ACOMPLETE revamp of the business structure at Newmachar Golf Club in Aberdeenshire has seen the club buck a dwindling membership trend.
Since the employment of operations director Mike Timson in mid 2017, the club has increased its membership from less than 1,200 to 1,420, including the trebling of its junior membership from 35 to more than 100. What's more, all this has been done while increasing its membership fees by 10%.
Newmachar achieved such gains in its junior membership as a result of more than 400 children visiting the club in 2018 as part of an inter-school golf programme that the club devised, which combines golf skills with subjects in the school curriculum.
The junior golf coordinator, employed by the club full-time, goes into each of the 16 schools involved to take lessons for P5 and P6 students, only for the kids to come to the golf club as part of a field trip, where they receive lessons from a PGA development pro, whose role is geared towards teaching juniors and beginners.
"Back in 2017, we didn't have a relationship with the schools at all," says Timson. "All the club offered was ClubGolf through Scottish Golf on a Wednesday night that was run by volunteers, and that would be either on or not depending on how busy the volunteers were. So we structured a plan that built these links with the community.
"Now, we're making club and school handicaps for Newmachar, giving them league tables and this year, we're running inter-school and after-school competitions at the club. We have an app that tracks the kids' progress as well so parents can see their development.
"These parents â€“ some of whom would never have considered playing golf â€“ are coming to the club, watching their kids and even taking the sport up themselves, so it's having a huge knock-on effect. It costs £40,000 to go into schools and the return we're getting is somewhere between £80,000 and £90,000. It's fantastic."
Not all golf clubs in Scotland are blessed with the membership numbers and perhaps the finances as Newmachar, though, and the advice Timson has for clubs on where to invest to get maximum kick-back is simple.
"Invest in a good PGA pro," he adds. "I can't stress how important that has been. I've done a lot of work with England Golf and the clubs that don't have a PGA pro or have an under-performing PGA pro are ones that are struggling.
"Because it's our PGA pros that have helped grow our business through our academy. We're dictating our own business as opposed to waiting for it to come through the gate.
"We're creating a buzz about the place because the staff are happy and the pros are driving business. The biggest thing for golf club committees is that they need to be striving towards one goal and that's what we're doing here."