Are Golf Coaches Part of New-Member Orientation at Clubs?: Exclusive Data Provides Answers

Mar 27, 2024 | News

By David Gould, Staff Editor        

This report was triggered by anecdotes shared by some of our member coaches which turned into the following theory: The introduction of new club members to a golf club’s various departments and amenities has a blind spot—failing to include a warm intro to staff coaches and the instruction opportunities they make available.

We explored this notion by surveying Proponent members and finding out what happens at the facilities where they teach. This issue is part of our larger Business Value of Golf Instruction conversation, which looks into the coach-facility relationship comprehensively. The story told here by the numbers suggests that, as the saying goes, there’s work to be done.

A key question we asked was this: “Are new members introduced to the instruction staff by a membership director, GM or other club personnel?” There were four possible answers, one of which—a straight ‘No’—really stands out as 50 percent of our member coaches responded in the negative. Given how likely a club-joining golfer is to connect his signup with the chance to improve his or her play, it’s hard to explain those No answers away. As for the affirmative answers: 21 percent said “Yes, as part of their recruitment process.” A little over 15 percent said “Yes, as part of their recruitment, and again after they join.” Rounding things out, we had 14 percent said “Yes, once they join the club.”

We then asked, “Which of the following best describes the instruction team’s interaction with new members (who are golfers or who express interest in golf)? Again, the most-cited answer was a disappointing one: “We are not routinely notified when someone joins” is what 49 percent of respondents said. “We are notified when someone joins and we’ll contact that new member within 30 days” was the answer we got from 19 percent. “We are notified when someone joins and we’ll typically contact them at some point (not on a pre-set schedule)” was the response from 11 percent. The fourth option, a simple “We are notified when someone joins,” was selected by 21 percent of members who took the survey.

The next question—and it was an important “next steps” or “action” sort of question, was this: “Check all of the following you consistently provide to a new member.” Answers were as follows:

“We give them a personal tour of our coaching and practice facilities” was the proactive-sounding response from 40 percent. “We provide information about our instruction programs and tell them how to sign up” was a box checked by 84 percent and, quite notably, “We offer a free assessment or “get to know you” lesson to each new member” was selected as an answer by 29 percent of our survey-takers. Finally there was a 13 percent selection of this inviting tactic: “We offer to play 9 holes with each new member during their first six months at the club.” 

Thinking about results from the outreach efforts described above, we asked Proponent members to estimate as best they could what percentage of new members become actively involved in instruction during their first year at the club? The results: Less than one quarter (40 percent); one-quarter to one-half (52 percent); one-half to three quarters (7 percent) and more than three-quarters (1 percent). 

So, the conversion of new members into golfers engaged in instruction and game-improvement actually seemed to outperform the “introduction” efforts of membership directors and general managers, as they conducted their orientations. That doesn’t mean we don’t perceive a blind sport, in the onboarding process. What it means is that those reasonably good conversion rates could in all likelihood be significantly better.