When we announced the memberships, pricing and updates to the booking terms and conditions, we received a number of enquiries through the Council’s Listening to you’ service, we have posted our response to a number of the comments raised here.
Why have the fees for 2021/22 increased a lot since last season?
There is a significant shortfall between the operating costs of 8 courses and the income generated from the sales of season tickets. Visitor revenue and café sales make up some of this deficit but not all. The deficit has to be made good from Council budgets made up of Scottish Government block grant and local council tax.
Whilst the service made good inroads into reducing the shortfall in recent years, this has significantly increased again over the past 2 seasons, due largely to the introduction of Categories A&B in the Access to Leisure scheme and latterly the impact of COVID 19.
The Council agreed as part of its general revenue budget in 2019/20 that these categories should be removed. Due to the pandemic this was not immediately implemented, however it was a requirement for the service to implement this as part of setting this year’s fees.
Additionally, the agreed membership fee increases in for 2019/20 were not implemented. In fact because of the restricted access to courses contained within the membership, the 9 month membership fee was substantially reduced.
The combination of these factors does represent a large percentage increase, however having access to 8 courses for less than £10 per week offers fantastic value for money.
It is expected that these increases will assist us in achieving our income targets and as such, allow us to invest in the courses and improve the overall course condition.
You have gone to a membership which covers all eight courses, why not keep the area course membership?
As communicated in 2019/20, we were required to separate the 8 courses in response to the pandemic, this was always communicated as a temporary measure and that we would revert back to an 8 course ticket in time for the commencement of this season. This was reflected by the response we received to the membership survey as the 8 course ticket was the main reason for people purchasing a season ticket.
Again in 2019/20, the service proposed to remove the ‘Restricted Ticket’ to be replaced with a 5 Day (Mon-Fri) ticket. This was not implemented immediately as a result of the pandemic.
The survey responses received indicated an overwhelming desire from respondents that all courses should be maintained equally. Talking this approach, increases operational costs for the service. Non-Members inevitably want to play certain courses and generating sufficient income here enables the service to support the less visited courses. This is why traditionally some courses receive more maintenance than others.
Girvan and Maybole were the only 2 courses who experienced a decline in usage over 2019/20.
It was therefore agreed with local Elected Members and Officers that a pilot scheme be introduced offering a Carrick Only ticket. The effects of this will be reviewed in the coming months.
A Members (Elected Councillors) and Officers (Senior Council Employees) Working Group, has been created, and will be considering the future configuration of memberships as part of the long term strategy for Golf in South Ayrshire.
Golf club members who played competitions on public courses had priority booking, why has it been removed?
The provision of 24hr priority booking was provided last season, as a temporary measure, to clubs on the understanding that it would be used to enable their members to book tee times to play in organised competitions. The service stood by this decision in the face of growing demand and limited availability on some courses. Many social golfers voiced their concern over lack of tee times and use of this priority booking outwith organised competitions. .
It was therefore agreed that for this season, all season ticket holders, (excluding FLEXI-Members), should be afforded equal booking access.
Again as part of the Working Group and the development of a long term strategy for golf, the service will be seeking to introduce a Partnership Agreement with affiliated Clubs which would include conditions of access to the public courses.
Some clubs had block booking agreements, why have they not continued?
Whilst we are in a period of extreme uncertainty as the pandemic continues, the service wrote to the clubs affected well in advance of the new season. Despite the removal of ‘paid for’ and other block bookings the council has offered and will commit to providing courtesy of the course to those clubs who would traditionally hold Open Competitions, play inter-club area or county matches, stage their club championships and undertake Junior/development opportunities at no cost to the club.
It is not for the Council to determine how a club should be operated, nor for the Council to force any club to change how they organise their membership or competitions, nor tell them how to recruit new members. The Council can however determine what conditions should be met by a club or group who is looking for any additional benefits of access, i.e. courtesy of the course for Open Competitions.
There is no formal written agreement currently in place between the Council and Clubs. The Working Group will also consider these arrangements.
Increased tee time intervals were introduced to ensure social distancing, will they be reduced to allow more tee times?
This was an essential part of our COVID restrictions, in order to reduce the number of people congregating on the courses.
However, it is well publicised that slow play is the scourge of the game and 4 or 5+ hours on a course is not everyone’s idea of enjoyment.
We acknowledge that slow play is down to a number of factors, including course set-up, weather conditions, format of play or poor etiquette, but tee time intervals are also a major contributor to course congestion and slow play.
Putting too many games out on the golf course too close together, will inevitably lead to longer rounds and delays on busy golf courses. Fine for those who play early, not so good for those who wish to play a little later in the day.
Allowing an additional few minutes between tee times allows that space to be created which will ultimately allow golfers to move round the course quicker. Even with the reduced number of tee times, there are still times of the day that remain available for booking, just perhaps not at the peak times.
