Creating a Retention Plan


Many clubs are seeing a high turnover of members, particularly in the first 2-3 years of membership. Whilst most clubs have a programme of activity designed to acquire members, very few have activity in place specifically designed to integrate a member into the club and retain them in the long term.

An absence of a formal plan is compounded by the turnover of staff. A particular club pro or club manager may undertake activity but it is unlikely that these processes are documented anywhere. Subsequently, when that person leaves the club, so does all the knowledge around retention planning.


Ensure a consistent and positive experience for all members – new and existing
Limit resource requirements through automated activity
Reduce turnover of membership
Reduce requirement for excessive marketing activity
Bespoke programmes depending on member profile type
Improve sense of community within the club

At the heart of any good plan is knowledge. Retention is no different. In order to know how to retain members it is vital to have mechanics in place which enable you to understand just two things:

  1. Member Satisfaction
  2. Member Behaviour

In answering these questions, you can determine where to maximise your resource to promote improved retention numbers. It is important to remember that you cannot solve every issue, so focus on what you can influence.

It is important to acknowledge that needs of members will be different. Probably the biggest differential will come between new members and existing members.

Retention starts from the moment someone becomes a member. New members may be no more critical than existing members but they also have not built up any loyalty to the club. They will have less reservations about taking their business elsewhere if their golfing experience is not as positive as it could be.

It is therefore key to have a new members programme to ensure they are properly integrated into the club.

Full details of a new member connect programme can  be found in a specific article in this section.

Whilst new members may need more attention initially, existing members should not be overlooked.

Member Satisfaction

The most obvious method to measure satisfaction is to do a satisfaction survey. These should be short, simple and regular. They will provide you with a more robust picture of your current situation and are a vital tool in the retention plan. However, it is important to understand that the survey is the mechanic, what you do with the information is the real tool to retaining members.

Areas of focus are up to you but there are five key areas you should concentrate on:

  1. The course
  2. The clubhouse
  3. The pro / pro shop
  4. Competitions
  5. Overall

A few simple questions on each of these areas will help you benefit from understanding your members more, both new and established.

Questions on the first four aspects will provide insights for various committees to focus their attention on. These are all signposts to the feeling of the members and what they would like to see addressed. This gives each area of the club a priority list to work from.

The final section highlights where issues could arise. Any score of 3 or less (1-5 scale) should be considered an issue, with that member flagged as a retention risk.  It is drilling down deeper into these people which will enable retention to improve as you address their issues directly.

You should have different surveys for different members – new, existing, junior, ladies, social, to name a few. You don’t want to overwhelm your membership by sending them surveys every week but different surveys have different uses, enabling you to segment your members, where appropriate, to maximise the success of the survey.

People WILL leave. This is unavoidable. However, knowing why is key to try and prevent it happening too regularly. If you know why, there is always the opportunity to get them back if situations change.

Exit surveys do not have to be formal. A simple chat may be enough to understand the reasons, the key is to ensure that they get recorded.

Monitoring is key as this helps you gain knowledge. You can identify patterns or issues which it may be possible to address which will reduce the chances of other members leaving for the same reasons.

It is important to accept that not all members leave due to an issue that you can do anything about. A change in personal circumstances is just as likely to cause a member to leave. Focus on what you are able to impact.

Member Profiling

The big problem with satisfaction surveys is that not everyone will complete them. Therefore you also require a more proactive approach to understanding your members. This is by regularly reviewing the habits of your members. As a minimum this should be done on a quarterly basis to track changes. For this you need to profile your members.

It takes time to build profiles so this is not an instant solution. However, without this, you may be asking the same questions for years but be no closer to the answers.

Games played, bar usage, competitions entered, pro shop spend, emails opened, website logins, social events attended, use of practise facilities, lessons booked – all of these are indicators of membership behaviour. Over time it is possible to identify patterns and trends, which can be addressed.

Building the profile can be done is several ways. Where possible, existing club systems should be used to pull as much data into one place. This should help with any information held electronically such as bar spend, age, gender, date of birth, competitions entered, direct debit payer, etc. Other profile elements may be captured through a simple form.

The details from these can then be added to the database of electronically stored information to help give a more rounded view of all members.

Once this data is collected it then allows you to segment your database to ascertain their habits and monitor behaviour.

Segmenting the database ensures your communications are appropriately targeted. Not every communication should go to every member of the golf club and you may well already do some basic segmentation without even thinking about it e.g. women, men, juniors, seniors, etc.

Profiling enables that to move to a different level where you don’t just segment on gender or age but on such things as golfer type, length of membership, aims and behaviours.

Member profiling is simply the start to understanding your members. It is using the information captured from the data which is important.

Once you have the building blocks in place and have gathered the information you can look to put the plan in place.