More details have emerged about the objectives of Golf England, the new company set up by the English Golf Union (EGU), Centrica/AA and AdvancedWave Limited to manage the commercial business of amateur golf and to provide golf clubs, members, associates and, ultimately, the game of golf with a range of benefits and services.
The objectives of the new company are to:
- Help improve the financial position of clubs
- Encourage more people to play golf
- Generate funds for reinvestment in the game
- Provide golfers with a broad range of golf-related benefits
Central to Golf England’s offering is a multi-functional smart card that will enable the EGU and clubs to access a central register of handicaps for club and non-club members. The card will also carry identification allowing golfers to enter competitions and take advantage of discounts on golf equipment and merchandise and a range of other discounts and privileges. Golfers will have the option of using the card as credit card – spend on which they can earn reward points.
Clubs will not only benefit from administrative savings but also from a competitive group purchasing programme which will save them money on a range of goods and services required to run a golf club.
The new partnership has been outlined to golf club officials at seminars held throughout the country.
Paul Baxter, Chief Executive of the EGU says: “This is a truly historic event for English golf. We have worked hard to open up opportunities for the game, embracing information technology, and we now have an exciting development that will bring real benefits to our 1,900 clubs, 800,000 members and 3 million other golfers.
“We have been seeking an appropriate partnership to help us realise our ambitions – and this has not been a simple task. I am delighted that we now have two business partners who bring substantial commercial and technical expertise to the EGU’s 80-year experience in golf.”
Golf England – What It Means To Clubs
There are nearly 1,900 clubs in England, ranging from the long-established, world-famous courses to newer ones opened in the last 10 years. Some – especially the newer ones – lack financial stability because income is not guaranteed and overheads are high, and because of lack of funds, they cannot invest in further facilities.
These clubs admit there is a need to address this by reducing their operating costs. They also know that maximising tee-time revenue would improve profitability. Vacant tee-times means lost revenue, and ‘no-shows’ for booked times means further lost opportunity to offer times to other golfers.
While famous clubs may have waiting lists, others do not have this luxury, and need to fill their membership vacancies. By way of thanking clubs for participating in the Golf England scheme and promoting it to members, once a club has signed up, Golf England will make incentive payments to clubs that manage to get 80% of their members to participate in the programme.
Group Purchasing Scheme
Clubs can benefit from savings on a range of products and services though the Group Purchasing Scheme, harnessing the buying power of 1,900 clubs. An analysis of a sample of 10 clubs suggests that a club with an annual spend of £400,000 could save around £35,000 through Golf England.
Products and services in the group purchasing programme include:
- consumables such as insurance, printing, stationery, fertilisers and chemicals, fuel and utilities and beers, wines and spirits
- club equipment including golf buggies, furniture, computers and locker room or office equipment
- capital items such as tractors, mowers, cars of other course machinery
If a club already has preferred suppliers, Golf England can incorporate them into the scheme. The Group Purchasing Scheme uses a flexible, user-friendly system that automates ordering, invoicing and payment.
GE’s central tee-time booking service will help identify vacant tee-times. Golfers will be able to book games online, and if their usual course is fully booked, they can find a nearby course with an available tee-time. Online payment facilities for bookings will secure club revenue.
Centralised Handicap Database
Golf England will introduce a centralised handicap database using smart cards to move the administration of handicapping into the 21st century, and remove the need for paper.
This is how the system will work:
- club members will be issued with their own personalised smart card
- microchips built into the card will store details that can be used to certify membership, confirm handicaps and update them after competitions via club computer terminals
- the system will allow a player’s handicap details to be updated into the EGU’s central database which will be managed on their behalf by Golf England
- the costs of all equipment and training for the new system, which is complementary to existing systems, will be met by Golf England
- golfers will only need to carry the SmartCard rather than a handicap certificate to provide proof of membership and play as a visitor
The golfer will benefit from:
- easier entry to competitions away from their own clubs
- discounts on golf merchandise
- credit facility as every cardholder will be offered the option of applying for a dual purpose SmartCard, which can also serve as a flexible credit card
- rewards programme for Golf England credit card holders
- exclusive offers on golf and non-golf related items specifically available to golfers registered with the Golf England programme.
- For clubs, the electronic system provides several benefits:
- reduction of administrative workload created by handicap management, especially for competitions
- increases the integrity of the handicap system, providing players with an up to date handicap
- make it easier for the EGU to identify emerging talent and offer them support and development to represent England in international competitions
Tee-Time Booking System
The system is designed to make it easier to match golfers looking for available tee-times with clubs who have tee-times to offer. Players will be able to access tee-times by telephoning a call centre or via the Internet.
