The Scandinavian case study: What type of golf club is yours?

By: David Shepherd - CEO, The Scandinavian December 5, 2018

When entering a new club, the first few months are without doubt spent evaluating the club and the situation the club is in.

Determining the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, existing membership and maybe learning about the local culture if moving regions is vital.

Often the type of club is easy to determine or may already be so predetermined there is no opportunity to change.

However, sometimes (especially in newer clubs) there is an opportunity for the manager and board of directors to determine and begin developing the type of club chosen.

There are many stakeholders involved in this decision and all should be fully aligned.  For a change in strategy or direction to be successful communication both within the organisation and externally to the existing members and marketplace is the most important thing to get right.

The Scandinavian different golf club types

The Scandinavian – a members club

At The Scandinavian, it was clear from a very early stage that a members club was the goal of almost all interested parties and that the setup of the facility and courses were better suited to this type of club.

However, the lack of membership growth and business challenges had led to the club trying to develop other areas and maybe lost sight of the ultimate goal.

During development and throughout the early years of a club, it can be financially attractive to build as many channels of revenue as possible from all different segments (membership, corporate membership, members guest greenfee, visitor greenfees, discount greenfees, corporate events, societies).

However, it’s worth remembering that not all are compatible in the same environment.

Growing one small new segment might actually be detrimental to the business areas that are actually important in the future. I would urge clubs in this situation to avoid being short-sighted and concentrate on making sure any activities don’t impact the one segment that you really care about.

You can’t be all things to all people, so don’t try to be”.

The Scandinavian Timeline

I have seen great members clubs choosing to accept too many guests resulting in unhappy members when striving for an improved bottom line and pay and play based courses introducing weird and wonderful membership options creating unsatisfied guests.

Mixing segments without careful consideration often makes it difficult to create an identity as a club, or a deliver a clear message to guests.

Also, the very different demands from each segment in terms of speed of play, food and beverage requirements, golf services, etc, can place unnecessary pressures on the golf operation.

Choose one segment, understand what that segment wants and deliver it better than anyone else

Once the chosen path and type of club is decided upon, don’t rush or panic and be the best at whatever you choose to be.

Often because of the time limited tenure of board and committee members and key staff, as well as the perceived need for each new member to have a lasting impact, decisions falling outside the long-term plan are often made to the detriment of the bigger picture.

I believe that the first thing a new board member or a new member of staff must be taught is the long-term vision and values.

Following that the job of the board and management is often to follow that direction and protect the vision in their decision making.

Whilst having a limited amount of secondary business segments may be vital for financial stability at The Scandinavian, we are working on growing only the areas that will be fundamental for our future so that we can ultimately reduce or eliminate the areas that we may not see as part of the long-term plan.

Our key focus is on “Growing the membership and becoming the members club everyone wants”.

The Scandinavian Members Dashboard

The Scandinavian – identifying the type of club

Identifying the type of club is probably the easy bit, how to deliver it is the hard bit. Here are several things that we are working on to deliver our vision.

  • Continuous improvement – “If we are standing still we are going backwards”. Always looking at the best in the industry (and other industries) for ways to improve what we do.
  • Great people – Ensuring we have the best people in the right positions within the business to be able to sell our memberships and deliver the great service the membership demands.
  • Develop strong club values – and live by them. At The Scandinavian we try to instill in our members the values of “Respect the place, respect the game and respect each other”.
  • Prioritise – and allocate our time and sales effort correctly, focusing on the sale of memberships and providing the best membership experience for our current members.
  • Efficient marketing – Marketing strategy and marketing budget is split accurately towards the business segments we want to grow. At The Scandinavian, this is predominantly membership retention and then membership recruitment.
  • Consistent communication – repeat, repeat, repeat the story so that everyone understands the journey the club is on and the direction we want to take. For example:

The Scandinavian Herritage

  • Engage stakeholders – engage club board members, staff, partners and existing members to be ambassadors and support the clubs journey.
  • Listen – to the members using all communication tools available to us including verbal feedback, 59club surveys, social media etc.
  • Make good decisionsProtect the segments we want to grow by making good decisions based on sound fundamentals, good data, and experiences from others.
  • Evaluate – review actions, don’t be afraid to try new things and drop things that haven’t worked. “The biggest mistake is not doing anything (or very little) and expecting things to change”.

Photo colage The Scandinavian

It is an incredibly slow, tiresome and often thankless process developing a club and creating a desired club culture.

Some of the best clubs in the world have taken 100+ years to become what they are, and the journey never stops.

Only by doing things consistently right and by ensuring all decision makers understand the long-term direction, can the desired shape of the club begin to be formed.

The Scandinavian is at the very beginning of our journey to become a truly great members club and as we approach full capacity for the first time it is now our members and team who, by living our values, will shape the next exciting phase of the club’s development.