head to our podcast homepage.


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