By Gary Firkins, Founding Director
This month, Royal Norwich Golf Club in the east of England will become the first Royal golf club to relocate.
The 125-year-old club, once a heathland course designed by James Braid on the outskirts of the city, has been surrounded by sprawl and bisected by a busy arterial road.
In the words of General Manager Phil Grice, the club membership had been in decline for 12 years and the business had become unsustainable.
But instead of accepting defeat, the club took the momentous decision to sell the land, relocate and, most impressively, reinvent itself.
The dusty rule book of tradition-for-tradition’s sake has been discarded and a new, bold vision for a contemporary private club has emerged.
The new Royal Norwich Golf Club opening this month is a contemporary private club focused on leisure and hospitality, and a ‘community’ of customers, with families, females and millennials at its heart.
A wine room, microbrewery, bakery, as well as family bicycle trails are all included.
At the heart of the venue is a new 18-hole course plus six-hole academy course, both designed by Ryder Cup course specialists European Golf Design.
I was fortunate to visit the new club to speak to Phil Grice for a podcast and multi-media feature ‘Is Club Membership Dead?’ for Syngenta Growing Golf.
Phil’s focus on customers, strategy and energy is a potent combination and there is much for the golf industry to learn from Royal Norwich’s lead.
As the world around us changes, so do consumers, so it should be no surprise that golf club businesses also need to evolve.
But when they don’t, as Royal Norwich discovered, a revolution may be required.
• View the multi-media feature and podcast ‘Is Club Membership Dead?’ which also includes interviews with Global Golf Advisors’ Henry DeLozier and Golf at Goodwood’s Stuart Gillett.