Review of Discounted Subscription Fees

Friday 11th of January 2019 14:07

As I see it...

You may remember that I committed to looking at the issue of discounted subscriptions at the AGM in March 2018 and I’m writing to update members on progress and to inform people about the issues surrounding discounted subscriptions and in particular, discounts based on age and number of years that someone has been a member. I’m doing this in the hope of stimulating discussion and awareness of the subject.


At the last AGM, I put forward a proposal to remove the Constitutional entitlement to discounted fees which was approved by that meeting. In my report to members, I said that I would put together a working group to consider more fully the issue and to propose a way forward. That group was formed and have met on three occasions over the last four months and we are now close to presenting a proposal for the next AGM in March.

Discounted Subscriptions Committee

The people who worked on this committee were chosen based using the criteria that they were not well known to me, that they represented various points of view that were not the same as mine and that they would be impartial and vocal in their viewpoints.

Committee Members

Julian Kelly was chosen as he is working full time and therefore paying full membership fees. Ali Churchouse was chosen to represent the Ladies section and in particular as she was previously a member at a club that has been through the process of reducing the level of subscription discount for Veteran members. John Vigar was chosen to represent the Veterans section as he is President and former Secretary and Captain of the Veterans section. John Peters also attended every meeting, contributing substantially and handling the administration. My sincere thanks to all who contributed so fully and frankly and gave their time up to contribute. John, Julian and Ali have provided a short summary of their experiences during this time.

The Process and Objectives

The main objective was to fully understand the level of discount currently afforded, to project that amount forward based on current run rates and to see if it would be possible to reapportion that discount, possibly to extend the youth membership or Junior discount to encourage younger members to join or continue their membership.

The purpose was certainly not to simply “pocket” any additional revenue that we may generate in the future. Another consideration was to see if we could delay increases in the headline rate of membership fees to remain competitive in our local marketplace. We agreed that the proposed solution would be fair and equitable and Julian will expand on this. 


Julian’s viewpoint regarding fairness and equitability is as follows:

Julian Kelly

Active Full Paying Member

When I was asked to join the Discounted Membership Forum, I was pleased not only to contribute, but also to see that the club was openly consulting all sectors of the membership on such an important issue. The group were unanimous in their view that the current model was unsustainable, inequitable and in needs of change.

The only real debate was what model the club needed to move to, and what was the fairest and best way to implement the change.

When I joined the committee, I drew comparisons between my own company, a mutual insurance company, and a members golf club and the primary objectives were almost identical, where all members should contribute fairly and equitably to the common pool of funding, whilst maintaining a proposition of good value for money.

When I joined the committee, I drew comparisons between my own company, a mutual insurance company, and a members golf club and the primary objectives were almost identical, where all members should contribute fairly and equitably to the common pool of funding, whilst maintaining a proposition of good value for money.

Whether you are young or old, playing once per week or 5 times per week, having unlimited access to SGC, a quality course which is open almost 365 days every year,  should carry a premium over neighboring but lesser courses, hence the significant research that we carried out, into what other clubs are doing and what reviews and changes they have already implemented.

The forums conclusion and subsequent proposal for change, should therefore represent a fair and competitive offering to all.

Julian Kelly




Background and Present Position

We started out by looking at the amount of discount currently afforded which amounts to £ £44,000. This is projected to rise to £ 56,000 over the next five years. The current state of the golf market was discussed, the main point being that membership of golf clubs is in decline and that is reflected in our own position where we currently have an FME (full member equivalent) of 540 compared with 578 ten years ago. No-one could say exactly why we have discounted subscriptions up until now, however, it was generally felt that it represented a reward for loyalty no doubt influenced by the fact that people were not expected to live healthily enough for it to be an issue. In 1950, life expectancy was around 72 for Females and 67 for men. Today those figures are 83 and 79 respectively. Of course, that is a good thing as people are now living longer, healthier lives.

We surveyed clubs local to us and also spoke with the Welsh Golfing Union. We found that no proprietary clubs offered discounts similar to those we currently offer and of those clubs that responded to us, the average discount offered to veteran members was between 10 and 20%. The largest comparable club (Pyle and Kenfig) have removed their discount scheme. Many clubs expressed their surprise that our current maximum discount of 90% was so high. Some clubs did not answer us or provide the information. Veteran playing members enjoying maximum discount pay less than Junior members.




Experience at Other Clubs

Ali Churchouse was a member at Fulwell golf club where they went through a similar exercise. Ali’s has kindly written up the following: 



Ali Churchouse

Ladies Deputy Captain

Before becoming a member of Southerndown I belonged to Fulwell Golf Club near Twickenham. They gave generous senior members discounts, but went through the process of restructuring them nearly 7 years ago. The senior members realised their discounts were unsustainable going forward because of the aging profile of their club members.

At the time the club agreed to assign part of the additional fees towards funding a 7-year plan of much needed course improvements. Now they are nearing the end of this plan and improvements made to the course have encouraged new membership. This has improved their competitive position against other local courses giving them a sustainable future.

At Southerndown we are planning to assign some of the additional fees to encouraging younger members. At the moment fees for younger members are not competitive compared with other local clubs and we are missing out on gaining new members from an early age. By putting in place this sort of initiative we are working towards making our future sustainable.

Ali Churchouse




The Veterans Viewpoint

Asking someone to pay more money is never going to be the most popular thing to do. John Vigar has been very helpful in bringing forward the views of people who are going to be affected most by any proposed changes. There are approximately 47 people who might be affected who are currently or are about to be in receipt of discounts

John has put a vigorous case forward to limit or reduce the financial impact and he has kindly made the following observations:


John Vigar

President of Southerndown GC Veterans Section


When I was asked to join the Subscriptions Group, I was a little apprehensive to say the least. I was not familiar with the financial situation involved in running Southerndown GC, but it soon became clear that the group I was representing would be the most affected by whatever those changes were.

The group in question is the Senior members of the Club, both Men and Ladies, who have been members for 35 years or more and are over 70 years of age. Of the 60 odd members in this group nearly 50 are over 75 and they may be the worst affected.

I was able to make a few suggestions and comments which were taken on board as the discussions progressed, but I think that there are still one or two issues left to discuss before the final proposal to put before the 2019 AGM is completed.

I hope that the final decision will be as fair as it can be towards the Senior members who, are after all, have been the backbone, and in many cases loyal servants, of the Club for so many years.

John Vigar




The Way Forward

The group came up with the following conclusions, all to be finalised and put before the next AGM:

(1)    That there will be a reduction in the amount of discount afforded to veteran members

(2)    That the current Youth scheme will be extended

(3)    That the junior subscription rates be revised downwards

(4)    That youth members be allowed to vote in an AGM

(5)    That the change in rates will be phased in over 3 years.

The Executive Committee have been appraised of this and are in full support. The next step will be to finalise the exact figures involved and an appropriate motion will be put forward at the next AGM.







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Southerndown Golf Club
Ogmore by Sea
CF32 0QP

01656 880476