Hartsbourne Golf Club

Hartsbourne’s new app is a hit for the club’s managers and the members

One of Hertfordshire’s most prestigious private members’ clubs, Hartsbourne is the classic country club combining a top quality 27 holes golf course designed by two master designers Hawtree and Taylor back in the 1920s, along with tennis, a couple of swimming pools, snooker and bridge.

Its 700+ members prove the club’s viability despite very challenging times for all golf clubs, but its managers are also taking advantage of the latest technology to ensure that membership thrives and the bottom line stays healthy.

Using Open Solutions administrative and EPoS software including the ‘web services’ option, their Golfworking website designed by Geoff Ellis showcases the club beautifully, and with plenty of the ‘wow’ factor. As it’s also responsive and will re-size its pages for smartphones and iPads, its 700 members can check things like their bar balances, latest handicaps, results and club news. So why did the club’s managing director Jeremy Bohn decide it was a good idea to go ahead with Open Solutions new members’ app as well?

Members’ app and responsive website?

Jeremy explains:

“Members can indeed see their balances when they’re online with their laptops or pcs, but not all their receipts - the app lets them do that. It sounds like a small and unimportant detail, but it’s actually helping reduce all sorts of calls every day from members asking for more details than they see in their balance – it tells them exactly when, where and what they spent.”

“Furthermore, the app’s much faster – it’s just two taps to see that kind information using a smartphone-based app, whereas the laptop assuming it’s already online still needs to find the website, and then it’ll need the log in and password, and then a member will need to search for the balance. The app’s much easier and faster, and that’s exactly what our smartphone-toting members want. And they love checking all this sort of detail as well!”

Better communications tool as well

Jeremy continues: “We’ve also found the app’s ideal for communicating the latest news more quickly, and can easily send out short updates about competitions, events, etc. with text and images. In fact, we’re now using our Friday newsletter as a way of rounding up all this day to day information, rather than as a source of latest news in itself. These news updates are also helping market the club that much more effectively to our members, bearing in mind that we’re always trying to achieve the highest possible levels of retention. Keeping your members well informed is key to that.”

“From their feedback, we can also say that our members love the news tab on the app, because they like seeing what’s going on, and the diary which tells them what’s coming up.”

More new features on the app

Jeremy likes the fact that the app’s being constantly developed to enable new and additional features to boost the services he provides the members. “It’s already delivering other things we always wanted our members to have, such as top ups, and competition entry and payment.”

When it comes to online tee time booking, that service is currently delivered via BRS Golf from the club’s website. BRS Golf was installed by the club some while ago, but Open Solutions now has its own online tee time booking system that’s available directly via the members’ app.

Hartsbourne CC’s managing director had some other ideas as well which have now been developed by Open Solutions: “The app now enables Hartsbourne’s members to make online top ups direct from their bank into their golf club account.”

“Previously they had to send money to our bank account, and then we had to check each day and send that money into their individual club accounts. By streamlining that process, Open Solutions has delivered another major time saving for us.”

Jeremy comments: “Another really useful time saving feature is push notifications, so that for example the course condition can now be messaged on the app’s screen, making it much faster for members to check that, instead of having to log on and go to our website. I can also use our Club News feature to update members with all sorts of things, from course condition to social occasions, competitions, etc., etc.”

Adopting a genuine club app makes marketing sense

Hartsbourne’s marketing whizz Jenny Wangui reinforces her MD’s points, saying:

“The app’s much easier and faster to use for the growing number of our members with smartphones. Its additional detail such as the receipts feature is certainly reducing the calls we get to the office, and the time it takes for us to look up their account and give them the details they’re after. The app lets them do that themselves and lets us get on with all the other things we’re trying to do.”

Jenny continues: “Another time saver the app delivers is that members can find the contact details of other members very easily – that’s not possible using the website’s features. On top of that, if a member wants their details to be either private, available to their friends or open to all members, it’s easy for them or us to set up one of those choices.”

Increasing membership engagement using the app

Jenny’s particularly keen on the app’s advantages when it comes to membership engagement, as she comments: “One of my goals here is to increase members’ engagement with the club, and as the majority aren’t into social media, the new club members’ app enables me to achieve that objective with day to day news and updates using text and images. Using the app’s dashboard, this is much easier than trying to do the same on the website.”

“It’s also worth pointing out that with the typical social media like Facebook and Twitter, there’s a lot of extra noise now with all sorts of tracked advertising. The app doesn’t have all that, and I think that helps it to be a better experience for our members as well.”

So how do websites and apps work together?

Jenny summarises the marketing overview: “With the penetration of smartphones increasing all the time, and the take up of iPads and tablets by our older members, the website’s becoming much more of an online brochure for visitors, potential members and society organisers, while the app is really focussed on our members and providing them with the very different kind of information that they want.”

“So while our website’s a vital marketing tool and it must be responsive, our member’s app is also vital. It’s simply about using different tools for reaching different audiences, and then enabling the clubs to make the most of these tools’ specific advantages and benefits.”

" To date, we’ve not seen anything that matches this capability, and that’s got a lot to do with why we’ve kept OS for over 12 years. The simple fact is that everything works, is stable, and does what we want it to."

Adrian Dawson, Woodcote Park Golf Club