Cawder Golf Club is a fine example of a forward thinking establishment, combining traditional values with a progressive approach. Golf Club Magazine recently caught up with Club Representative Andrew Fairbairn to find out more.
He told us, “I have been a member at Cawder Golf Club for six years now. I play the Club’s 36-Hole scratch open every year, which led to an instant desire to join the Cawder as the Championship course greens are a delight to putt on.
It also has 36 holes to offer; our championship course which is a true test of golf and our shorter, flatter and more forgiving Keir course. So Cawder offers something for everyone, and with two courses to choose from it also means we benefit from the fact there are always tee times available and importantly at times that suits your lifestyle.”
“As Captain, you tend to have a target on your back, so all complaints come your way. As a volunteer it can become frustrating in that you are giving up your spare time to help the Club and in our case implement practices that will help the club move forward, but sometimes you have to spend your time simply fire-fighting or indeed in objection handling mode.
There are a number of rewarding aspects of the role though. We are going through a bit of a transition, which included producing a three-year business plan that aims to see the Club return as one of the best Clubs in the area, and it has been very satisfying to see some of the improvements already taking shape.
“As part of this plan we ran a number of members engagement sessions; customer journey mapping, value proposition exercises and member profiling, which acted as valuable input for the plan. This for me was also fun to do and produced many great ideas and insights, which is something committees can often forget; that is within the membership there are many valuable resources and the Club can really benefit from tapping into them. And one of the added benefits of these exercises was it has helped break down those barriers that often exist between committees and the membership, so we are now seeing more positive support for the work the committee are doing.”
“The mood is positive. Golf Clubs face hard times at the moment due to the number of members that have left the game in recent years, and we are in one of the most densely populated areas in Scotland for golf clubs, so we are in a very competitive environment.
However, at Cawder there is a general feeling of positivity as we have a three-year plan in place, so it is recognised that the Club has direction, and a committee dedicated to delivering to the plan. We have revamped the fixture list, introducing some new events, 9-hole medals tied in with a 9-and-dine theme where you have a beer and a burger after your round and with the great summer we have had we have been lucky enough to have the BBQ on more than a few occasions.
We have also re-introduced the Cawder kettle which is a mixed balloted competition where you don’t know who you’re playing partner will be and after the round everyone goes into the Clubhouse for a meal.”
“We have improved Club communications, becoming much more transparent with the membership, and re-introduced a Club magazine – an old favourite from twenty years ago, but now in a modern digital format – this has also been a good advertising platform for our sponsors and helping them expand their reach.
We have also made a big effort this year to on-board and integrate new members, which again has been well received. We are in the ‘fix’ year of the plan, and there are more areas to improve upon, but success is in the journey and we have just started the journey.”
“In the whole 2018 has been good. We have used social media heavily this year to promote our memberships and have seen over 140 new members come through the doors, which has been great. We have also been active in promoting visitor parties and so far the results are looking promising.
But it hasn’t been without its bumps, therefore, there have been lessons learned, and we have sought out advice from industry professionals and so with this input we feel we are in a good position to make further improvements next year, and keep the momentum going, and momentum is of course crucial when implementing changes.
We are almost at the end of the season, but we have a few new initiatives left that we hope will end the season on a high for our members. We still are to host the Scottish Area Team’s at Cawder, which will be a big weekend for the Club, so the greens staff are working hard now to feed the course after the dry weather.
The plans are then to review what has went well, what has not, and what lessons can we learn. This will all become part of the plan for next year, but now that many of the foundations are in place we plan to shift the focus from fixing things and doing things better to growing our revenue streams in 2019.”
“Very development is very important to us. Juniors in particular are disappearing from the game of golf and as the future of the game depends on them, then we all need to focus on attracting more juniors and then keeping them. We have a great junior sub-committee now work closely with the professional team to run regular get into golf initiatives.
Last year this was fortnightly junior coaching, where we invited members and non-members to come along and we tied this in with BBQ’s to turn it into a family night. We also have a six-hole academy course, which has been a good vehicle for giving the kids a challenge before they are ready to progress to the golf course(s).
This year we have continued with the coaching and we have just seen a group of juniors progressing from the Academy course to playing medals and getting their first handicaps. We are very fortunate and grateful to the members who turn up to support the junior nights as they really are key to the success.
We also took the action to reduce the fees on youths and introduce an intermediate category a few years ago to encourage youths to stay in the game and this year we have seen the benefits of this as we have had a large influx of new youths, so much so they are now our fastest growing membership category.
The membership profiling exercise also identified how competitive this group are and so we introduced a new champions league style youth league, which has been well received. Personally this has been one of the rewarding parts of the role as we have had fun branding it like the Champions league, and sharing video’s of matches with the Champions League theme tune in the background, and many of the groups created their own whatsapp groups to arrange group games and share some banter with each other.”
“With two courses on offer we are a large Club in terms of membership so we tend to have a number of small communities and so creating a single community with a true sense of belonging is one of the challenges facing us, but over the next couple of years we aim to build that sense of community.”
“We, like many Clubs, run Get into golf initiatives, and these days many driving ranges also provide similar initiatives. So my advice would be to take a look around, and go along and give it a try. These initiatives are a great way of trying golf with very little cost and meeting like-minded people, which of course is key in any sport. And golf is actually easy to learn, it’s a great way of keeping fit, reducing stress, and of course it’s very social.
We ran our own get into golf membership this year, which includes fortnightly group coaching with one of the PGA Professional team, access to our practice facilities and Academy course and access to our shorter Keir course. We give the professional a kick back as part of the offer, so that everyone is a winner.”
“The time squeezed middle for me is one of the biggest challenges for golf Clubs. Time is so precious these days that many people struggle to play enough golf and therefore question the value for money they get in return from their membership.
Clubs are going to have to revisit how memberships and membership categories are structured, as well as revisiting the typical fixture list, as these days not everyone wants to play competitive golf and there is a growing desire for shorter, more fun competition formats. It is our ambition to once again be the Club of choice in the area.”