GET­TING VALUE FOR YOUR SUBSCRIPTION

We take a look at dif­fer­ent mod­els for golf club mem­ber­ship and the real costs per round.

New Zealand Golf Magazine - - CONTENTS - WORDS PETER WIL­LIAMS

Those of us who’ve been around golf for a while are very com­fort­able with the way the sys­tem works in this coun­try. We pay an an­nual sub, ei­ther as a full or mid-week or coun­try or nine hole mem­ber, and that en­ti­tles us to use the course more or less when­ever we please. We can also use the putting green, other prac­tice ar­eas and the club­house fa­cil­i­ties at our leisure as well.

But in this mod­ern era, the com­puter sys­tems for tee time book­ings and card print­ing al­low clubs to quickly work out who’s get­ting the best value for their sub.

Some re­port that 20 per­cent of their mem­bers are play­ing eighty per­cent of the rounds.

On the sur­face, there’s ac­tu­ally noth­ing wrong with that be­cause that’s what you sign up for and pay for. But there are more and more eye­brows be­ing raised at just how cheap golf is be­com­ing for those who have lots of time on their hands.

For in­stance, if you pay be­tween $1000 and $2000 for an an­nual sub – which is the go­ing rate in most de­cent sized cities – and then play a cou­ple of times a week, or a hun­dred times a year, it means your cost per round is ridicu­lously low.

So the ques­tion be­ing asked is: if some mem­bers can get their golf for be­tween $10 and $20 a round, why can’t ev­ery­body?

Of course, ev­ery­body can – if they had the time. But we know that’s im­pos­si­ble be­cause of things called work and fam­i­lies and other things in life.

In my time in golf ad­min­is­tra­tion, the av­er­age mem­ber at Akarana was play­ing about 25 times a year. The full sub at the time was from mem­ory about $1500. That meant each round cost $60, which is a far more re­al­is­tic price for a game of golf in a New Zealand city.

But there is a trend to try and even out the play­ing field so that those who play of­ten con­trib­ute more to the club’s rev­enue.

For now the “card fees” or “club de­vel­op­ment fees” are mod­est. Akarana was among the first to in­tro­duce them and the last time I played there it was still just $2 a round.

In my time in golf ad­min­is­tra­tion, the av­er­age mem­ber at Akarana was play­ing about 25 times a year. The full sub at the time was from mem­ory about $1500. That meant each round cost $60, which is a far more re­al­is­tic price for a game of golf in a New Zealand city.

But if you play 120 times a year, which is not un­com­mon for the 20 per­cent of mem­bers I men­tioned be­fore, your subscription has ef­fec­tively in­creased by the best part of $250, which could be 20 per­cent more than some other mem­bers pay.

Now we hear North Shore and Pupuke are in­tro­duc­ing a sim­i­lar sys­tem.

It makes sense. Those who use the course the most should pay more for its up­keep and de­vel­op­ment. I’m told that there has been vir­tu­ally no push­back against the scheme. But a cou­ple of dol­lars on the day is no real hard­ship for most golfers.

How­ever one of the top­ics un­der dis­cus­sion at the re­cent New Zealand Golf Man­agers con­fer­ence in Queen­stown was whether these $2 daily fees could be lifted even more, pos­si­bly at the ex­pense of drop­ping the price of an an­nual sub.

In other words, you pay a base subscription and then a daily fee. What this will mean is that those who play 120 times a year will fin­ish up pay­ing con­sid­er­ably more for their golf – an­nu­ally - than those who play only once or twice a month.

And that seems fair.

So let’s do some sums. Player A has 120 rounds a year with a $1500 an­nual sub and $2 a round pays a to­tal of $1740 for the year or $14.50 a round.

Player B has 24 rounds a year with a $1500 an­nual sub and $2 a round pays a to­tal of $1548 a year or $64.50 a round.

The club’s in­come from those two play­ers is $3288.

Now we change the model. We halve the an­nual sub and in­crease the daily fee to $10.

So as we've shown, a lot of work needs to be done by golf man­agers, club boards, market re­searchers, and pos­si­bly golf be­hav­iour ex­perts, to find the model of subscription and pay-to-play which works best.

Player A now pays $750 an­nual and $1200 in daily fees for a to­tal of $1950 or $16.25 a round.

Player B now pays $750 an­nual and $240 in daily fees for $990 in to­tal or $41.25 a round.

The price per round is closer but still favours the 2 to 3 times a week player.

But the club’s in­come has dropped to $2940, so it’s not a sat­is­fac­tory so­lu­tion for the club.

Let’s try the same base subscription and put the daily rate up to $15.

Player A spends $750 on his an­nual and $1800 on his daily fees for a to­tal of $2550. It’s still only $21.25 a round.

Player B pays $750 plus $360 on daily fees for a to­tal of $1110. That’s $46.25 a round.

The club now has in­come of $3660.

The price gap per round be­tween the 120 rounds a year player and the twice a month guy has widened from a $10 daily fee, but it’s still a lot closer than the cur­rent subscription-only model in force at most golf clubs.

So as we’ve shown, a lot of work needs to be done by golf man­agers, club boards, market re­searchers, and pos­si­bly golf be­hav­iour ex­perts, to find the model of subscription and pay-to-play which works best.

Per­haps the most ba­sic ques­tion of all is: should we pun­ish some­one for hav­ing the time and the in­cli­na­tion to play 2 or 3 times a week?

The an­swer to that is, of course, no.

But we are at risk of los­ing more and more and more mem­bers who don’t play much, if they find out what their golf is re­ally cost­ing them.

If you only play a cou­ple of times month – and as I write this just be­fore Labour Week­end, my records tell me I’ve played only 25 times this year – then it could be ar­gued I don’t get full value for my sub.

That wasn’t the case in 2004. That year I played 132 times! That’s called get­ting value for money.

Some­body, some­where will be able to do the ac­tu­ar­ial cal­cu­la­tion that gives ev­ery club mem­ber the fairest deal.

And get­ting that fairest deal for mem­bers is a vi­tal as­pect of re­tain­ing the ones we have and at­tract­ing more.

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