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2020 And Beyond

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2020 and Beyond - Our Challenges and Possible Solutions

Challenge - Small Local Population 

The area has about 10,000 people to draw from. Based on national averages 3% of the population are core golfers who play 8 plus times a year. That is a base of only 300 people. A full golf club has 600 members.

To grow the game locally and long term we have redesigned the junior program, we have introduced a “How To Be A Golfing Diva” program to introduce the game to more women and we have a private lesson program that gets results quickly.

We have also revamped the games program. We have fun events geared at getting non-core golfers hooked on Gilwood and competitive events to keep the core golfers satisfied and paying for a membership.

We have also changed the culture of Gilwood. We are a lot more friendly, welcoming and encouraging than in the past.

Long term this will increase the average spend per round as well as help increase rounds. People spend less money when they are not happy even if we are the only course in town.

Challenge - Lack of Golf Tourism

When exploring marketing ideas last winter I met with “The Bogey Man” at The Edmonton Sun. He has been selling advertising to golf course across Alberta for decades. He did not know Gilwood.

Most of the tourists we do get are not core golfers. They are here for the wonders of the area and play a round as another thing to do. A core golfer tourist would probably play a round each day.

We are too far away from major urban centres to be a one hour day trip. There are not enough local courses to be a golfing destination.

Our marketing efforts must run along the line of “come for the golf, stay for the world class fishing, the sand beaches, the trophy hunting, the ATV and hiking trails, the water sports, etc.”

A booth at the Edmonton Golf show in March would be a good starting point. Pay per click marketing and advertising in the golf supplementals from the Edmonton Sun are more options.

To be really effective we need to incorporate our marketing plan into a more general Slave Lake area marketing plan. For example, at the Edmonton Fishing Show the booth would be “come for the world class fishing, stay for the golf, etc.”

We have a program ready to go with Tourism Alberta where they will match advertising dollars. To be eligible we need community partners.

The starting point is the local Tourism Society. Unfortunately, they have not met since March. There are some people trying to revitalize it and I have offered to sit on the executive.

There is no quick fix to increase tourism. It will be a five year plan with gradual improvements once we get the Tourism Society and Tourism Alberta on board.

Challenge - Deferred Maintenance and Capital Improvements

The board and many other volunteers have done a great job keeping the club going through some tough times. The fundraising and community support are amazing. Unfortunately, the physical asset that is Gilwood needs significant investment.

To raise half of the required capital we can sell 10 lifetime memberships for $20,000. We can make these memberships fully transferable / sellable.

A person with the resources could buy a lifetime membership, play for decades free of charge and then sell their lifetime membership at a profit or pass it on to their heirs.

There may even be a way to make these lifetime memberships RRSP eligible.

In conjunction with lifetime memberships there are government programs that may match what we raise.

Challenge - Pricing

If Gilwood was located near an urban centre and did not have the deferred maintenance problems a membership would be in the $3,000 area. A $1500 membership in a rural area with no deferred maintenance is low but financially sustainable.

Every course in our area is $1100 or less. Every person responsible for budgets at these courses wants to see their price go to $1500 but do not want to be the first to make a big move or lose members over pricing.

We could offer our members a five year price lock. The marketing would go along these lines:

We hope you enjoyed last season. We believe we have found the right person to manage the daily operations of the club. We have seen a significant improvement this past season and have lots of plans for the next five years.

We are also starting a five year capital improvement project that will see the restoration of the club house and the golf course. As we improve there will be increases in membership rates to keep our club financially viable.

To say thank you for your past support and to encourage you to remain a member while we grow we are pleased to offer you a price lock until 2025. Join the club now and as long as you join each year your dues will be locked in at this year’s rate until the 2025 season.

There are a number of benefits to this program:

1) Creates a sense of urgency to join now.

2) Gives incentive to renew each year.

3) Allows us to test price increases on a small group of new members while not risking old members.

4) The promotion could last 5 years – someone who moves to Slave Lake in 2022 would be locked in at the 2022 rates until 2025.

Challenge - Daily Operations

As much as I am told the operations have improved there is still a long way to go. In the fall I will sit with key staff and brain storm ideas. Over the winter these ideas will be turned into an action plan and come March we will start implementation.

Even if daily operations become exceptional down the road we will still follow this procedure each fall.


This is only a starting document. There is a lot of discussion and debate still needed. The final plan may look very different but one thing is for sure – Gilwood has a bright future ahead!

Respectfully Submitted,

Tony Griffi, P.G.A. of Canada
Head Golf Professional
General Manager
Gilwood Golf and Country Club