19 Apr 2024 | Clubs and Facilities |

Finding the secret to growth at Gatton

by Martin Blake

Gatton Jubilee Golf Club image
Gatton Jubilee has quadrupled its membership in three years.

From a dark period three years ago with an existential threat caused by mounting debt and low membership, a regional Queensland club has been transformed spectacularly.

Gatton Jubilee Golf Club, whose most famous alumni include the touring professional Andrew Dodt, has quadrupled its full membership numbers from 100 to 411 since 2022, and seen a huge rise in social golf visits by adopting principles of inclusion.

That is, it makes everyone feel welcome.

And it is only getting started.

Gatton Jubilee, between Brisbane and Toowoomba in the Lockyer Valley, is run by the husband-wife team of General Manager Jeffrey Osman and Jemma Osman.

Jeffrey Osman is a 10-year member and a transport industry manager who spent two years on the board, ultimately making the jump from director to administrator in early 2023 despite having no experience in hospitality or retail.

Osman was frustrated with the direction of the club; debts of up to $100,000 a year in five consecutive years, sale of assets to cover costs, and three general managers inside two years. He wanted change.

When he began his management role, his first decision was to pull down the big sign at the front door of the clubhouse that hammered home the dress code. “That might have been okay for golf,” he said. “But we want people to experience the club as well.”

Osman said the culture of the club needed immediate change. “There’s always been this stigma around golf clubs where if you walk in and you’re not a golfer, you’re not able to feel welcome, if that makes sense?

“There were little things that members of past years had been picky on. Someone comes into the club in thongs, and it’s ‘you can’t wear that, it’s not in the dress code’. We were able to change that to the point where we’ve made an emphasis on treating everyone the same who walks through that door, whether they’re a member, a guest, a contractor.

“Everyone’s greeted the same way and it all started with the staff and it filtered down through the members. They could see what we wanted to achieve and they jumped on board.”

The club learned that this new attitude was infectious. “We find if you can get that one guy to sign up, the next week he’s bringing his mate with him, a month later they’re playing in a group of four, and three months later, it’s a whole circle of friends.”

Other significant changes put in place included:

-Heavy rough was cut regularly to speed up play and make the course more enjoyable

-Juniors under 16 were allowed to play for free with their parents to “get them off their tablets, phones and Xboxes, get outdoors and engage with people”.

-Social play was allowed on Saturdays for the first time, giving the club between 50 and 100 extra green fees each week.

-Membership fees were kept reasonable (currently $650 and cheaper for under 23s)

Within a short space of time, Gatton Jubilee has turned the corner.

Last year, the club made almost $300,000 profit which is being reinvested in improvements including cart paths, irrigation and a new buggy storage shed. A $500,000 profit is likely this financial year, with plans in place for refurbishment of the clubhouse soon.

The club’s efforts were recognised in 2023 by a nomination at the Queensland Golf Industry Awards for Club of the Year (under 400 members). Gatton Jubilee reached the final but was pipped by Bulimba, and ironically, it won’t be eligible to nominate in 2024 because it has passed 400 members.

A case of doing its job too well!

“It’s mind-blowing,” said Osman. “The growth is just extraordinary. It makes me very optimistic about where we could be in five years time.”

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