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Should clubs offer a discount in the first year of membership?

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Jeremy Ellwood and Fergus Bisset discussed in this pre-Covid debate whether clubs should attract new members into year one at a discount. Have things changed?

Should clubs offer a discount in the first year of membership?

Yeah
Jeremy Elwood says

This may not be the ideal solution, but in a free market, when supply and demand are out of balance to the point that they are in golf, anything goes in pursuit of survival.

Times have changed and loyalty in many areas is no longer what it used to be.

Do you want to know the best way to get the best supermarket discount vouchers?

Don’t shop there for a few weeks and wait for incentives to start getting into your inbox.

Customers who spend a week or two weeks often don’t get the same deals.

We have to be realistic at this time of oversupply.

Many clubs have reduced their green fee rates to an inch of their lives to attract customers, so it is understandable that some are applying similar principles to membership fees.

For example, I play a lot of golf at my job, and for me, the weekend golf club is not a priority at the moment.

I simply can’t justify a south east england Membership fee for the amount I’m likely to play – usually 10-12 times in the last few years, which makes it around £100 for courses where you can probably get a green fee for £30 if you play at the right times.

Faced with this dilemma, a small local club a few years ago tempted me to offer half the price the first year, and three-fourths the price the second year, making it viable.

Two years later I was just starting to integrate a bit even into my limited demonstration so I had my third year at full rate although I doubted it wouldn’t be viable.

This club earned a return for three years, which it would not have earned had the first year not been deducted.

Related: Are age-related subscriptions a good idea?

Should clubs offer a discount in the first year of membership?

No
Fergus Bisset says:

In today’s highly competitive world, golf clubs should be Run like a business If they want to survive and move forward.

But that doesn’t mean they should be run like companies that push ethical boundaries.

Insurance companies and other subscription services that are attracting new business with discounted first-year offers while charging loyal customers higher rates in the long run have come under scrutiny in recent years.

It is a working technique to be questioned rather than admired and replicated.

Members’ golf clubs are democratic organizations in which all must contribute a fair share to the upkeep of the facility and all must have a fair opportunity to benefit from this facility.

By offering a discount to new entrants in their first year of membership, the club will not only harm its integrity but also the relationships between members and between members and their club.

How aggrieved would the 30-year-old member find out that the new member he was paired up with in the Summer Cup pays 20% less for his subscription?

The practice of offering discounts to new entrants also discourages golfers from remaining loyal to the club.

It is usual to navigate when it comes to car insurance or providing broadband, taking advantage of deals offered to new customers…

Do golf clubs really want to go into a similar kind of sharp rotation where members change their loyalty on a yearly basis?

It could mean that clubs have much less confidence about membership numbers, leading to insecurity about budgeting and future planning.

To be successful, golf clubs, like any business, must offer great product and service at a competitive price.

To offer great service to all members, this competitive base rate should be consistent for everyone, whether newcomers or seniors.

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