The decision to pursue an innovative membership model targeting social golfers has seen Gary Booby take home a prestigious Greg Norman Medal award.
The Norman Medal night, held at Royal Pines Resort in Queensland late last month, is the PGA of Australia’s night of nights and celebrates the best on the course as well as off it.
Booby, a PGA professional for 21 years originally from Gymea, was named the PGA management professional of the year for his work as the general manager of The Ridge Golf Course and Driving Range at Barden Ridge.
Under Booby’s leadership, The Ridge has seen its annual turnover increase by 14 per cent, green fee revenue increase by nine per cent and golf members increase by almost a third.
The growth is attributed to Booby’s innovative membership model targeted at social players. The Ridge also introduced shorter formats of the game including nine-hole competitions which have contributed an additional 1,700 rounds per year at the James Wilcher-designed course.
The club also launched an app for its members which has seen improved engagement.
Booby, who won the same award at the Golf NSW awards in October, was presented with his national award by his childhood hero, 1991 Open Championship winner Ian Baker-Finch.
“Meeting him was amazing. He was one of my idols growing up. To meet Ian and have a chat and a photo with him afterwards was great. He’s very supportive for vocational members,” he said.
“And I guess that’s what we are. We’re very education-based. We’re not out there playing tournaments but we play a part in growing the game. And there’s 2,200 vocational members nationally. We all play a part in growing this great game of ours.
“It was obviously a buzz. There were nearly 500 people up there and it was a great night.”
Booby said the success of The Ridge’s model had come down to attracting social players to join up at affordable prices.
“The amazing thing is probably 50 per cent of my members have never been members of anywhere previously. So maybe there’s a thought that my membership model might drag players away from other facilities. But half our membership is brand new to the game,” he said.
“They weren’t prepared to commit the time and money to the more traditional membership models. And when you get access to a facility and a golf course like this for that amount of money is one of the huge attractions.
“When you base a model on that you obviously need to get people through your front door. We’ve tweaked the model a little bit but at the end of the day it’s just been a hit.
“We had double digit growth in almost every facet of our business last year. Now in an industry that has been crying poor for the last 10 years all our business models had to be changed to work with what the industry was telling us. Obviously the membership model, shorter forms of the game, people are time poor, 18 holes is a heck of a long time. So we introduced more nine-hole golf and pushed them into more off-peak times. And people love that.
“And I’ve got a nice relationship with [Sutherland Shire] Council, they’re very supportive of the site as well.”
World number six Minjee Lee became the first woman to win Australian golf’s most prestigious individual honour, the Greg Norman Medal, as Australia’s best performing male or female golfer on the international stage.
Lee was the third recipient of the medal following Jason Day (2015, 2016) and Marc Leishman (2017).