I’m two weeks into my new role at Gunners and, now that I have had the chance to stick my head through the door of a good few golf clubs, I thought it might be good to mark your scorecard, so to speak, with some initial observations.
For many clubs, this is the first time in two years that they have been able to head into a new season with confidence – so there’s a definite birdie opportunity here, both on the course and in the clubhouse.
Talking to bar and general managers they all say that one thing in particular has changed significantly since January 2020 and that is the expectation of members with regards to the standards of food and beverages on offer: a hastily defrosted bap and some streaky bacon, accompanied by coffee that has been stewing on a hotplate for an hour is now the breakfast equivalent of “three off the tee”. During the pandemic, consumers have become accustomed to eating out less but, when they do so, being far more discerning about what and where they eat. So, although they represent a captive audience, it seems that golf clubs would be well advised to take note of the fact that members are bringing this same attitude to their club.
For many years there was a view that golf clubs were the domain of retired accountants, lawyers, bankers, and ex-service personnel with nothing to do but regale each other with tall stories over two or three bottles of red wine, before driving home. Fortunately, for a man who now plies his trade selling a non-alcoholic RTD (that’s ‘ready to drink’ for those that don’t know) product, times have changed. An influx of younger members, many of whom shunned excessive alcohol consumption long before they left university, have seen to that. But don’t just take my word for it. A recent report by Fentiman’s revealed that premium soft drinks make up 13.9% of total sales in bars at sports/social clubs.
The influence, and expectations, of younger members are also evident in other areas of some of the clubs I have visited. At one, they have posted discrete QR codes on the course that allow players to pre-order food and drink so that it is ready for them when they arrive at the halfway house. This is a great example of tech making the member’s experience more convenient, and more enjoyable as it speeds up the pace of play.
These are just some early observations, but over the coming months I hope to share more of them as I travel around the upmarket end of the leisure and hospitality sector. Until then – fore left!