Clubs uniting to help Edinburgh grow into a top European golf city

A GROUP of Edinburgh’s golf clubs are pooling their expertise in a concerted effort to improve membership retention and increase income by attracting visitors as part of a bid to make more of the Capital potentially being one of Europe’s top golfing destinations.

More than a dozen clubs have already signed up to the initiative, which has set a “conservative target” of raising visitor income by a combined five per cent in the first year based on 2011 figures.

The clubs are Baberton, Broomieknowe, Craigmillar Park, Duddingston, Kingsknowe, Liberton, Lothianburn, Merchants, Musselburgh, Prestonfield, Ratho Park, Swanston New, and Turnhouse. A few others have declined to join just now, but dialogue is continuing with them and the hope is that they, too, will join in this initiative.

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“It will take a lot of work but we believe the proposals we’ve come up with can increase gross income within the Edinburgh clubs by a total of £20,000 this year through a combination of improving marketing, seeking out potential sponsorship and by clearly focusing on membership retention and attracting new members,” said Kingsknowe captain Bill Buchan.

His remit is marketing, which involves promoting Edinburgh as a golf destination as well as developing relationships within the Capital, while Broomieknowe’s Wendy Nicholson and Colin McClung of Swanston New are handling sponsorship and visitors respectively.

Keith Nicholson, the multiple Lothians champion and now club manager at Baberton, is looking after membership and finance, while also adding support to the initiative is Colin Pearson, a former sportscotland director and, more recently, the PGA’s former head of strategic development in Scotland.

Matt Cornforth, a South African who is studying marketing and business at Napier University, has been engaged by the group to carry out research, manage a website that is in the offing and also take control of communications plan.

“The calibre of people we have on board is fantastic – we feel we have the right people in place to make this work,” added Buchan. “We already have a lot of support from the clubs involved and once the others see what is happening then they will hopefully join us, too.”

The aim of the project is to develop and implement a collective strategy that increases income and introduces more membership benefits for all the clubs. Tourists have been identified as one of the key areas for potential income increases, as has the city’s sizeable student population.

“Developing Edinburgh as a golf destination is one of our main objectives and we have two outstanding opportunities to do that – first with The Open coming to Muirfield this summer, then Gleneagles staging the Ryder Cup next year,” said Buchan.

“Dublin is probably the only other main city in Europe that could class itself as a golf destination and we will be identifying collective income opportunities and working to promote them on behalf of the clubs.

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“The group have also recognised a huge potential market with students and we are looking at the possibility of offering a general student membership allowing provision of three to five [handicap] counting rounds plus more with a top up.”

Various services and benefits for existing members are also being looked at, though it has already been suggested by the clubs involved that discount deals and 2-for-1 offers may not necessarily be the way ahead.

One of the group’s key aims is to provide a single source of information for current deals on each of the courses. This would mean the clubs could manage the deals and discounts themselves, favouring members of existing clubs, in a competitive manner, therefore keeping 100 per cent of the badly-needed revenue in the clubs, and not, as has happened, giving upwards of 50 per cent to an overseas internet discount company.

“This additional revenue will be a godsend to clubs as they seek to improve what they can offer to members,” said Buchan.

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