Elgin Golf Club in Scotland is reaping the rewards of its family-friendly approach on and off the course as the Moray venue celebrates a healthy increase in membership this year.
Nestled in the heart of the glorious Highlands, Elgin is bucking membership trends after increasing its figures across male, female, junior and youth categories in 2018.
The inland 18-hole parkland layout, which boasts a newly-refurbished clubhouse, currently has 1,222 members, an increase of 95 on last year. Of that number, 581 are full members, but the biggest rise has been in junior membership, up by 52 to 142, with youth membership also up by 13.
As well as work on the course, it’s behind-the-scenes changes that have brought a new vibrancy to the club and, in turn, attracted a more diverse membership, with a younger age profile.
“The town is coming to us now, we were on the outskirts of Elgin before, but they are coming to us now,” said club manager Barbara-Anne Rumbles. “It needs to be more inclusive to the environment we are in.”
With an RAF base nearby and people often relocating, Elgin plays to its strengths. For example, it offered seven months’ membership for the price of six earlier this year and drew in 23 new faces, notably among the mid-20s to early 30s age bracket.
Research from The R&A has also illustrated the vast potential to grow women’s, girls’ and family golf. For Elgin, the results have been impressive. 60 women initially turned up for Get into Golf (GIG) coaching, with 28 signing up for weekly lessons and a £150 membership subscription on offer. Eight converted to full membership, with women’s ordinary and senior membership now totalling over 100.
“The ladies totally love the environment in the club and the social aspect as well,” adds Barbara-Anne. “That is huge for women these days.”
Rumbles has been at the heart of developments, first arriving at the club as an administrator with a background in HR & Finance in 2015 and soon becoming club manager inside a year.
To help her drive progress, Elgin’s VAT refund was reinvested wisely into the club. A deposit was put down to replace an outdated irrigation system for the testing par-69 venue, while the balance was used to create an environment where people of all ages would enjoy going.
“We haven’t totally renovated the clubhouse, but it was tired and needed freshening, so we decided to adapt the clubhouse to our current membership,” explained Rumbles. “We used to have a junior lounge, but we now see it that the juniors shouldn’t be in a room. They are now free to go wherever they like. We utilise that room now as a sports bar, with the main lounge as a function area for the likes of comedy nights, or gin & tapas nights. We have more flexibility in the clubhouse for the membership. We are targeting families, so it’s changing the mindset that golf clubs are not just a friendly place for golfers alone.
“That was one of the big things that we did last year with our women’s GIG coaching. We invited them up, through the support of ClubGolf volunteer coaches, and said ‘look, you’ve never touched a golf club but you are welcome here and can also enjoy the social side’.”
Rumbles explains that also being more open with the membership as a whole has helped drive change. “A big thing was to say my door is always open, so that members and visitors could feel that they could come in at any time,” concludes Rumbles, whose conditions of employment included doing levels one and two of the respected Management Development Programme. “They can have a coffee and if there is an issue or they want advice then things are dealt with there and then.
“I think that was the biggest thing from day one, the open door policy. Before even getting the job, I would spend probably 80% of my time with the membership. I’d come in early and do paperwork and then spend a lot of time speaking to members and finding out any issues. They just loved that. I think nowadays members want a club manager they can speak to and relate to.”