Jay McLelland: Offer a Teen Membership to Local Youth Golfers

Jay McLelland is the PGA Head Professional at the Valley Hill Country Club, in Huntsville, Alabama.

About four years ago, I realized the average age of our members was increasing, and we were not attracting young families to join. I discussed this fact with one of our board members, and together we initiated efforts to introduce Valley Hill Country Club to the youth of our area. In our research, we discovered that there were teens interested in joining, but their parents were not. We decided to implement a membership for 13-18 year olds. This teen membership, what we call “the Spike Pass,” in honor of local PGA Tour professional and longtime Valley Hill member, Spike McRoy, included access to the course, practice range, chipping and putting greens and swimming pool. By giving them privileges such as these, we found that the kids were growing as people and improving as golfers, following the rules of the club and being respectful of their fellow members. As our customers of the future, we felt it was important to gear some of our business to them now, and the program is benefitting all parties involved. I walk the range and offer assistance as requested. High school golfers who play at our local municipal courses have heard about our membership, and it continues to grow. For instance, two local high schools are even using our course for their home matches. Each member of these high school teams is a Valley Hill member, either with their families or as Spike Pass members. Other local clubs have followed our lead and are offering youth memberships. It is a scenario where everybody benefits, especially the kids.

Offering a teen membership has been a winning venture for Valley Hill Country Club. With a maximum annual teen membership set at 30, we either meet that number or come very close every year. An annual commitment is made by the member, and he or she pays $55 per month for complete access as detailed above. Word of mouth has created attention for our Spike Pass membership and local youth golfers are always inquiring about the program. In addition to the revenue the club makes on the membership dues, the presence of over two dozen teens on a pretty regular basis has increased rounds, food & beverage revenue and golf shop sales. Balls, hats, shirts, and even clubs are selling, and, as the kids grow, new equipment and apparel is needed. During the membership’s brief existence, two families of youth members have joined at the full family membership rate of about $5,000. The more kids we introduce to Valley Hill, the more potential members we have with their families. Finally, two of our women teen members have been awarded full scholarships to play college golf, a fact of which we are most proud by far. This just proves that if you open up your club to the youth of our towns and cities, they will take advantage of the opportunity, and you might just be changing their lives for the better.