This results in a number of benefits for the clubs :
- increased income from visiting players or pay-as-you-play players
- reduction in lost revenue from no-shows as fees are payable in advance through credit card
- no missed booking opportunities
- Clubs can block out times for their own members and leave selected tee-times available for visitors.
- Clubs still retain total control of their course usage
Golf England – What It Means To Club Professionals
Many club pros struggle to make a living. The rising tide of out-of-town retailing means that many pro-shops have to compete on price with major retailers. As a result, footfall through the pro shop is often not enough to sustain profitability.
In addition, club pros need to increase their revenue from providing lessons and coaching.
Golf England is working to help the club shops compete with the large golf retailers that now dominate the golf merchandise market. Club members and non-club golfers will be able to enjoy discounts comparable to those offered by these retailers directly from their own club shop, or over the Internet.
The EGU Associate Membership programme will be considerably enhanced by Golf England in order to attract more players into the game of golf. As well as providing recognition for the non-club golfer, the programme will provide a recruitment ground for clubs looking for new members. These golfers will be encouraged to make golf purchases through the golf club professional.
Golf England – What It Means To Club Members
Club membership fulfils most golfers’ needs. However, most would like lower membership fees, better facilities, savings on golf merchandise and to play famous courses. Golf England is free to club members. They will also benefit indirectly from any savings or increased revenues enjoyed by their clubs.
Every Golf England cardholder will be offered the option of applying for a dual purpose SmartCard, which can also serve as a flexible credit card. Issued through Bank of Scotland and Mastercard, it is accepted throughout the world at more than 19 million outlets and can be used to order goods and services over the phone, by mail order or on the Internet.
Every Golf England credit card holder will earn rewards for spending on the card.
The Golf England rewards programme will be able to exchange points for golf-related items such as free rounds of golf at participating courses, free golf merchandise, free golf-related leisure offers or money off club membership fees.
Golf England is currently in negotiation with commercial partners to provide exclusive golf and non-golf related offers to members registered with the Golf England programme. These exclusive offers will be available to all card holders, not just the credit card holder. Golf England is already in the process of developing exclusive offers from the AA, BT Cellnet and Hitachi, as well as an attractive instalment plan for payment of golf club membership fees. Improved financial stability in the clubs will allow them to invest and to offer better facilities for their members.
As part of a range of offers and benefits for use of the credit card, Golf England will provide club members the opportunities to play famous courses and enter events and competitions.
Golf England – What It Means To Non-Club Golfers
Non-club members or Associates range from serious to social, beginners to experienced. Golf England has found from its research among this group that they want recognition of their status – they do not wish to be seen as second-class golfers. They also express a wish to have access to good courses; be charged lower green fees; and improve their game.
Golf England will recognise non-club golfers by offering the Associate Membership handicap card. Whilst this is not a CONGU handicap, it is recognised by the EGU. Non-club golfers will have access to better courses through the centralised tee-time booking service. Through reward points for spend on their GE credit card, non-club golfers will get discounted green fees.
The EGU, through its Associate Membership programme, plans to invest in attracting more players into the game, by holding 200 free golf coaching days for beginners. As well as providing recognition for the less committed golfer, the programme will provide a recruitment ground for clubs looking for new members.
Clubs Back Golf England Plans
Golf England’s management say that over 60 per cent of the 1,000 clubs attending their presentations have already indicated their support for the company’s extensive plans to manage the commercial business of golf. Only two per cent have said they would probably be unlikely to take part in the scheme.
Club secretaries, treasurers, and other officials from more than 1,000 clubs have now seen the range of benefits on offer through Golf England’s proposals.
“We have had an overwhelmingly encouraging response,” says Golf England’s marketing director, Dale Clements. “While the majority have said they are ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ going to join the scheme, most of those who are undecided have said that they need to put the decision to their committee or proprietor.
“Although there was some scepticism at the outset, most of the questions asked at the meetings were to clarify technical points or raise issues about data protection of their members on mailing lists. We have managed to allay any such concerns, and now have a positive base to work from.
“The most popular aspect of the plan is the group purchasing and merchandising offer: clubs can clearly see the benefits to their finances.”
The Golf England team has completed a nationwide programme of seminars for club officials and will be sending out further information to clubs during December. GE will also be contacting clubs that have asked for individual support. Clubs will be able to sign up for the scheme in January.
Golf England firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 0845 085 0485