With clubs across the UK striving to strengthen their memberships, the GM team has been discussing what to look for when selecting a club

At a time when golf clubs are fighting to attract and retain members, the competition to do so is fierce. Clubs must ensure their offering is as attractive as possible. When it comes to choosing a club, any prospective member will have a range of criteria they will consider, apportioning a different degree of importance to each. For the purposes of this article, we have amalgamated the Golf Monthly team’s views to create an identikit prospective golf club member. This is what Mr/Mrs GM is after…

“The principal reason I want to become a member of a golf club is to play golf and to enjoy it. Therefore, the golf course will be my first consideration when selecting a club. I recognise each individual will have their own ideas about what makes a good course, but to simplify: it must be a course that I find enjoyable to play, and one that I will be happy to play on a regular basis.

“Power hitters may look for a longer course where they can open their shoulders from the tee, whereas short game specialists may prefer a more technical and tricky track where their prowess around the greens will come to the fore. Some will look to a links as the only option, others might favour a less windswept and more manicured parkland track.

“An essential requirement for me though – I think this will be universal – is that the course is maintained in good condition. Top priority will be the greens. Are they true? Do they drain well? Are they generally of a speed I enjoy and are they consistent? I’m willing to overlook a few failings at a club if the greens are in pristine condition. I can forgive the locker rooms looking a little tired and the bacon rolls requiring a bit of chewing if the putting surfaces are like velvet.

“Then, working backwards in terms of importance, when I’m considering the quality of course maintenance, I’ll look at: the tees, the fairways, the bunkers, the rough and then the general appearance, including course furniture, pathways, hazards, trees, shrubbery and/or gorse. Basically, are the green staff taking an obvious pride in their work?

“It is also important for me to see that the club committee and greenkeepers are forward-thinking in terms of making changes to improve the course. Have there been recent changes and are there plans for further improvements? I want to join a club with ambitions to be as good as it can be.

“Continuing on a playing theme, I’ll be interested to see the club’s fixture list. Are there regular and varied competitions? Are there midweek events, knockout tournaments, inter-club matches, a season-long eclectic, mixed competitions? How many participate in these?

“How easy it is to get a tee time will be an important factor as well. If the tee is constantly booked up by visiting parties and corporate outings, then membership will seem less appealing. And how long does an average round take? I’m pretty busy and five hours for 18 holes is no use at all.

“Other things I’ll consider from a golfing perspective include the extent and quality of the practice facilities. Is there a range, a net, a short-game area, an extensive putting green? Are these well looked after? Also, is there a qualified club professional to give me instruction and advice should I need it? Does he or she have a well-stocked and welcoming shop?

“That last point leads on to probably the key off-course criteria that might sway me one way or another when considering joining a club. Is it welcoming? Why would I shell out a hefty chunk of my salary to become a member of a club where I get the cold shoulder? I want to feel that I’ll be accepted and be able to integrate from day one. I don’t want to feel constrained by overly stuffy rules and regulations.

“I’m not particularly bothered about the clubhouse being a palace. I just want it to be comfortable, clean and functional. I want it to deliver a good standard of catering and a well-stocked bar. I want there to be useable locker rooms with a decent shower and a good space for changing.

“I’d also like to know how active the club is in promoting social events. Are families welcome? Could joining this club benefit the rest of my family? Is there a thriving junior section?

“Location of the club will clearly be a factor. How close is it to my home and how long will it take me to get to the club and back? Could I get there by train allowing me to have a few in the 19th hole now and then?

“Then, of course, there’s cost. Firstly, can I afford the membership fees? And secondly, is what this club can offer me going to represent good value for money?

“Unless I can answer yes to both these questions then taking out membership will be tough to justify. Are there flexible membership options? Can I pay monthly by direct debit? Does the club charge a joining fee and is that reasonable?

“To summarise then, this is what I’m looking for: a golfer’s golf club where the focus is on the course and competition, delivering the best possible playing experience for members. The club should have a welcoming and unstuffy atmosphere providing good food and a social scene that will be welcoming for me and my family. Most of all, I want value for money.”