Why do golf clubs offer an intermediate membership category? 

3 intermediate golf members
By Brad Chard - 02/07/24

Can intermediate memberships be a successful category at my golf club? 

This is an area I have been giving a lot of thought to recently. I ask myself “why do golf clubs offer an intermediate membership category?” 
Did golf clubs experience high demand for this category of membership post Covid? Also, did they put caps on new intermediate members joining? 
As a previous golf club General Manager, I would often see the intermediate membership category as providing a pathway through to full adult membership. We would offer a lower annual fee based on a member’s age. Then, we would try and provide a sliding scale on price through to full membership. Why? So, the jump up to full adult membership was not so great. 
In reality, does this work?  

I can only talk from my own experience and my own understanding of the data that I’ve looked at. The intermediate membership category that was the last step before full adult membership, carried one of the lowest renewal rates. 
Therefore, the intermediate membership can provide pathway to full adult membership. However, this was not necessarily realised in the clubs that I was part of. 

The playing habits of an intermediate member 

Analysis of the playing habits of intermediate members told me that these golfers were some of the most active golfers in the club. Generally, playing at peak times of weekend mornings and prime twilight slots in the summer. 
If we actually thought about it though, why would we charge a lower rate to a group of golfers playing at peak times? This comes down to the value that a tee sheet delivers to a golf club. 
It may be deemed a little controversial, but I wonder if we still offer immediate membership categories because we’ve always done it? 

What is your golf club’s membership strategy 

As to whether intermediate membership is right for my golf club, well for me it all boils down to the golf club’s membership strategy. 

If a club is seeking to bridge that gap between junior members and full adult membership and feels offering a sliding scale of cost up to full adult membership, then keep doing what you are doing. But please don’t keep offering it because you’ve always done it.  

The playing habits of golfers have changed over the years. However, have membership categories kept up with this? 
When intermediate memberships were first introduced, they were introduced to the time when utilisation of golf courses was not as high as it is today. Offering unlimited golf for less may not have been so impactful as it is today when there is increased demand for tee sheet utilisation. 
Should we therefore be thinking more about how do we influence when golf is played?  

Should intermediate members have unlimited golf? 

With a membership category that has unlimited golf as its core benefit, it is exceedingly difficult to control when golfers play. If, however, there was a membership category that had a value attached to a tee time and if an intermediate golfer wanted to play at peak times, should that tee time be worth a higher value cost than that same intermediate golfer looking to play at off peak times? 
Naturally, you would probably expect me to talk about flexible membership in this blog but actually this isn’t about flexible membership. This is about many golf clubs that have an intermediate membership category in place, that is age related, but all of them carry unlimited golf as part of the benefit of that membership and they charge less than that of an adult member. 

The pathway from intermediate to full membership 

If the intermediate category is providing that pathway through to full adult membership and that’s the overall objective of the golf club then great, the intermediate category is doing exactly what you want to do. 

If however, golf clubs aren’t seeing this, and their intermediate categories do not provide a pathway to full membership then we should question why are we still offering intermediate categories? 

Tee sheet utilisation: Understanding the value 

Golf club tee sheets are assets and, in many cases, the biggest asset the golf clubs has. Do we really understand the return we get from that sheet? Furthermore, do we understand the value that each tee time delivers to the golf club? 
My experience would tell me it’s a bit of a mixed bag. Some understand it very well and in other cases we would simply look at it from the perspective of utilisation. Does the utilisation show us the golf course itself is busy?and we therefore will conclude that we are doing a good job. 
By looking at the tee sheet from the point of view of an asset and by understanding what each time of day was worth. We would conclude that the performance of our tee sheet could be better. 

On the assumption that we do draw those conclusions, then one must look at one’s membership offer. We need to determine what improvements could I make to raise the value of that tee sheet? 

Is flexible membership a way of running your intermediate category? 

If the membership offering only really offers unlimited golf, then it’s difficult to influence the value of a tee sheet.

Alternatively, if we have membership categories that can control when golf is played, we have greater ability to influence the value. Identifying this as a core objective to improve is one thing, implementing it is a whole new ball game.  

My experience tells me we don’t make the change. Even though we know we should because it would be too difficult to do. Therefore, we will continue to do what we have always done. 
Flexible membership of course does just that. It influences the time that golf is played, and it helps maximise the value that that tee time has.  

Could this be a good solution for your intermediate membership?