Exeter G&CC: making life easier for the members
Exeter Golf and Country Club is in the enviable position of providing five sports activities, creating a club which is thriving and busy. Not only does it have an 19th century mansion, Wear House, for its clubhouse and an 18 hole course designed by the famous James Braid, but as a country club Exeter is ideally geared to both individuals and their families with tennis, squash, swimming and fitness.
The net result is a membership of 4,000+ people, of which golf accounts for 731 members. Managed by one overall membership software system, the biggest drawback as Russell Mayne found when he became Golf Manager in December 2009, was that because the software provider didn’t offer a complete online tee booking solution, the Club still had to use a paper-based tee booking system.
Paper-based booking systems and their challenges
This created all sorts of challenges, amongst which was having no way to run an audit trail on the members’ bookings or run reports on course utilisation, let alone track or project future bookings, offer online visitor bookings and so on.
On top of all this, the Club runs eight Open competitions a year and administrating these manually by e-mail, letter and ‘phone and then dealing with all the usual changes when someone wanted to play with a friend or at a different time, let alone retrieving all the payments sent by post, took days of additional manpower away from an already stretched management team.
Decision: switch to online booking and BRS Golf
To manage golf effectively, and ensure all members had a fair opportunity to book their rounds and competitions, Russell recommended the club migrated from paper-based offline booking to online booking. Of several such systems available, the BRS Golf solution was the only one to provide Russell and his team with everything they wanted, but most importantly it also provided his members and visitors with what other club managers were saying was a very user-friendly way of booking tee times.
One aspect of the user-friendliness was that an online system would mean the club was ‘open’ for tee bookings 24/7, which clearly it couldn’t be with an old-fashioned paper-based one. This also enabled any online member to access the website and booking page from home or business, rather than having to travel to the Club and make the booking themselves.
Introducing the BRS system to the members
Russell chose a bold approach to introducing the new system, electing to go straight from the old paper-based tee sheet to the full online experience: “I knew that as our members were used to booking tee times already, we didn’t have to overcome the cultural issue of moving members from playing whenever they wanted to booking. But we did need to persuade some that joining the 21st century and getting a computer, going online and so on, was the right way to go both for their own benefit as well as for the Club.”
“As part of the introduction, we told our members that this way was much fairer, in that they didn’t need to be queuing on the ‘phone or coming to the club first thing in the morning to get their names down, but simply go online and book. What took them a little while to appreciate was that the BRS system can handle at least 40+ people all looking for a tee time simultaneously.”
“What has been really interesting however, is that while we’ve got 731 members and some 507 registered with the BRS Golf system, we’ve had many of the silver surfers tell us that getting a PC and going online has brought them all sorts of other benefits as well, like Skype-ing with their grandchildren, and being able to check out all sorts of other things to do or visit.”
“We decided to get the BRS Golf system chiefly because we knew that for the members it was going to be a very easy-to-use experience. We’d also seen that for us it was by far the best management tool we could invest in and install. In fact, while the main software system will be replaced by something suitably powerful, the BRS Golf booking system will stay precisely because it is so good, and because the members now love using it.”
Open Competitions administration made simple
Russell is particularly impressed with the impact of the BRS Golf system on this major aspect of the Club’s administration: “It used to be so laborious, managing the eight Open competitions, as any manager who has to do just one will know! It’s not just compiling all the entries and sorting them all out, it’s dealing with all the little changes that – to be fair – people inevitably want to make, so that they can have their choice of pairing, or time, or whatever.”
“The BRS system simplifies all of the Opens’ administration, and we simply post the competition notices and entry forms online, and all those who want to book their times online with whomever they wish, just fill in the details and pay online. The net result is in 2011 so far, we’ve taken over £9,500 in deposits, which is amazing. The Club’s cash flow benefits by having that sitting in our bank account.”
Russell now has a much clearer picture of how the Exeter course is utilised, eg. when there are the peak and off-peak periods, and when there are available tee times. “For me, this is one of the best things about getting BRS. I now understand how our course is being used day in and day out throughout the season.”
“That’s vital for any manager, and in addition it means that while casual green fees aren’t a major income stream, I can put the available ones directly online via the usual marketing channels like Online Tee Times, TeeOffTimes and Golf Central. All I need to do is wait for the confirmation e-mails to come in telling me a casual visitor has booked a tee time, and that they’ve paid the green fee upfront, which is another feature I like!” In fact, Exeter G&CC has sold over £11,500 of green fees in the first six months of 2011 directly through the BRS Golf online booking system installed on the club’s website.
Russell continues: “We also set up all our members’ club competitions online, and this has meant a much fairer share for all those wanting to play, instead of those who got on the ‘phone first or up to the Club early.”
Members’ feedback – very positive
Russell’s decision to get BRS Golf has been a huge hit with the membership: “They absolutely love it. I knew it would be the right move to make, but I didn’t anticipate such an overwhelmingly positive response from the members. The team at BRS Golf has helped by making the link to the booking page practically seamless and visually almost identical to our own web page design, so that members feel they’re still in our site, whereas technically they’re in BRS Golf’s.”
“Our current Captain absolutely swears by the BRS Golf system, and that means he’s going round telling everyone else about it. That’s the kind of marketing and membership communication you just can’t buy.”
“Another difference between BRS and other providers is when it comes to tailoring the system to your own specific requirements, they are prepared to develop new features if you ask them. We needed to be able to split pairings for a four ball better ball competition in order to re-arrange groupings to fit the allocated times if necessary, and they did it!”
The Manager’s recommendation
Would Russell recommend BRS Golf? “Yes, absolutely. Let’s put it this way, if I was ever at another golf club that didn’t have BRS, it’s the first thing I’d get installed. It’s that good a management tool!”