I recently had the pleasure of speaking with PGA Pro Michael Heisterkamp. Mike has been the head golf pro at Chagrin Valley Country Club in Chagrin Falls, OH for the past 22 years. He seems to have cracked the member retention code.
Mike Heisterkamp’s job is to run a golf program. But his mission is to attract and retain members for his club.
Mike started with his own belief system as to what is important in doing his job well. He then looked to other pros around the country and found that the most successful pros interacted regularly with their members.
Through some study and analysis, Mike discovered that every member who has done at least one of the following three things in the past few years has stayed at the club:
- Played a round with the pro
- Taken at least three lessons in a year
- Gone on a golf trip with the pro
Like all good head pros, Mike interacts with members and guests regularly: playing, meeting and greeting. But behind his casual and friendly demeanor is a system.
He tracks member activity methodically. For each member he knows: number and dates of lessons, golf shop purchases, and number of tournaments and golf trips.
He also stays in touch with the club membership office to learn which members have resigned and who has joined the club. Then he matches that info to his activity tracking system.
Playing with the Pro
Mike runs a season-long “play-with-the-pro” tournament. He plays with many members during the course of the tournament and plays with some members multiple times.
He keeps a large scoreboard in the locker room to encourage participation and maintain enthusiasm. At the end of the season, he runs a shoot-out for the top three teams.
Mike finds that if a member takes three or more lessons a year, that member stays with the club. He tracks the lessons that each member takes and, without being pushy, encourages certain members to take more lessons.
At the same time, Mike and his assistants regularly are on the driving range giving members free tips. This shows members that the pros care. It also encourages members to take more lessons.
Mike runs a golf trip each year for about 15 members. On the even years, the trip is in the US and runs for four or five days. In the odd years, it’s a 10-day international trip.
Through his network of golf professionals, Mike gets his members on some of the top courses in the US and Europe. Sign me up!
Mike sends out an email invitation to the entire membership for each trip a year in advance. The trips are so popular that they are usually filled within a week of Mike’s email.
Mike tries to avoid having the same members on the trip year after year. He aims to mix up the group by having no more than half of the previous trip’s group on the next trip.
Mike goes out of his way to make non-members feel welcome at the club. When a member brings a guest to play, Mike makes it his business to know when the guest is coming and his or her name so that he can greet and welcome the guest by name.
He also regularly plays with prospective members. He says that in the past few years 11 out of 12 candidates for membership who played with him subsequently joined the club.
That’s a .917 batting average. Awesome!
Membership is Job One
Mike recognizes that maintaining the Club’s membership is not just the Membership Committee’s job. It’s his job, too.
The head golf pro plays an important role in providing a great member experience. That’s why members join and stay.
But Mike wouldn’t be as effective as he is without a system. He has devised one that works.
It allows him to contribute in a meaningful way to his club’s well-being, increase his value to the club and hopefully increase his compensation.
I am sure it also increases his attractiveness to other clubs looking to hire a new pro. Mike’s systemized approach is something all head pros should consider.