We will continue to monitor tee time intervals throughout the season and we would align any future changes in these intervals to changes in Scottish Government Protection Levels.
Why do you need visitor reserved tee times?
Non-Member reserved tee times are not a new concept. They were temporarily suspended in 2019/20 to prioritise season ticket play and observe travel restrictions, however non-member green fees and café income equates to around 40% of the services turnover.
In 2018/19, 17 tee times in the morning, and 15 in the afternoon were reserved for non-member use.
In 2021/22, this has been reduced to 6 in the morning, and 6 in the afternoon.
At 7 min intervals, there were 31 season ticket tee times between 7am and 1pm. At 10 min intervals, there are 30 season ticket times for the same period.
We have updated our T&C’s for booking into non-member times to 9pm, two days in advance, this is due to the average lead time for non-members booking is 3 days. The previous T&C’s were preventing the service from selling a sufficient number of tee times to non-members to achieve our income targets.
For example; if we sold two, 4 ball tee times at Belleisle in the summer in one day, this is the equivalent of 1 full paying season ticket for the full year. More non member green fees = more income = more expenditure on the golf courses to improve course condition.
Why are some tee times booked weeks in advance of member booking?
Golf South Ayrshire get requests from individuals, groups and businesses to book tee times which may fall outside the normal visitor booking times. We retain the right to allocate these times but will also keep them to a minimum.
Why has a GOLF SOUTH AYRSHIRE GOLF CLUB been formed?
It has been widely accepted that Club Membership throughout Scotland has been in decline over the past 20 or so years. At the same time the average age of a Club Member has increased to around 64 years old (10 years older than the average golfer in Scotland) and continues to rise. This trend, if it continues, is unsustainable for the future of golf.
There are currently around 30 clubs with permissions to play golf on the Council Courses.
22 have men only, 5 are female only, and 3 are both male and female. Only 2 of the 30 have active junior sections.
The Golf South Ayrshire Golf Club, was established in February 2021, and its constitution was accepted by Scottish Golf the same month. The club aims to offer an inclusive and modernised approach to club/competitive golf to attract a different demographic of member who wish to maintain a handicap.
By offering families and couples the opportunity to play in mixed tee/same prize competitions and utilise all 8 courses within the membership, the club is offering a unique opportunity compared to the longer established clubs who play on South Ayrshire Council courses.
As well as the opportunity to play in competitions, there will be a number of Junior and Coaching Academy Opportunities for new/return golfers to hone their skills, learn the rules and etiquette of the game in an inclusive environment, and, as their skills improve, should they feel the desire to join one of the longer established clubs which offers more competitions and county opportunities, then we are more than comfortable with that.
The club is not aimed at becoming a super club for all competitive golfers, the club is not aimed at replacing established clubs, and the club is not aimed at ‘putting any club out of business’.
There will be no benefits of joining the GSAGC by means of priority or block bookings, no council facilities will be reserved for the sole use of club members and no additional costs will be incurred in the operation of the golf club.
The Council doesn’t communicate well with affiliated golf clubs.
Until the pandemic, the Council sought to engage with all Clubs on a regular basis through a forum meeting, held at least twice per annum, and whilst the Council attempted to set an agenda for these meetings, items to be discussed were rarely forwarded in advance of the meeting, which meant they were inefficient and few meaningful outcomes arose from them.
During the pandemic, clubs were in receipt of the same information as the Council, and at the same time, the Council sought to inform all Season Tickets holders of the impact of restrictions and what it meant for them. The BRS systems provides an ease of communication the service has never had previously.
Emerging from the pandemic, the Council agreed that there should be a ‘forum’ where course issues and operational questions can be raised, however this should be done so in a manner which benefits ALL season ticket holders. The Council is considering what format these meetings follow and their frequency.
In the absence of the club forums, there remains an open channel of communication with the Golf Management Team and if the communication is deemed to be a complaint, this is subsequently processed through the Council’s approved complaints procedure. This is a statutory requirement for a Local Authority. All first responses in ‘Listening to You’ are issued directly by the service receiving the complaint.
The BRS system is not fit for purpose
The platform is designed primarily as an online booking system, and has been the market leading solution in the UK for at least 10 years. 3,500 golf clubs across 14 countries currently use this platform, and utilised by 620,000+ club members in the UK & Ireland alone.
The designers are aware of regional differences in internet capabilities and as such have designed the software to be able to operate effectively on a ‘poor quality’ 3G Mobile connection.
If you are experiencing any issues booking a tee time (particularly at peak times) this is as a result of season ticket demand for these tee times, not the speed of your connection.
Online booking makes booking tee times easier and more efficiently from the comfort of someone’s own home. There are very few transactions now which can’t be done online. The technology is easy to use and avoids anyone having to go to the unnecessary effort of leaving their house at 5 or 6am in the morning just to book a tee time for the following week.
If someone would like to learn more on how to make best use of the online booking system or app, please chat to one of our staff members, who would be more than happy to assist.