The English Golf Union (EGU) has launched a dynamic Internet service, EGU Golf Central, which will transform the way golfers, both in England and overseas, arrange the playing of the game throughout the country.
It is the only online service that is endorsed by the governing body of amateur golf in England and has seen exceptional support from clubs during its development and launch. Over 600 clubs are already participating in EGU Golf Central, which aims to make playing golf in England more accessible to both club members and visitors.
In only three clicks, golfers can see special offers on green fees, group and society packages, entry forms for open competitions, clubs that have membership vacancies as well as information on all 1900+ clubs in England. EGU Golf Central also provides golf clubs with facilities to help improve their own marketing and communications with their members and visitors.
The system has been produced by the IT professionals at Simply Smarter Ltd (www.SimplySmarter.co.uk) and has been developed over a five year period. Those who have already used the software testify that it is well planned, comprehensive, flexible and both quick and easy for non-IT specialists to manage.
It was first developed for use as an independent business initiative but it was soon taken up by the Scottish Golf Union and the version used in Scotland has been live for around two years. After this long period for testing, refinement and further testing SGU Golf Central was launched in March of this year.
Sam Thompson and colleagues at Simply Smarter have been working with the English Golf Union to adapt the Scottish model for use in England. The EGU has been consulting with representatives from the clubs over the past six months to ensure the service integrates with their day-to-day business operations, making EGU Golf Central easy for them to adopt and in turn ensuring the service delivered to golfers is straightforward and simple to use, offering a comprehensive and accurate range of data.
It is therefore correct to describe the package now on offer as ‘developed by secretaries and managers for secretaries and managers’. It also represents a considerable investment by the EGU, which is keen to ensure that the member golf clubs see tangible benefits in return for their affiliation fees.
EGU chief executive Paul Baxter said, “Promoting and growing the game is a major objective of the EGU. We continue to battle against the perception that golf is inaccessible and expensive when the opposite more often is the case. EGU Golf Central allows any golfer, be they in York or New York, to book the best value golf deals at hundreds of clubs in England. It allows non-club members to find membership vacancies and brings the enthusiastic golfer open competitions to play in all over the country.”
Baxter continued, “In a marketplace that is continually becoming more competitive, EGU Golf Central also provides a great opportunity for our clubs to promote themselves using the leverage of their governing body’s website and communications.”
The new service employs unique technology that uses maps to search for club information rather than the usual alphabetical search. Another advantage that this system has over many other directories is that each golf club has the ability to manage and update its published details as often as required. It takes only a few moments to access the system using the club’s unique password and keep the published data current, a benefit that will be greatly appreciated by the online user.
The golfer can choose to look for clubs within a 10, 25 or 50 mile radius of any location and EGU Golf Central will automatically list those clubs within that radius. At a glance golfers can then see which clubs have special offers, open competitions or membership vacancies as well as general information on each club including directions and local weather. Society organisers will also find the service invaluable when researching new venues.
EGU Golf Central is free for both golfers and clubs to use. The pilot site, which has been running over the past couple of months, has already seen golfers using the service to book special offers and make membership enquiries. In Scotland, since the launch less than six months ago, they have also had a great response and have also seen a huge amount of entries to open competitions.
EGU Golf Central is available via the English Golf Union website, www.englishgolfunion.org Once registered, golfers can access special golf deals specifically for them depending on whether they are club members, non-club members or overseas visitors.
Baxter added, “There are over 1,900 golf courses in England, from well known championship venues to hidden gems, links and parkland courses. EGU Golf Central is the easiest way for golfers to experience the game all over the country, be it one round with some friends, a society weekend or by entering open competitions. This is a great dynamic, on-line service for members and visitors alike, making it easy for the ordinary golfer to experience great value golf.”
Such an invaluable and beneficial service needs publicity and over the next few months the EGU have approved £65,000 to be spent on marketing.
Lynne Fraser, marketing & PR manager of the EGU, says, “From the start we have said that clubs really do drive EGU Golf Central. If clubs feel more should be spent, they should badger their county unions with the same message. It is the County Unions that voted for EGU Golf Central and they can equally request that more funding should be spent on the service going forward.
“Leaflets, dispensers and posters have been produced and distributed to all clubs – this was the obvious place to raise awareness as golf clubs are where you can always find golfers, be they members or non-members.”
“We are mailing all EGU associate members, EGU English golf captains and EGU registered societies with information,” continues Lynne. “We will also be emailing our players database (everyone who has registered to take part in any EGU tournament) and all those who have registered to the EGU website.
“We will be placing ads in regional publications both in the last quarter of this year and again prior to the season kicking off in 2007. We will be placing ads on golfing websites and also placing ads and links in email newsletters that are distributed via various companies. We are also speaking to a number of companies regarding supplying incentives for both golfers to register and clubs to participate.
“We are also investigating how we can ensure EGU Golf Central appears high on any web search engines. Golf clubs can help us to do this by adding a link from their own website to EGU Golf Central. We have a number of web images they can use for this purpose if they wish to contact us for those.
“We are also writing to other national golfing associations/federations to tell them about Golf Central and again to ask them to ensure they provide a link to EGU Golf Central from their website so we can tap into overseas golfers.”
Club golf professionals may see a number of advantages to being included the Golf Central package. “We have already added a page to EGU Golf Central, in response to the earlier seminars in the year, where a professional’s details can be highlighted in addition to the club’s details,” continued Lynne Fraser. “As many club professional actually act as secretaries and/or managers at clubs we did have some come to seminars and many of them gave great feedback. If we find in our ‘future development groups‘ we need more input from the club pros we will most probably set up a focus group specifically for them.”
In the near future the EGU wishes to roll out the Golf Central package to embrace golf ranges. This would make the content even more comprehensive and useful. Details have yet to be agreed but more information is expected soon.
Although many golf clubs became active participants in Golf Central having attended one of the regional seminars that have taken place over the summer months, it is still open to other clubs to join in. It is fair to say that there is so much help available through the helpline and ‘back-office’ support that any golf club interested in taking part will be in a position to start uploading data within a day or two of making contact.
They should go to EGU Golf Central, which is available from the homepage of the EGU website or directly at www.englishgolfunion.org/golfcentral , click on Admin, click on Golf Clubs and instructions will direct them how to get a password and start using the system.
Alternatively the Club Services team can be contacted on 015626 354500. They will be able to supply a password straight away and talk through the basics of the service. Lynne Fraser concludes, “The team will also send out a manual with full details on every part of the system so clubs can continue to make the most out of the service. The Club Services team is there to help, so all clubs should contact us with any question about the service. We will most probably hold further seminars early next year prior to the new season.”
English Golf Union www.englishgolfunion.org