In recent years offering a “trial membership” has become common place for many golf clubs across the UK. The principle of the trial membership has been developed from other leisure industries where free day or week passes have been used to great effect for many years in attracting new members.

The trial membership is designed to attract those golfers who have always wanted to be a member of a golf club but have been put off by the big upfront commitment. Also, it has the power to attract lapsed golfers back to the game and those who stopped playing as they did not feel they were getting value for money in the past.

With many golf clubs still falling behind looking to attract the perfect member (Traditional Member Article) there is often a fear as to the “type” of member these kind of offers would attract. The simple fact of the matter is that times have changed, people and their habits have changed and golf clubs must tune into this and find new ways of attracting the modern golfer into club membership.

What makes a good 3 month trial membership?

  • Joining process must be quick and easy with the start date selected by the incoming member
  • Only available in the summer when the course is at its best
  • Must include the majority of benefits a full member receives in order to create a worthwhile experience
  • Benefits should include: bar discount, advanced online tee booking, handicap and competitions. If weekend competitions are under subscribed allow trial members to play. You can set the rules for board competitions but as a minimum trial members should be able to play midweek competitive golf
  • Competitively priced at a fraction less than the standard price of 3 months in any given category of membership
  • Hosting new member evenings which gives trial members the opportunity to meet other members and form golfing partnerships
  • A person can only have one 3 month trial membership

Benefits of offering a 3 month trial

  • Many nomadic golfers are interested in golf club membership but have never been a member of a club before. A 3 month membership allows them to get used to the idea of membership and make an informed decision when it comes to a 12 month commitment
  • It will put your club at the front of the queue for golfers who are considering taking up membership for the first time
  • Lapsed golfers can give membership a try again to see if they can ensure better value for money
  • There is no better opportunity than getting potential full members for years to come at your golf club and selling them all that is great about membership

Common Objections

  • Generally the main objection is that the club is potentially giving away cheap golf in the summer months when the course is at its best
  • There will be those golfers who just come for the 3 months over the summer and do not go onto full membership
  • Is this the “type of member” the club is looking to attract, they should want to join the club because of its prestige not because a deal is being offered

To answer all those objections, yes there will be a few that will join for 3 months who take advantage of the course over the summer and not commit. Those golfers, however, are never likely to join a club, they will travel around and play a couple of times a month at different courses. They may play your course once or twice over the summer. With this type of golfer it is a real victory if you can get 3 months membership out of them, they may bring guests and spend in the bar and pro shop also. That golfer that just comes for the 3 months could still be worth a few hundred pounds in secondary spend alone. Also that golfer may not be ready for membership at that time but chances are when they are, they will come back to the club that treated them well for those 3 months.

Unfortunately for the golf industry the days of golfers walking through your door and looking to join on a full membership are now few and far between. Golf clubs need to get over the fear of damaging their reputation and use modern techniques to prove that their membership product is value for money. Modern living is based around flexibility and clubs must accept that they have to be flexible in their approach to selling membership. The golf clubs that are already doing this and doing it very well and so if you are not, you are simply falling further behind.

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About the author

James Wilkinson
James Wilkinson

For over 5 years, Albatross Digital founder James Wilkinson has helped over 100 golf clubs including Celtic Manor and Woodhall Spa succeed using digital marketing.

I've also spoken and written about how to execute effective golf club marketing strategies for associations and partners including the GCMA, UKGolf Federation, England Golf, Wales Golf, 59 Club, Club Systems and more..

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