Case stories

Harrogate Golf Club adopts member survey suite following successful trial

Upon asking for feedback now and again, Harrogate Golf Club went on a mission to find a more structured approach in 2023. After being introduced to Players 1st and testing one of its survey templates, the English club went on to launch 3 different survey types within a few months – and they did not hesitate to put the data into action.

Lucas Balleby
May 10, 2024

Back in 1892, just a stone's throw from the bustling spa town of Harrogate in North Yorkshire, the professional golfer Willie Park Jnr formed a club. He decided to adopt the name of the city, giving birth to Harrogate Golf Club, the oldest of its kind in the area.

Fast forward to today, this historic golf venue boasts a membership of 750, with over 2,500 visitors teeing off on its parkland course last year alone.

William Culver-Dodds used to be the Marketing Commercial Director at the club, responsible for attracting potential members while also stepping up communication with existing ones. Recently taking on the role of Chair of the Board, Culver-Dodds recalls addressing the process of the way the club collected its member feedback, moving away from non-golf specific online survey platforms.

After discovering Players 1st on social media and through England Golf, the Yorkshire club wasted no time in launching its first survey in 2023, followed by two additional experience survey types. But what exactly did Harrogate Golf Club hope to achieve by surveying different types of members just once during 2023?

The timeline of adopting surveys at Harrogate Golf Club and their response rates
Figure 1: The timeline of adopting surveys at Harrogate Golf Club and their response rates. Source: Players 1st

When one becomes three

Even with some past feedback experience under his belt, William Culver-Dodds aimed to roll out the customer experience management platform at a pace that felt right for the club, its staff, and the Board. Also, he was keen on building up his own knowledge of the software by exploring its features before going all in.

So, he laid out a quite clear and careful strategy. Start with the short Players 1st Exit Survey. Follow up with the Players 1st New Member Survey. And if it's going great: move on to the holistic Players 1st Member Survey.

Exit Survey

In May 2023, Harrogate Golf Club introduced its first-ever Exit Survey. The goal was simple: to understand why members had recently left and how the club could prevent future churn.

In my previous employments, I've always been keen to find out why people leave, which I find really important. I know it can be scary for people to ask, but I usually find it positive. Apart from a couple of people who had a few subjective grievances that we could not deal with, we found that most people had been happy with their experience and that they'd left our golf club for personal reasons. These could be that they moved out of the area, or they got too old to play regularly.
William Culver-Dodds, Chair of the Board at Harrogate Golf Club

New Member Survey

When getting used to the automatic survey rollout and the software, the New Member Survey was an obvious next step. After setting it up with just a few clicks in August 2023, the club sent it out to the newest members, eager to hear about their initial experiences and welcome into the club.

We included members who joined the club in both 2022 and 2023. This way, we got higher numbers, which, of course, was helpful. Like is there anything else they want from us that we need to be able to provide? We learned a lot about how we could communicate and integrate them even better than we are doing now. It has also been a strong point that offering them a platform to provide feedback made them feel as members with a valid voice very quickly.
William Culver-Dodds, Chair of the Board at Harrogate Golf Club

Member Survey

In September 2023, the club was ready to deliver the Member Survey, seizing a golden opportunity to gather insights from every member.

After seeing the value of the other surveys, we waited until the end of the season to undertake our full member survey, which went out to over 450 full playing members. And we were absolutely thrilled by the number of responses we got since it was way above anything we've tried previously. A 71% response rate is just fantastic. You don't normally get that. It also gives us greater weight to say that a lot of members are now engaged.
William Culver-Dodds, Chair of the Board at Harrogate Golf Club

Actions based on benchmarks and feedback from first responders

Within just a few months, Harrogate Golf Club had all the feedback laid out on the table, allowing them to see their Net Promoter Score, satisfaction scores, and benchmark themselves against 250 other clubs. And it's safe to say they made the most of having this valuable data at their fingertips.

It's been incredibly useful when we've looked at how our clubhouse is seen, the service, the F&B, and the prices – but also the extra work we've done with that. So, to be able to use it in our strategic plan, then be able to refer to those areas that have been flagged in the Players 1st dashboard as weaknesses or areas that needed addressing, has meant that we've been able to prioritize that - and we've acted on them.
William Culver-Dodds, Chair of the Board at Harrogate Golf Club

Harrogate Golf Club could now back up its decision-making in larger projects like revamping its veranda, refurbishing the clubhouse or whether it should reassess its food and beverage pricing according to benchmarking.

The Players 1st priority map and benchmark feature where Harrogate Golf Club can see what matters the most for their members based on the Member Survey. Source: Players 1st

"It will be interesting to go back to see how we've performed"

With a flurry of changes and improvements now in the mix, William Culver-Dodds looks forward to seeing how the members will receive them.

We have dealt with so many things that probably lowered our score, so it will be very interesting to go back later this year to see how we've performed. And, we're definitely doing an Exit Survey and New Member Survey again to see the changes there.
William Culver-Dodds, Chair of the Board at Harrogate Golf Club

Harrogate Golf Club are now committed to tracking their own internal development scores in Players 1st, with the proactive golf club planning to send out their next round of surveys later this year. And for other clubs eager to follow in their feedback footsteps, the Chair of the Board has one final message to share.

If you are unsure how to use Players 1st, get somebody to help you develop it so you understand how it works. And recognize that you might not always get the information that you desire. Learn that if you are not doing as well as you thought you were doing, that is something that you have to deal with, and that is fine because you've got your membership engaged so make sure that you take your membership along with you.
William Culver-Dodds, Chair of the Board at Harrogate Golf Club

Let us ping your mailbox

Boost your club’s member and guest experience to stay ahead of the game! Unlock expert insights, pro tips, inspiring club success stories, and more…