Date: July 15, 2014
Author: Stephen Pitt

From the CEO’s desk: July 2014

For many years, club membership has been the cornerstone of Australian golf and for most of the last decade our national membership has ranged between 450,000 and 400,000. 

Like many other similar golfing countries, membership in Australia has faced small annual decline in recent years and clubs have been forced to find a greater level of non-member revenue to ensure their viability. 

A key area for clubs to attract and maintain members is to ensure the product they are offering is enticing to potential members and cannot be sourced from other sources.  This is why it is so critical for clubs to look carefully at what they offer to their members and to be aware of new ideas that will engage members more strongly with their golf club.

A program that I have been really impressed with recently is Golf Premier League which started at the Latrobe Golf Club in Melbourne and now is being run at 22 clubs throughout Victoria.  It was the brainchild of the popular and enthusiastic club pro Tony Craswell who wanted to add a new dimension to the golf program at his club.

Latrobe GC has run the program for over five years and they have found their retention and rate of play has improved and they have experienced strong uplift in their food and beverage sales.  In addition they have dramatically strengthened the engagement the club has with a large portion of their members and increased the interaction between members of different ages, genders and talents.  A great strength of the program is that members don’t alter the way the play their golf and there is absolutely no requirement to change the competitions or events that clubs run.

Basically the way GPL works closely resembles a footy season.  At Latrobe GC there are now 16 teams of 11 members who play each other during the course of a defined season.  There are eight matches each round, with the five best scores from each team being used to determine the team score and subsequent winner. A ladder is kept and at the end of the season the top teams play off in a final series that culminates in a grand final. 

The GPL website solution to administrating the league allows all aspects like the number of teams, number of players and counting scores plus the length and timing of the season be set to suit what works best for the individual club.  In addition, clubs can run additional functions around the season like a draft night or a Brownlow/Dally M, which have proven to be extremely popular and well supported.  Clubs or golfers wanting to explore how GPL at their club can go to to get more information.

There are some terrific stories from participating clubs about the interest it has generated with members, including one such tale where a team member had a four footer to make the grand final on a green ringed with members.  Sadly he missed!

The last word on this belongs to Tony Craswell who said recently, “I’m not sure any golf club in Australia has had as much fun as Latrobe GC over the past five years.”

Fun – at the end of the day that is the most important part of any golf club offering to their members and it should be what being a golf club member is all about!