In just three years, much to the satisfaction of Golf England, Head PGA Professional Lee Andrews, joint general manager Andrew Smith and a team of four other PGA professionals at Mid-Sussex GC have turned a club with zero beginner members to one where there are now nearly 300. So how have they done it?
Andrews explains, “We broadened the club’s offer to complete beginners and casual visitors by creating three new memberships: Academy, Practice and Off-Peak. By taking the trouble to explain to existing members our thinking and how they and the club would benefit, we got them onside which proved critical.”
He continues, “The £450 Academy product provides £100 of lessons, £350 of golf set up as 30 opportunities to play nine holes, free golf monthly clinics and free buckets of balls for the club’s own driving range. For £75 our Practice membership allows use of the range where they can play off grass as well as mats, play the beginner course and use the chipping and putting greens. Off-Peak offers golf after midday in winter and 1pm in summer, with full access to monthly competitions, as part of the Golf England requirement is to see players with handicaps, not just players.”
Andrew’s next action was to set up a shorter version of the main course for the beginners with a much higher version of ‘par’, and tees/starting points that are much nearer the green, starting from the fairway; it is now sponsored by the local Porsche dealer.
Just 1,085 yards long, the par 35 course is getting beginner ladies playing, as Andrews commented, “As beginners, ladies are easily inhibited by players behind them and so on. So the short course lets them start well out of other players’ way, get the hang of playing on a proper course, and do ‘nine holes’ in around 2 hours. We also have a shorter three hole course with holes of 50, 75 and 100 yards just for the beginners.”
This radically different approach to getting people into the game is working brilliantly. As of March 2014, Mid-Sussex has 68 Academy members, 112 Off-Peak members and 109 Practice members, numbers that speak for themselves and a much brighter future for the club.
Mid-Sussex Golf Club www.midsussexgolfclub.co.uk