At first glance, Rolling Green Golf Club would appear to be a place that’s quite content to keep an old-fashioned approach to the club business. Tucked inconspicuously onto over 150 acres just off a busy stretch of U. S. Route 1 as it runs through Springfield, Pa. in suburban Philadelphia, Rolling Green still appears very much as it did when it opened in 1926.
“Golf Club,” in fact, has been purposely retained as part of the club’s name, to maintain the proper emphasis on its picturesque and challenging course. And Rolling Green still proudly touts its original statement of purpose: “to omit all social frills that enter into the life of a country club, and make [the club] a shrine where the skill and ingenuity of the lover of the game could have full play.”
The throwback feeling continues as you enter Rolling Green’s 80-year-old, Tudor-style clubhouse, and go up to its administrative offices in a corner of the second floor. There you’ll find Lydia Withers and Jenny Morrison, who collectively have over 45 years of experience handling accounting and office management duties for the club.
Plenty of paperwork covers the two women’s desks, including stacks of pro shop and dining room chits. They also still use crank-handle, tape-dispensing adding machines, and other vintage office equipment.
But the women now also turn frequently to computer keyboards and screens, as they efficiently go about their work while describing how this quiet, “old-fashioned” club has earned significant paybacks from the progressive strides it has taken through automation.
Boosting the “Share of Wallet”
Automation first came to Rolling Green at the start of the decade, when it began to make use of club management and accounting programs offered by Jonas Software. “We were actually one of the first clubs in this area to [automate],” says Morrison. “We did a lot of demonstrations for other clubs; other club managers even sent us flowers to thank us for showing them what the systems could do.”
Until 2007, though, most of Rolling Green’s reliance on automation was confined to behind-the-scenes, administrative purposes. At the start of last year, the club felt it needed to improve its external communications. Joe Orsini, from the Membership Committee, set to work with the staff to upgrade Rolling Green’s Web site (www.rggc.org) so it would 1) provide information to help with new member recruitment and 2) get the word out about club activities to Rolling Green’s existing 335 bondholders and 225 other members from various categories.
“We looked at a lot of potential [site developers],” Orsini says. “Fortunately, when we talked to Jonas, they had an add-on component [ClubHouse Online] that could be used with our existing system. That was a real godsend, so we didn’t have to worry about incorporating another system.”
With ClubHouse Online, Rolling Green’s staff could now make direct Web site updates. Even better, the user-friendly capabilities for Member Relations Management made it easy to bring “real-time” immediacy—and provide a much stronger punch—when promoting club events.
“We were still spending a lot of time and money putting together an annual events calendar and monthly newsletters, and hoping those would be enough to get members to plan to come to all of the events scheduled for throughout the year,” Orsini says. “But many people just tend to stick those in a drawer and not look at them again. ”
With ClubHouse Online, though, Rolling Green can now highlight up-to-the-minute Event Calendar and News pages on its site. Even better, using a database of e-mail addresses, it can select target groups and send customized “e-blast” messages about specific events, created as simple but colorful Word documents that in some cases include eye-catching animated effects like “waving” flags.
In the first year, Orsini reports, e-blasts consistently generated last-minute sources of additional revenue. “We have a series of ‘Stag Days’ where a member can bring three guests,” he notes. “They’re a great way to expose the club [to new prospects]. We always open them first to our bondholders, but if there’s still room with a week or so to go, we open them to others. Sending out e-blasts this year helped us pick up another few groups in the last week each time.”
Orsini found the system especially valuable for spurring participation during the last weeks of the season. “The fall can always be hit-or-miss, weather-wise,” he notes. “But we had awesome weather this fall and it was a great way to get people to think, ‘Yeah, I’m going to get another round in.’ “
Using the system in this way is “great for improving ‘share of wallet’ and getting members to decide to come to the club on the spur of the moment, instead of going elsewhere for dinner,” notes Robert Lamanna of Jonas.
And for Rolling Green, things only promise to get easier the next time around. “I have all the flyers saved in my computer, and as we have the same events [in future years], all I’ll have to do is go in, change the date, and send them out again,” notes Morrison.
The momentum gained from using ClubHouse Online in this fashion has also helped Rolling Green start to see other benefits. “Now that [members] are getting used to seeing the e-mails [about events], they’re going in and checking their online statements, too,” Withers reports. “I have members who now call me on the 29th of the month and ask me if their statement is final. I tell them I think it’s great they are using the Web site to check their statements—but have to remind them that the month isn’t quite over yet.”