This year we (CGI) will support over 200 Golf Clubs in recruiting new members and retaining existing members through our Get into Golf and Stay in Golf initiatives. These programmes not only help Golf Clubs increase their membership figures and revenue but also help to make golf more accessible to a wider audience.
Our Get into Golf initiative was first launched nationally in 2014, having been piloted in the ILGU in 2013. Since then the programme has been successfully delivered to 6,000 participants with 3,600 of those moving into Golf Club membership.
Each year our women’s programme continues to be the most sought after from clubs applying for support with over 110 Golf Clubs already delivering the programme and an additional 49 being involved for 2016.
Last week we supported several clubs launch their Get into Golf for Women programme with the majority being delivered in the coming weeks. The average sign up rate so far is 41 participants per club - WOW.
Secret to success?
People often ask what the secret to success is, how do clubs get so many people to sign up?
Personally, I don’t believe there are any secrets, there are no magic wands, success comes with hard work, determination, belief and team work. Very simply, we set out to design an initiative that matched the needs of our target audience that could be sustainably rolled out by Golf Clubs and so far it is working.
When I began working on this programme I was a 24-year-old graduate, full of enthusiasm and research tasked by the ILGU to get more women into golf. At the beginning, I didn't think it could be that hard, I loved the game, I had the research done and an idea drafted up on my computer. What I quickly realised was that everything could not be done behind a computer screen or reading books. Unless I could fully connect with adults looking to take up the game for the first time, this programme would flop.
I had learned most things as a child including golf and therefore it was challenging for me to understand the barriers in place for adults taking up something new. The initial learning curve came on the day of the first pilot taster session in a club, I was delighted with the response we had received building up to the day but as the the start time neared by enthusiasm was dropping by the minute. There were only a handful of people, what had gone wrong?
I started to phone the people on the list and what I soon realised was that most them were sitting in their cars, in the car park too intimidated to come in. They were not sure where to meet, if what they were wearing was appropriate, if it was ok to come without clubs. These were all things I hadn’t even considered an issue.
I made a panicked call to Sinead Heraty (CE of ILGU), the day had not gone according to the plan, some of the ladies were so nervous they had driven away. The numbers had dropped before we had even started. I thought I was doomed as was the whole idea. There was no panicked reply from Sinead, just simple words of:
"All problems, come fully equipped with solutions"
These became words I bring to challenges we meet every day.
With that experience under my belt and Sinead's advice, I realised I needed to spend more time talking to people who didn’t play golf and try and identify what their perceptions of the game were. In most cases, they didn’t share the same love or enthusiasm of the game as I did, with reoccurring themes of:
“Golf is too time consuming”
“I wouldn’t know where to go, who to talk to or anyone in the club”
“There are too many cliques”
“It is sooooo boring”
“Sure, I wouldn’t fit into the golf club environment at all"
Once these themes were well thrashed out, we discussed what they would look for when taking up something new and most of their answers aligned with a fantastic piece of research our Participation Officer Rory Leonard later found at a Sport NI seminar, which outlined six core values that women typically prioritise including:
- Looking good
- Feeling good
- Achieving goal
- Developing skills
- Nurturing friends and family
- Having FUN
These values represented areas that are important to women in modern life and how they want to spend their time and energy. Naturally these values will be different for different women at different stages of their lives but these values are underpinned throughout our programme in subtle ways.
Every experience is one to learn from...
The research and focus groups allowed us to create a variety of pilot programmes. Did more of them flop like the first Taster Session? Absolutely, and I am not ashamed to say it (now!), looking back those failures turned into the greatest lessons and helped to build the foundation of our current offering.
Success, as we tell Golf Clubs is never down to the work of just one person and I am fortunate to have been mentored by Anne Marie Hughes and work alongside our Participation Officers who have 10+ years in development, enthusiasm, passion and belief in the development of the game. From the very moment that they became involved, they added a new dimension as did PGA Professionals Michelle Carroll and Gillian Burrell who played a pivotal role in piloting and developing the programme from a PGA Professional point of view.
Four years on and we are still learning, we are still improving the support we give clubs in subtle ways, this year we are piloting an online page with a range of resources for clubs running the programme which includes our Get into Golf and Stay in Golf Guide. We have acknowledged that the struggle for clubs in most cases is in retaining these participants and now have a three year commitment of support to clubs to help them create a sustainable environment for recruiting and retaining new members.
Do all the clubs we work with have the same success? Simply put, no. Each clubs expectations are different, each clubs input is different. As mentioned above, our team cannot offer clubs a magic want or a short cut to success. We can provide them with models of good practice and a range of ideas on how to recruit and retain participants as well as continued support. After that it is over to the club, who create their own magic.
Several clubs we talk to are concerned with their age profile, the good news is in 2016 our Get into Golf for Women programme seen the greatest drop in age with 35% of participants who responded to our survey being U-44 and 60% U-54 years of age and we expect to see similar stats for 2017.
Want to get involved?
To read more about the programme and research, click on our Get into Golf Guide - http://www.epageflip.net/i/656929-get-into-golf-guide
Support is available from our Participation Officers but it should be noted, priority is given to Golf Clubs who applied and committed to being part of Get into Golf 2017, therefore support they are able to offer may be limited in the short term.
For all those who continue to develop our game in a range of ways outside of this programme – we also support your clubs by advertising your programmes online and offering some basic merchandise (where stocks allow).
Those interested in taking up the game for the first time visit www.cgigolf.org for a list of clubs running Get into Golf for Women programmes in 2017 (other programmes will be added in due course)
As always, our entire team are very thankful for the continued hard work of PGA Professionals and Volunteers across the country who help make these programmes such a success.