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Drentse Golfclub De Gelpenberg is second to none in member satisfaction

Leaving 2023 as the club with the highest member satisfaction score in the Netherlands, Drentse Golfclub De Gelpenberg (De Gelpenberg) is a prime example of dedication to putting the members first. But what have they actually done to be at the top of their league?

Being the golf club with the highest member satisfaction score in your area is quite impressive. Now, imagine being at the very top for four years straight measured up against 101 clubs in total. This has been achieved by Drentse Golfclub De Gelpenberg (De Gelpenberg) from the Netherlands.

Soon to turn 55 years old, the golf club in Drenthe, Coevorden, has a reputation for having a grip on how to make their members happy. With an 18-hole par 72 championship course and a 9-hole par 3 course, the approximately 825 members, 75 business members, and 2000-4000 annual visitors are extremely well looked after.

Besides being a course suitable for hosting the ProGolfTour in recent years, the Dutch club has reached their top-performing satisfaction scores by also making sure all its other touchpoints are on point.

Like a tactical squad with the mission of making members smile

Starting in the position of Sales & Events Manager in 2017 and moving into the role of General Manager at De Gelpenberg in 2022, Niels van der Weerd has been at the golf club for quite a while. A couple of months after he walked through the facility’s doors, the club set up an automated solution to gather experience feedback to become more data-driven.

Fast forward to today, focusing on putting the players at the center has paid off. All of the club areas have a satisfaction level above 80, and the club’s overall Net Promoter Score of 67 exceeds the national benchmark by an impressive 40 points.

And how has the club achieved this? Well, the recipe for their success is ’teamwork’.

“Here is one of the biggest reasons for our success: bringing everybody together, helping each other, and doing something with the members’ feedback. We have good greens, good members, good volunteers, good staff, good partners, etc. But we still need to combine these areas and turn them into a complete experience. And this won’t happen if we don’t work as a team,” says Niels van der Weerd, General Manager at De Gelpenberg.

Another focus area is doing what it takes to make every member enjoy their time at the club. Seniors, juniors, males, and females; everyone is welcome. Through the demographic filters in the Players 1st dashboard, they can make sure that each one is satisfied.

Besides using feedback to stay on top, the club has a bulletproof and simple must-do for their nearly 140 volunteers, 3 staff members, and plenty of partners: be welcoming.

“We do what we do, and we do it with a smile for the members. When the members are happy on the golf course and see that we, the Board, and all the partners are doing the job with a smile on our faces, they’ll feel good and at home. And when the members smile, they’ll also smile to their friends, which often brings in new players,” says Niels van der Weerd, General Manager at De Gelpenberg.

Knowledge-sharing with the federation and other golf clubs

Three times a year, Niels van der Weerd sits down with the golf club president for no less than 3 hours, analyzing their feedback in detail. Then, they share the information with the Board and staff members, highlighting the areas needing attention.

But this impactful knowledge-sharing extends beyond the club itself, with the Club Manager also discussing their results with the Dutch Golf Federation.

“The federation knows a lot about other golf clubs. So, if we have questions about, for example, new members, there might be another golf course in the Netherlands that excels in this area based on their scores in Players 1st. Then, we can contact them to discuss this topic,” says Niels van der Weerd, General Manager at De Gelpenberg.

This exchange of insights has proven quite useful for the Dutch golf club, which is also eager to engage with a network of other golf clubs. This is something that the federation also benefits from.

“Drentse Golfclub De Gelpenberg is the best example of how to flourish a golf club in a more remote area. With a very personal approach, their management and Board have a clear vision of customer experience and satisfaction. Players 1st is a crucial tool for them to keep track of this. Since the Dutch Golf Federation started working with Players 1st in 2017, De Gelpenberg has been an ambassador and has always been open to sharing insights with other clubs to help them grow,” says Thomas Labberton, Account Manager at the Dutch Golf Federation.

Feedback is just as valuable for the members as for the club

At De Gelpenberg, feedback has become truly valuable for their operations. But, the club also sees feedback as something for the members to hear. For this reason, the club shares insights with the members through magazines, newsletters, and other communication channels.

“Annually, we conduct three rounds of feedback with a different pool of members each time. After the first round, I delve into Players 1st and create a comprehensive map of what is important for our golf course based on the members’ feedback. Following that, we give a presentation to the members at a meeting about all the positive and negative feedback. Then, we take actions on the negatives, or we thank them for the feedback and elaborate on the situation they are complaining about,” says Niels van der Weerd, General Manager at De Gelpenberg.

This way, the club ensures that all members feel heard and acknowledged. By sharing the management’s understanding of the areas they’ll look to improve while also shedding light on the reasoning behind why something is underperforming, the club can also potentially deal with detractors before they create issues at the club.

If you ask the general manager himself, the magic formula behind their success is powerful, yet so simple. When using data and putting the needs and wishes of members ahead of everything else, great results will follow.

“Try Players 1st for one year, and after that year, you can decide whether it helps you as a golf club or a golf manager. And I’m sure, after a year, you’d say that it helps you bring your club to the next level. As a bonus, your members will thank you for letting them speak to you about the golf course and club – anonymous or not,” says Niels van der Weerd, General Manager at De Gelpenberg.

Now, as the top-ranked club in member satisfaction, the club has ambitions to deliver the very best experiences for their guests as well. This goal motivated the club to initiate the Players 1st Guest Survey last year, with the benchmark showing that they currently rank 4th out of 25 golf clubs for guest satisfaction.