Leyland Golf Club have been praised by the Lancashire County Golf Partnership after bucking the national trend of dwindling memberships.
The club ran into difficulties in 2001 as they had to replace the old clubhouse that was destroyed by fire and faced an annual course rental increase of £30,000
But now they have launched a series of initiatives that include a variety of packages offering affordable golf to encourage keen golfers and complete beginners to take up the game.
Iain Lancaster, county development officer at Lancashire County Golf Partnership said: “This is an excellent case study. We are very impressed with their set-up and forward planning which we feel is a blueprint for how clubs need to think and operate to drive their business.”
The club embarked on an ambitious plan to restore its fortunes by introducing membership categories to suit all genders, ranging from 20 and 40 rounds a year to run alongside the regular five and seven day sections.
Club chairman Norman Graham explained their resurgence and how they also targeted beginners, particularly juniors and females, by offering cheaper entrance fees.
He said: “We had to batten down the hatches, our treasurer Danny Winston kept a tight rein on the finances but unfortunately it was also at the time when golf was going downhill largely due to the economic situation.
“Membership numbers started to drop and in one year we lost 100.
“When we were down to 500 we had to do something to reverse the problem.
“We researched other clubs as far away as Surrey and many of them told us about their flexible membership schemes which we thought were a good idea.
“When we asked some of our players why they were resigning the majority said they felt that they weren’t getting value for money.
“That’s the problem we looked to address along with our age profile which was dominated by over-60s. We only had two in the 20 to 30 bracket.”
Now the club have an 80-strong two-year academy memberships that allow women to play without handicaps with existing members.
Leyland have 60 juniors and offer 10 free places for girls – outnumbering the national average of two per club.
And two Sunday morning coaching sessions for younger members are held under the tutelage of Leyland’s long-serving PGA professional Colin Burgess.
Graham spoke of the decision to remove the clubhouse dress code and the senior subsidy.
He said: “We decided that they used the course more than anyone else and were already getting excellent value for money from their subscriptions.
“That helped us to create an intermediate category for 20-30-year-olds and it also meant that juniors moving up would only have to pay £25 more.”
Lancaster added: “There are two key words, flexibility and friendliness, which come up time and again at successful clubs like Leyland.
“Clubs have had to recognise that life outside the golf club has changed and they need to be conscious of this in the packages they offer.”
Sean Hammill, England Golf Regional Development Officer, said: “The LCGP will be looking to help clubs share best practice and offer support to development initiatives.”