By Steve Eubanks, Contributor, Golf Business
If you could go back in time and talk to your great grandparents, you’d learn a lot. You’d also surprise them no end. Imagine the looks on their faces if you told them that major beverage companies could pour spring water in plastic bottles and sell them for $2 a pop.
A few things in today’s golf business are raising similar looks of surprise. Across the pond in London, Royal Mid-Surrey Golf Club, one of the most exclusive and prestigious clubs in England, located between Heathrow and the fashionable West End in a horseshoe bend of the River Thames, created a new membership category last year and extended that offering through early 2021.
It’s a walking membership. But not walking while playing golf. Just walking. Taking a stroll. Your daily constitutional around the grounds of the golf course during the warm parts of the day. This membership, which costs a modest £20, was instituted during the lockdowns the British government imposed to ward off COVID-19.
Recognizing that people were going stir-crazy in their homes, and that good mental and physical health required getting outside for some fresh air and a quiet walk, the club took advantage of the demand and created a market where none had ever existed before in golf.
U.S. golf courses would do well to look into this idea. Operators in America have long battled the odd walker. Cart paths provide such a tempting walking option. And with many clubs weaving through residential neighborhoods, it has become all but impossible for many clubs to keep the stray stroller off the grounds. However, if the Royal Mid-Surrey model takes off in the UK, it won’t be long before similar options are available in the U.S.
How much would a resident of Long Island pay to walk around National Golf Links of America from sunup until 8:00 a.m.? How big a market would there be for a morning stroll around Pebble Beach or Bandon Dunes?
Not everybody gets it. In fact, the new members at Royal Mid-Surrey received a letter upon joining that read, in part, “If asked as to your reason for exercising across the courses, simply explain that you are a walker. And in order to support engagement between fellow members, you will receive an ID badge.”
It’s a new idea and one that will never generate a great deal of additional revenue. But then again, two generations ago, no one could have imagined that bottled water would sell.