Converting summer green fee visitors into Members

Wherever you are reading this issue of Golf Range News, I hope that the summer is well and truly with you, and golfers are enjoying your course, clubhouse and the game of golf.   One of the great challenges for golf managers is of course to try and find ways to encourage the ‘fair-weather’ golfer who appears each summer to make a deeper commitment to the game, and hopefully, to your business.

Golf managers have not done themselves any favours over the years on this subject, being historically quick to enter into ‘2 for 1’ deals, special discounts on green fees, early-bird and twilight offers – all of which make it easy for the golfing consumer to get great value from a small investment.  Perhaps there will be brave, visionary golf course owners and managers who will turn this around – and selling our game the same way as other businesses sell their products.

The Easyjet airline seat pricing model is one that I for one would like to see in golf – where the further ahead you book (and pay), the cheaper the product (in our case, a green fee) becomes. Conversely of course, anyone who has tried to book an Easyjet ticket just a few days’ in advance will tell you that it will not be cheap, that is for certain.  But this model may well be a few years away from appearing in the golf industry, I am afraid to say.

So, what can you do?   You need to try and attract new members, and those golfers who enjoy your course, come back regularly and currently pay green fees must surely be ‘warm’ targets, if not ‘hot’ targets on your list of potential members, shouldn’t they?

Of course, you will all be shouting at the pages saying “this is easier said than done”, and you are right, but I think there are a few simple steps to consider that might help you in your attempts to convert ‘nomads’ into ‘members’.  Here they are:

  1. First of all, find out who are these regularly golfers, who return and pay green fees regularly, who enjoy playing your course, but are not members.  The key person here is the golf professional, or the person/people who take the green fees.   If they have been doing that job for some months, they will see the faces return again and again.  Encourage your team members to engage with these golfers, find out more about them (where they live, if they enjoy the course & club etc…).   Try and get them to give you their contact details – email address is great, but telephone number as well.   A business card draw is always a good way to capture this data.
  2. Secondly, ensure that you have a flexible membership offering, or a variety of membership categories to suit different budgets, lifestyles, age groups, playing habits etc…  If you don’t have flexible membership offerings and a wide choice of membership categories, where have you been in the past 3 or 4 years ???
  3. Please make sure that all of your membership literature talks about the social and well-being side of club membership.  Making new friends, having fun, bringing families together, meeting other members of your local community etc…  All this will be much more interesting to a golfer than “Annual membership is worth it if you play more than once a week”.   If a golfer looks at annual, or monthly membership in terms of how many times they can play, they will almost certainly opt for paying green fees, as the commitment to play once a week is one that they are unlikely to make, as they know they will probably not be able to do this – for a multitude of reasons.
  4. Next, get talking to them.  Give them a call, offer them a free drink before or after their next round if they will meet with you.  You can explain the membership options and show them the benefits of club membership that they are missing by being a casual, green fee-paying golfer – the members social events, summer barbeques, dinners, competitions, member/guest events etc….  Sell your clubs status and longevity in the local community (eg: “we celebrated our 50th anniversary last year”) and explain that members are treated with a special service at your club.
  5. Finally, make sure your members have the preferential tee times (and don’t let non-members play at the most popular times. The statement: “Why should I become a member when I can play any Saturday morning I like by paying a green fee?” should not be heard at your club.  Also give members priority for competitions, social events and all activity at the club.   This does not have to be a members’ discount by the way – for popular events that are likely to be ‘sold out’, just make sure you give the members the chance to book their places at the event a few days before opening the event up to non-members.

Enjoy the sunshine, enjoy the business from these casual, fair-weather golfers whenever you can, but remember to try and convert as many as you can into club membership, as the revenue from a full, active and engaged club membership will see your business through when the weather is not so kind!!

Jerry Kilby

Golf Management Consultant


Jerry Kilby can be contacted on