England and Wales (North) Region
24 Feb 14
Leyland PGA Professional Colin Burgess presents 13-year-old Chloe Fazackerley with a claret jug following her win in the club's putting competition for juniors.
Leyland Golf Club is bucking the national trend in dwindling memberships by introducing a series of initiatives which could serve as a benchmark for others to take heed of.
They include a variety of flexible packages offering affordable playing and inducements for complete beginners to take up the game.
And the success of the venture, with head PGA pro Colin Burgess playing a leading role, has been lauded by the recently-formed Lancashire County Golf Partnership.
Iain Lancaster, the county development officer, said: “This is an excellent case study. We are very impressed with their set-up and forward planning which we feel is a blueprint for how clubs need to think and operate to drive their business.”
Only a few years ago Leyland ran into difficulties when, after funding a new clubhouse to replace the old one destroyed by fire, they faced an annual course rental increase of a mind-boggling £30,000.
“We had to batten down the hatches,” recalled chairman Norman Graham.
“Our treasurer Danny Winston kept a tight rein on the finances but unfortunately it was also at the time when golf was going downhill largely due to the economic situation.
“Membership numbers started to drop and in one year we lost 100. When we were down to 500 we had to do something to reverse the problem.
“We researched other clubs as far away as Surrey and many of them told us about their flexible membership schemes which we thought were a good idea. When we asked some of our players why they were resigning the majority said they felt that they weren’t getting value for money.
“That’s the problem we looked to address along with our age profile which was dominated by over-60s. We only had two in the 20-30 bracket.”
The club embarked on an ambitious plan to restore its fortunes by introducing membership categories to suit all genders, ranging from 20 and 40 rounds a year to the run alongside the regular five and seven day sections.
They also targeted beginners, particularly juniors and females, by offering cheaper entrance fees.
There are two-year academy memberships which allow women to play without handicaps with existing members. Today, that section is 80-strong with 50 regularly playing in Sunday competitions to facilitate people who work.
There is a 60-strong junior presence, with 10 free places for girls overshadowing the national average of two per club. Two Sunday morning coaching sessions for younger members are held under the tutelage of Leyland’s long-serving PGA professional Colin Burgess.
The clubhouse dress code has also been removed, and, bravely, the club has reduced the senior subsidy!
Graham explained: “We decided that they used the course more than anyone else and were already getting excellent value for money from their subscriptions. That helped us to create an intermediate category for 20-30 year olds and it also meant that juniors moving up would only have to pay £25 more.”
Lancaster added: “There are two key words, flexibility and friendliness, which come up time and again at successful clubs like Leyland.
“Clubs have had to recognise that life outside the golf club has changed in a number of ways in recent years and they need to be conscious of this in the variety of packages that they offer to their members.”
Sean Hammill, the England Golf Regional Development Officer, said: “The LCGP will be looking to help clubs share best practice and offer support to those with development initiatives.”
Meanwhile, membership recruitment and retention advice has been prepared for an England Golf document available to all clubs at the end of the month through the LCGP website www.lancashirecgp.co.uk
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