Northey’s simple strategy to better engage members - PGA of Australia

Northey’s simple strategy to better engage members

When David Northey was presented with a list of 63 grievances by a member at Castle Hill Country Club in Sydney’s north-west, he didn’t see a problem.

He saw opportunity.

With more than 20 years’ experience having completed the Membership Pathway program under Joe Moore at Glenmore Heritage, Northey understood the situation clearly.

Satisfy this member and not only will that win them over but set a tone that would permeate throughout the entirety of the membership.

Following 16 years at Castle Hill Country Club, Northey was appointed the Director of Golf at Concord in January 2021.

Last November, he was named the 2023 PGA National Club Professional of the Year at the annual PGA Awards, largely due to the connection he set about forming with the members at Concord from day one.

A concerted effort to deliver a warm and friendly atmosphere within the pro shop that has been a hallmark of Northey’s career as a PGA Professional saw Concord rank No.1 of 40 clubs – consisting of 20,000 member responses – who participated in the 2023 Member Survey.

How he achieved that was to simply inform the members that the lines of communication were now open.

“Listen to them,” is Northey’s simple piece of advice.

“I advocate for an open door policy. They can come and see me anytime of the day if they’ve got something they would like to discuss.

“Provide them with someone to lean on, talk to, vent their frustrations or express some ideas.

“Members just want to be heard.”

More than opening his door, Northey instilled responsibility on his staff to enhance the experience of every member at Concord.

Typically, there will be a staff member near the entry to the pro shop to welcome members and guests.

Every tee time on competition days is announced to the tee. That not only delivers clear communication of who is on the tee next but further embeds the sense that the pro shop staff know exactly what is happening at all times.

“The first few days at Concord I heard that members were frustrated because they didn’t know who was on the tee, whether they were behind this person or that person,” explains Northey, pictured with wife Kim at the PGA Awards last November.

“I explained to the staff that the members like to know exactly where they are. When there’s no calling to the tee, they feel like they’re watching the clock all the time.

“It’s giving members the confidence to know that the pro shop knows exactly who’s on what tee and at what time.”

With an attention to detail instilled by a father who built motorbikes and which has manifested outside of golf in the build of an award-winning Datsun 1600, Northey’s pro shops are renowned for their presentation.

Each month he asks staff to move the displays to give the shop a fresh look, further adding to the experience of members when they walk in.

That, and the trust he and the staff have built up, translates to a profitable business.

Northey allows for members to order items such as clothing with no obligation to buy if they are unhappy with the fit.

It is an extension of the member experience that Northey is trying to enhance every single day.

“It’s providing our members with the confidence to purchase through us with a level of service they won’t get anywhere else,” Northey adds.

As for that list of ‘suggestions’, Northey was able to ensure 59 were acted upon before his departure and has plans to institute a permanent suggestion box within the pro shop at Concord.

“I said to him, ‘Look, I can’t do anything until you write it down.’ So he wrote them down,” he says.

“I got 59 of those 63 fixed. He never complained again.

“All he wanted was for someone to hear what he had to say.

“They were all miniscule things that members typically notice but there was nothing where I didn’t think, ‘That’s fair enough.’

“A chipped paver, a slightly bent bubbler, a ball-washer leaking water, just little 1 per centers that were easy to fix.

“But the important thing was that someone took the time to listen.”

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