Wimbledon Park Golf Club

Diversification can give golf clubs a new lease of life

The main earner for a golf club is the membership fees, so the more members, the better. This is also important when it comes to the further benefits, such as additional spending on items like food and beverage and retail.

Despite many clubs seeing membership numbers drop in the last few years, this now seems to be reversing. According to the 2017 KPMG Golf Participation Report for Europe there was a rise in membership numbers in 2016. This, combined with the inclusion of the sport in the 2016 Olympics, is hopefully good news for the sector. But apart from attracting more members, what else can golf courses do to boost their profitability and diversify their income streams?

Developing a hotel or holiday accommodation such as lodges or pods is one often successful option. Location is key factor for any development of this type and thought needs to be given to the club’s proximity to a town or city or a prime tourist location. However, unless the golf course is a trophy asset it’s unlikely that it alone will attract those looking to stay overnight. An operator might also consider adding a health and fitness facility to create a destination for both the local population and those looking for more from their stay than golf. The Club Company, which owns and operates 13 country clubs across the UK, is an example of how an all-in-one approach can be successful, providing hotel accommodation, event space, health and fitness facilities and a golf course.

There are also smaller accommodation options which require less initial capital investment. Glamping is currently a popular holiday choice and the inclusion of pods or lodges, dependent on planning permissions, could be a relatively quick and easy way to increase revenue. Some of the smallest camping pods can be under 6 sq m, though this is without bathroom facilities included. Holiday lodges typically range from 50 sq m to 100 sq m each.

Adding adventure or crazy golf facilities, an easy entrant point for players, has also proved popular, widening the visitor demographic. At Hersham Golf Club, in Surrey, the owners have created a safari adventure golf concept next to their 18-hole golf course, which can host kids’ parties, has a separate restaurant and can be hired for corporate team away days.

These sorts of options generate new income streams for golf clubs, expanding on their existing operations and reducing their reliance on membership fees. They open up the demographic of the golf club and lessen the impact the unpredictable British weather has on performance.  

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