Everyone BenefitsWritten by Rennay Craats
Since the first Scotsman put club to ball in the 1400s, golf has taken the entire world by storm. Canada has not been immune to the call of the links, with this country having the highest per capita participation in golf and more people playing the game than all other sports combined. For over 100 years, Golf Canada and Alberta Golf have fostered that love of the game and looked for new ways to grow it further. To aid in that effort, they introduced a new Gold membership model for the organizations last year.
“A year ago, when we were launching this program, there was a lot of uncertainty,” says Phil Berube, Executive Director and CEO of Alberta Golf. “We were increasing the fees but the associated benefits were increasing along with them. Given the timing, which was after many facilities had already gone through their budgeting process, we were a bit apprehensive, conservative with our estimate, but the response was tremendous.”
Berube had hoped to convert between 30 and 36 facilities to the new model across the province, but change can be challenging, especially in a sport so steeped in tradition. But by the end of the season the team had exceeded expectations, converting 51 facilities to bring the total to 70. The number of Gold memberships jumped from 1,052 to 20,138, proof that the uncertainty about the program was unfounded.
“It was a sign that there was buy-in from the entire industry,” says Berube.
Coast to coast, all eyes were on Alberta Golf’s experiment. Other provincial organizations were watching to see how members and courses would receive the changes and were waiting for results here before revamping their own membership models.
“Now across the country everyone is going full steam ahead and implementing the Gold model,” he says.
As Alberta Golf continues to roll out the new membership system it will help connect more golfers to the associations, with the goal being to add another approximately 20,000 new members in the coming year. Alberta Golf anticipates transitioning 73 more facilities in 2018 to bring the total under the new model to 143. Courses are also continuing to promote the program and encouraging their golfers to take advantage of the benefits of membership. And because membership to one association includes membership to the other, the benefits—both provincial and national—are incredible.
The membership model retains that which attracted many golfers to the associations to begin with. Alberta Golf and Golf Canada have traditionally been known for their handicap system, and the new membership continues to support competitive golfers by tracking their scores and handicaps. For many clubs, this remains the key appeal for membership.
“Our day-to-day players don’t have (the membership) but we make it mandatory for our men’s and ladies’ leagues to have their handicap,” says Josh Davison, general manager of RedTail Landing Golf Club.
Handicaps are necessary for golfers to compete in many provincial, national and regional events as well as in some course leagues. But Alberta Golf is so much more than just handicaps, and the organization now offers more tangible benefits that have a wider appeal.
“There is value in Alberta Golf for every member, not just the competitive golfer,” says John Fisher, general manager of Silver Springs Golf and Country Club.
For a low annual fee, golfers receive custom ID labels displaying their membership number that they can adhere to their equipment. If they misplace or leave behind a club, golf courses can easily find out to whom it belongs and return it to its owner.
Membership also includes an insurance package for incident protection.
“Golf clubs have situated themselves as the centerpiece of new communities. With that there are windows, and not everybody has mastered hitting the ball down the fairway so this is a great thing,” says Fisher.
In the event of a hooking tee shot that breaks a window, an unfortunate slice that damages someone’s property, clubs that go missing, or a too-tight turn in a power cart, members are covered for up to $6000 in damages and loss. Golfers can also take advantage of discounted home and auto insurance through their member policy.
On top of these benefits, members receive a rule book, Golf Canada magazine subscription, membership to both Alberta Golf and Golf Canada and participation in national and provincial championships if eligible. They can also download the Golf Canada app to track scores, share rounds on social media and register for events, all with a few taps on a cell phone.
Courses also enjoy the perks of membership. The associations provide course and slope ratings, which is the international standard used to measure a course’s difficulty. Golfers can post their rounds to a member course, which can help courses identify potential growth markets and demographics. Golf Canada and Alberta Golf have a great deal of information to offer member courses as well, ranging from tournament management software that helps them run their events to year-round course maintenance requirements. The benefits are impressive and have made Berube’s job converting facilities that much easier.
“I was pleased to see that, yes it was a little more money, but I felt like now members really get something. There is value there,” says Alan Carter, general manager of Edmonton Country Club.
As a steward of the game, Alberta Golf is dedicated to offering value and resources to its members and it appreciates the support from member courses and players so it can continue to grow the game. It provides various programs throughout the year to help develop young players, attract new golfers, educate weekend golfers, and support elite competitive players in the province.
“All of the programs that people take advantage of and don’t even realize it and the services Alberta Golf provides, it all costs money. Having the membership support is the best way to do it. And it’s a win-win for both,” says Brent Syme, general manager of Country Hills Golf Club.
With thousands of new Gold members enjoying the perks, everyone benefits with the new Alberta Golf membership.
This article was originally published in the 2018 edition of The Alberta Golfer Magazine. To view the full magazine, click here.