IMAGINE being able to play in regular competitions at some of the region’s leading golf clubs without being a member of even one.
That is the aim of David Thompson with a scheme which could eventually become a potential franchise operation – but also reconnect golf clubs with a growing number of “nomadic” golfers.
An increasing number of golf clubs are finding it harder to retain members, either because players find it difficult to justify membership fees in the current economic climate or they prefer to join the growing band of golfers taking advantage of the “two-for-one” culture, allowing access for half-price and a green fee, which has become so prevalent over the past decade and is making business tough for private clubs.
Mr Thompson, a PGA professional for two decades who has run the golf shop at Woolton Golf Club for the past 13 years, used to work for his father Alan, who is now based at Heswall and is, he says, “probably the most respected coach in the North West”.
He said he had been wracking his brains to figure out a way of tapping into the itinerant golfers’ market and, at the same time, drum up more patronage for Woolton and the region’s other clubs.
His solution – with the blessing of Woolton – is the Open Golf Club, an online golfing competition available to players for a reduced green fee at nine clubs across Merseyside and North Wales.
Mr Thompson explained: “If you are not a member of a golf club you can’t enter any of their competitions because you haven’t got a private club handicap, so you can’t get any competitive golf.
“Open Golf Club is like an outside club. You register on my site and pay a reduced green fee to play a competition.”
His scheme is also open to private golf club members.
He added: “There’s no restriction on anyone who can play in these competitions.”
Private club members already have their own handicap which allows them access to courses.
Mr Thompson said the Open Golf Club offers its own official handicap, adding: “If someone is a society player, such as in a pub golf society, I ask them for proof of that handicap or I ask them to send me two cards they have done around a course.”
He acknowledges there are other websites offering access to golf competitions, which is adding to the problem of private clubs retaining their members, but he said these tend to be nationwide: “What is different to these amateur tours is mine is local.”
The scheme is still in its infancy.
Mr Thompson said: “This is just starting and it is free registration, so it is not making me any money. It can only start making money when I start charging a registration fee for members, but I won’t do that until it gets moving as it builds and I get more people in the competitions.”
His competitions have attracted up to 20 players and 140 members are already registered.
A new round of competitions start this month and five clubs in Manchester have agreed to join up.
Mr Thompson is introducing an order of merit, awarding points each time a golfer plays, to provide more of an incentive for players, building up to an area final.
He believes it is a win-win situation, adding: “From the golf clubs’ point of view I am bringing customers to them and extra revenue.”
With the inclusion of Manchester clubs, he reckons the venture has the potential to grow.
He said: “I plan to replicate this in other areas. It lends itself to go nationwide, with the name Open Golf Club.”
He said expansion would also create new jobs, adding: “If it goes nationwide I would need some people to work at it and look after it. And if it does take off, I may look at franchising it.”