Case Study - Glamorganshire and BRS: the easy way to increasing the value of your clubs membership
A survey in November 2008 of club managers by one of the Unions revealed that the top priority by far was to maintain membership. Retaining and attracting members has become much more difficult in recent years, and especially over the last two years as the credit crunch and then the recession have impacted on members’ lifestyles and finances.
Increasing membership value
To achieve this goal of maintaining members the more progressive club managers have set about increasing the value of their clubs’ membership by improving the quality of the course and its condition, the clubhouse facilities and adding to the membership services. This includes exploiting the new online tools now at their disposal, chief amongst which is the BRS Golf online booking system and club diary.
What follows is an excellent case in point of enabling an old and traditional golf club to adapt new technology, and do so to the complete satisfaction of its members.
Close to the seaside town of Penarth, near to Cardiff in the beautiful Vale of Glamorgan, is The Glamorganshire Golf Club, founded in 1890 and the fourth oldest club in Wales. It was here in September 1898 that the Stableford scoring system was first tried by its creator and then club member, Dr. Frank Stableford. In recent years there have been numerous major improvements to the 18-hole parkland course and the clubhouse, ensuring that the club can offer excellent golfing facilities to members and visitors alike. With the forthcoming Ryder Cup being held at nearby Celtic Manor, the club has every intention of pulling at least its fair share of visitors.
Brian Williams is the Secretary Manager and in 2008 following the offer of a free golf club IT health check funded by the Welsh Assembly in preparation for the first Ryder Cup to be held in Wales, Brian was keen to take up the BRS Golf offer of a 50% discount on their market leading online booking system. It’s just as well he got going when he did, as the funding soon ran out due to demand!
A lot of objectives
Brain’s objectives were several:
- To improve and simplify the club’s manual booking system for members’ competitions. This comprised putting a tee time sheet on the club notice board, and members then bought a stamp for £2.00 from a nearby machine, placed this on the desired tee time along with their name in writing.
- To reduce the time spent by him and other staff in the office and the Pro Shop on the telephone in handling enquiries from members and visitors; this was taking Brian alone about an hour a day of his valuable time.
- To migrate all the club’s Open competitions, society bookings and travel operator-based business onto the new system.
- To build a first class visitor database with which to market the club’s tee times and other events, and thereby improve revenues.
- To exploit the ease and simplicity of e-mail and text and improve dramatically club communications with members and visitors.
- Eventually to get all the members using the system, even for casual golf bookings.
- To streamline the club’s management.
Good peer opinions and reports
Brian: “I’d heard good things about the BRS system and was keen to try it. But I was very aware that change of this type could only be done step by step if we were to get the members to buy in to the system we wanted the club to adopt.”
“We started installing and setting up the BRS system in January 2009, starting with the members’ Mens competitions. After the old stamp system the BRS one was easier and more straightforward, and was soon being taken up in large numbers; we typically see around 180 players in each one. We used to put the paper time sheet up on the notice board 8 days beforehand on the Friday evening, which pulled in a quite a few people and thus good sales at the Bar. By putting the competition up at 6pm on the clubhouse PC first, and then going live to all at 7pm, we’ve maintained around 40 people coming along on Friday evenings and thus kept up the Bar sales.”
“By May we were using the BRS system for handling our society bookings, Tour Operator-arranged group visits, and our Open Days. By June, we’d got the Ladies using the system for their competitions, and the Seniors are happy using it as well now, given enough hand holding by the office team. Along with the Mens competitions, I reckon the BRS system’s saved an hour of my time a day not having to deal with all the ‘phone-based bookings.”
Revolutionising club communications
A pre-requisite, of course, is that all Glamorganshire GC’s online members had to register with their details, including mobile ‘phone numbers and e-mail addresses, and this has made a huge difference to the way Brian can communicate with the members: “We soon had some 600 members on board, and having BRS has revolutionised the club’s communications with our members. I’m sending at least one e-mail out a day about forthcoming social functions, matches, competitions or other things.”
“But it’s the text facility that really impresses me. We’ve had a lot of lousy weather over the last few months, and various events have had to be called off at the last minute. This used to mean a lot of ‘phone calls and members coming to the club to find we’d closed the course. Now with the BRS system, with just one click I can text all the players in a competition to tell them it’s off!”
Another unique feature of the BRS system is its Competition Purse. This is handled in the same way as a purchase on the internet, ie. the member goes online into the website and then the tee booking system, books a time and then pay through a secure online payment system their Entry fee. The transaction is quite separate from the Member’s club or Bar card account, and this means the versatile BRS Golf booking system can be used by any club with whatever form of Bar and EPoS set up the club may use. It also makes collection of the fees very much simpler, as there is no cash and all the payments are held in a Control account, from which they can be re-distributed accordingly and entered up in the club’s Accounting system.
It also enables Brian to maximise his income from competitions by introducing some discipline, as he explains: “The policy is that cancellations within 24 hours of the tee time are not refunded. This in fact rarely happens, but it’s a good reminder.”
Tour Operator business simplified
With the Ryder Cup and good relationships with several Tour Operators, Brian’s made full use of the BRS system’s 24/7 capabilities: “They get direct access from their office PCs to our tee times, and can book directly their tour groups into the times I make available. They pay the club upfront on a monthly basis, and with the Ryder Cup marketing and the date getting ever closer we’re seeing that business increasing all the time. That’s a big benefit to the club, with hardly a finger raised by the office. We simply get an e-mail confirming who is coming, when and at what time they’re playing.”
Open Days, building marketing databases
There are six throughout a typical season at The Glamorganshire, and as any manager who has to deal with these events will know, they are a lot of work if handled manually with lots of bits of paper. Having sent adverts about their Open Days to around 100 clubs in the area, Brian then puts all bookings through the BRS system and as he says: “It’s far easier for the people entering, it’s far easier and less hassle for us in the office, and the payments come through online. Doing Open Days the BRS way is a no brainer.”
“It also means we’re building a really useful database of casual visitors now. Besides getting all the contact details of our casual visitors as they come into the Pro Shop for green fees or via the BRS system, with our Open Days I reckon we’ll have around 500 e-mail addresses, mainly of golfers locally and regionally who we can e-mail with offers, tee times, forthcoming events, etc. That is a huge asset and a marketing tool without comparison.”
Brian has encouraged his members to use the BRS way to set up their matches for the club’s knock out competitions, but not as yet the typical casual golf: “I encourage the members bringing guests to book online so that they can confirm with their guests and avoid disappointment, knowing that the first or whichever tee is their’s at the time it’s booked.”
“But we’ve taken a very gentle step by step approach to booking casual golf. By starting with competitions, something which members are used to booking, and then migrating other sections and outside business to the system, we’ve got to the point where the membership are very keen on using the system. In fact, if we went back to the old paper-based ways, there’d be a riot!”
So what has BRS Golf done for Brian Williams and The Glamorganshire GC?
Brian’s achieved all his initial objectives, and made life much easier in terms of handling competitions, Open Days, external bookings and so on. He’s made sure the club is ideally placed to take as much Ryder Cup-related business as he wants, and he’s revolutionised the club’s communications with its membership. The impact on the club’s website is equally impressive, as Brain points out: “Our website receives 4,000 hits per month from visitors all over the UK and the world.”
As for Brian and his clubhouse and Pro Shop team, the BRS system’s delivered all his expectations: “The BRS system is incredibly easy to use, excellent back up and support, and there’s constant development. BRS Golf is not a supplier, I see them as a team and as partners that are helping our club to exploit new technology.”
“In short, I think it’s easily the best online booking system any club can get.”