THE CHANGING FACE OF MEMBERSHIP AND PARTICIPATION.
People are the heart of golf. Without participants, volunteers and leaders at a grass roots level the game ceases to exist. It's understandable then that there's a plethora of commentary on the declining rates of membership and participation in the game g
Carl Fenton looks at what's available for clubs to grow.
Following this commentary has been a raft of potential solutions, some well thought out and well-reasoned, others less so. The amount of discussion has somewhat ‘muddied the water' leaving a confusing abundance of options to drive membership and participation. Club leaders are now faced with the difficult task of picking the right options to grow and retain membership and participation at their club.
In the following article we clarify the extent of the issue in New Zealand, discuss the trends and identify the support structures available for clubs to grow their club.
WHAT IS THE STATE OF THE NATION?
Over the past 5 years there has been a slight decline in traditional membership across New Zealand of around 2% per annum. However, 2016 saw the lowest rate of decline at just 0.7%. There were a number of regions that saw growth including Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Hawkes Bay and Poverty Bay, Manawatu/ Wanganui & Otago. Casual engagement in the game has increased at a rate of around 7% per annum nationally for the last five years. Golf remains the highest participation sport for adults across the country and the interest for engaging in golf is still high. Most of this points towards a positive future, however some clubs are still struggling and have some hard decisions to make going forward.
WHAT IS CHANGING?
Societal change has altered the way we engage in sport and recreation. There are some very obvious changes over the last 20 years. Technology plays a much greater role in our lives. We have more competing commitments making us feel ‘time poor' and we often demand much more flexibility in the way we engage in sport and recreation. In 2016 New Zealand Golf collated a number of pieces of research and insight to understand how these trends were impacting golf across the country. This research was presented to the golf industry at the National Conference Series. Below is a summary of the trends, the full presentation can be found on the New Zealand golf website.
Summary of trends: • Golf is still very popular -Even with increased competition from leisure activities and greater time pressures Golf retains popularity amongst both men and women. • New people want to give golf a go - 66% of adults are interested in trying a new sport or activity rather than doing more of the same – golf and tennis top the list. • People are time poor - A lack of time is by far the number one reason participants give for not doing more sport and recreation. • People struggle with formality – Informal recreational activities (running, walking, cycling) have increased while participation in formalised sport has decreased. • Pay to play is growing – The most common way people participate in sport is pay to play which offers flexibility in the level of commitment.
WHY IS IT ADAPTING SUCH A CHALLENGE?
Structure: As discussed in a previous article, clubs by their nature aren't structured for rapid change. The structure of boards and committees that are voted on by members puts a lot of power in the hands of the membership. While this provides a robust, democratic process for club leadership and is a great protection from rogue leaders
trying to push their own agenda, it does mean that the needs of the current members often outweigh that of future members or club participants. Without independent representatives it can leave a club slightly out of touch with other sections of their communities.
The need for change: The 2016 Voice of the Participant survey completed by around 6,000 golfers showed that we're a remarkably satisfied bunch. Many golf members rate their satisfaction levels very high but noted that we're also not overly keen on any change at our club if it's going to cost us extra. That makes it remarkably difficult for a club to look at resourcing change in an environment that is getting a lot more expensive to operate in.
Cost: Resourcing golf clubs has become a much greater challenge. There has been a large shift from community organisations who were well supported through local trusts and had minimal outgoings to sports clubs today who are asked to be mobile, adaptable businesses that embrace technology, tick all the boxes for costly compliance and legislation and provide a quality career opportunities (and decent remuneration packages) for quality leaders. The reality is, everything has got a lot more expensive. Any change in the administration, operation or promotion of clubs comes with a price tag and finding the money to do this is becoming a lot more difficult.
WHAT TOOLS ARE AVAILABLE TO SUPPORT CLUBS WANTING TO MAKE CHANGE?
LOVEGolf: LOVEGolf is the national marketing campaign from New Zealand Golf aimed at changing the perception of the game. It has generated a measurable change year to year increasing the positive perceptions and decreasing the negative perceptions of golf in New Zealand. All promotion is driven towards the LOVEGolf website which clubs can then put their offerings on creating greater visibility.
She Loves Golf: A target market campaign under the LOVEGolf umbrella, She Loves Golf is specifically aimed at promoted greater engagement for women
within the game. The campaign is underway right now and offers a great amount of support to clubs who are interested in growing women's golf. Get on the Green: Get on the Green is another LOVEGolf product and allows clubs to promote what they offer in membership and participation initiatives to a database of over 150,000 emails. This platform helps generate revenue for the industry and provides a great opportunity to make club offerings more visible. Sector Support Team and Case
Studies: The Sector Support Team at New Zealand Golf is a team specifically dedicated to supporting the regional health of golf. They have been involved in supporting a number of membership and participation initiatives and can guide a club through best practice retention and acquisition initiatives. Part of their role is to share this best practice through the creation of Case Studies which can be found on the New Zealand Golf website.
If you or your club is interested in anything noted above, contact New Zealand Golf directly.