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Golf Membership: Value for Money?

By Chris Elliot, Client Manager, TLF Research

As a member of a golf club for over 25 years, I have increasingly become interested in how golf clubs create a sense of value for money for their members and particularly for myself as a fee paying member of a golf club. Membership fees in recent years have soared well over inflationary levels and as a result have seen increasing numbers of members take the hard option to cease membership and use municipal ‘pitch up and play’ golf courses as a means to enjoy their sport. 

Recent research conducted by the Your Say Pays consumer panel provides further proof that members of golf clubs are frustrated with the overall value for money and the general feeling of value that golf clubs give back to their membership. Of the panel interviewed, 20% of golfers felt that they didn’t get good value for money with the membership fees they pay and that 25% of golfers felt that their golf club did not fully value them as members. When looking at specific segments within the panel, 25% of female golfers felt their membership fee did not represent value for money and 30% felt under-valued as members of their respective clubs. Even more shocking was the fact that 46% of golfers aged 55-64 felt under-valued.

The YourSayPays research resonates with other surveys carried out recently. Sport England’s research in levels of satisfaction with golf clubs showed that overall satisfaction in golf and satisfaction of golf club members fell in the years 2009 – 2011. More specifically within the research by Sport England, the subject of value for money highlighted ‘satisfaction gaps’ between overall satisfaction and importance.

All of these findings should be of concern to golf clubs throughout the UK. The stop/start recovery in the economy continues to leave many golf club members wrestling with the decision of whether to continue to pay considerable sums of money to remain members. Golf clubs therefore need to place much greater emphasis on what the key drivers of satisfaction and dissatisfaction are with their membership. The same principles of customer satisfaction, apply to golf clubs as much as business organisations; high levels of member satisfaction will make members stay for longer, spend their money at the club more and recommend to friends, family and work colleagues. 

At the beginning of the article I explained my interest in my own levels of satisfaction at my golf club. The jury is probably out on this question but here’s a real thought provoker. If I continue to play golf for another 25 years (and I’ve already played for 25 years up to now), I’ll be spending over £40,000 on membership fees alone! That is a serious lifetime value of a customer and one that golf clubs should take heed of seriously and quickly.

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