Swanston bucks trend with soaring membership
WHILE falling membership numbers and reduced income are commonplace at many Scottish golf clubs during the economic downturn, one club in Edinburgh is reaping the benefits from adopting a pro-active approach.
Swanston Golf Club, which has almost tripled its membership over the past two years, celebrated the official opening at the weekend of an attractive new clubhouse with a gym as well as the introduction of seven new holes on the main course, a shorter nine-hole course and improved practice facilities.
The director of golf at Swanston, Stewart Snedden, reported how they had built an open plan facility in which all the social spaces were open to the public as well as members. This helped to keep down costs at a time when a new-nine hole course, aimed at beginners, was built, along with a driving range and putting greens.
"Because of the emphasis we placed on families, we've gone from a membership of 280 to 807 in just 18 months," reported Snedden.
Nestling in the foothills of the Pentlands, it wasn't so long ago Swanston was just another ailing members' club. There were rumours of closure until Colin and Janie McClung, as well as Snedden, injected new life and capital into the club.
"The decline of an 80-year-old members' club at Swanston was sad to see," recalled McClung. "We felt the demand was there, it just needed the facilities to match. Thankfully, we could invest for the long term without hurting members in the short term and hopefully secure the future of Swanston for another 80 years."
Local MSP David McLetchie praised Swanston's owners for encouraging youngsters and increasing the junior membership from 13 to 130 in three years. Smartly, the club sponsored a football team at the local school and was rewarded for being so community minded when parents chose to send their children to Swanston for golf tuition.
Hamish Grey, the chief executive of the Scottish Golf Union, was among many notables who attended the opening ceremony, where Colin Montgomerie sent a message of support through his brother Douglas. Grey would surely endorse McClung's view that golf is evolving in Scotland rather than declining, and local clubs can only keep up with the pace of change by seizing the initiative.
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