In most cases this exhortation will apply if you are referring to what’s in your golf bag, but generally not if the reference to ‘club’ means that facility to which you pay your subs each year.

I say this because many golf clubs miss the broader nuances of what membership means to those individuals that make up their numbers.

Sadly for many clubs the well know business phrase ‘know your customer’ (or client and often abbreviated to the letters KYC) is a far off country.

Very few have any knowledge of their customers (repeat ones in this case – at least all clubs hope that they will prove to be!) which is what will be required to service their needs effectively.

That said and in the same context, knowing something and being able to use this intel effectively is another matter altogether – as Albert Einstein said, “Any fool can know. The point is to understand.”

Tourism and travel is set to play a much more defined and important role, both as a revenues’ generator in terms of the Southern African and this country’s GDP and also as a job creator.

These are the broad value strokes in a global industry within which golf tourism, as a high end niche sector, generated over 15 billion US $ in the year 2017 / 2018 and which some analysts see growing to 19 billion US$ by 2023.

However in truth these are really the types of statistics and concerns that face governments and their various departments, especially as these apply to tourism and how best to ‘cash in’ on this market.

So – tell us something that we don’t already know I can you feel you asking? Golfers travel and have done so for years, so what does or can this mean in terms of a golf club?

It’s true that many clubs have arranged trips for their members as a group to an event or destination. There are a number of annual events that are in the calendar which see clubs travel to play against each other.

Two examples would be the contest between the Jack Nicklaus designed estates’ courses in South Africa and the annual get together for Royal clubs hosted by Royal Port Alfred in the Eastern Cape, but none have really gone into the travel business.

In terms of the latter, Royal Johannesburg and Kensington golf club has taken this ground-breaking next step. The framework to this is that RJ&K has made the conscious decision to acknowledge that although golf plays a key role in its day to day business, the club really functions in the hospitality and entertainment space.

With this as the background the board and management are constantly analysing and critiquing the club’s business and social activities, while looking for opportunities to add value to the club’s members’ experience.

This begs a second question, which is that from this type of intel how can you use it to make a difference? It obviously takes some strategic thought, but in R&K’s case it was that a travel service not only provided for the needs of the golf members, but also those of their families, which in itself presented a broader and extended audience.

Chris Bentley, CEO at RJ&K commented, “Royal takes great pride in its determination to be innovative and we are continually looking to enhance our product offering. It’s no secret that golfers travel, not only to play golf but for also business and leisure.

“These factors meant that it made complete sense for us to provide a service which can help to facilitate all their travel arrangements. In July 2019 we established a fully-fledged inbound and outbound travel department within the club, which includes a comprehensive online self service platform. To date the response, support and growth has delivered beyond our initial expectations”.

However, developing and then launching the travel service was in fact part of a much wider initiative. The goal with this was to look at ways to broaden the club’s revenue streams without compromising the core levels of service which the clubs’ members have come to expect.

Chris commented further that, “While we knew this would add exceptional value to our membership experience, be a great business model and attract international rounds, we were very aware that we are not travel experts.

“We therefore analysed the available options open to us in having the actual delivery of the service managed professionally, before entering into a partnership with one of the largest tour operators in the country. This structure has provided us with the correct platforms and structures to launch the service, without having a negative impact on our resources”.

It was not quite the juggling act it would seem to be and as Chris then added that: “Once you have defined the parameters then it becomes much easier to understand what needs to be done. In the process the surveys we conducted and in which the members participated enthusiastically played a key role in helping us to understand and profile the members’ needs”.

A club is a business and as such it will be organic and must be allowed to evolve.

In this case, another part of the RJ&K journey has begun and its members can now enjoy a world class on line travel offering, which attends to their business and vacation needs, but which also benefits the club.

The good news is that the activity in terms of bookings and requests has exceeded all expectations. Everyone involved with the project is equally confident that the service will continue to grow and develop from its core and this journey in itself will be an interesting one to follow.

John Cockayne has been a Professional Golfer since 1977 and is a fully qualified founder member and Life Member of the PGA of South Africa. He is a former Head Professional at Royal Oak, State Mines and Benoni Country Clubs and Director of Golf at Southbroom, during which period he was involved in the organisation of golf tours, numerous professional and amateur tournaments and as a consultant on the Sunshine Circuit.

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