Archive for the ‘Private Golf’ Category

In the tough golf economy of 2010, more and more golf facilities are paying close attention to promotional activities as a way of generating new interest in their respective golf facilities. In the last posting we reviewed the internet and the large impact it is having on golf facility advertising. Many of you have asked me – “now that we are on the internet, what can we say to golfers to get them to come and try us out?”

In this posting I will give a brief review of a handful of ideas that I have seen implemented at public golf facilities across the country, with some success in attracting new golfers and more play out of existing golfers. Some of these ideas have also worked in private club settings, but are most successful in daily fee, semi-private and municipal golf operations. The most successful golf facility promotions tend to fall in one the following broad categories, including:

-Golfer Education / Lessons / Camps: Anything that entices new players to come and give the game a try will be helpful in attracting new customers. Golfers will often continue to play a large share of their golf at the facility where they first learned the game. Female-friendly clinics and group golf lessons have been especially popular in a few places I have seen this year. The continued promotion of lessons and junior programs appears to be a major positive for golf facilities all across the country and should dividends in developing future customers. I suggest considering established programs like “Get Golf Ready in 5 Days,” the adult player development program being promoted nationwide by Golf 20/20 and the World Golf Foundation.  “Get Golf Ready” is designed to bring adults into the game of golf in a fast, fun and affordable way.

-Organized Activities / Leagues: Giving avid players a reason to come to the golf course more often is a great way to enhance your rounds activity. A common promotion at successful golf courses is to offer leagues and other organized golf competitions. This is a great way to attract golfers to your facility in off-peak periods such as weekday afternoons. Going around to local businesses and offering modest discounts for larger groups is a great promotional tool. Include scoring and league management services in your package. Golfers love to compete, and both inter-corporate and intra-corporate leagues have been successful.

Outings / Tournaments: Tournaments and other events are a proven method for stimulating interest in a particular golf facility and maximizing the activity on the golf course. These organized outings and tournaments are also a way to expose your golf facility to a whole new group of golfers who may not be familiar with what you have to offer. Always try to be full service on tournaments and outings – including poster scoring and prize packages through your pro shop (if you have one). I have several clients who have been successful in promoting tournaments to both large and small groups, including corporations, associations and other private organizations. These operators always leave a brochure of information in every “goodie-bag” showing how easy it is to book your next tournament at the club. Also, make every effort to re-book each event for next year before this year’s event is complete!

-Loyalty Programs / Other Quantity Discounts: Loyalty programs are becoming more common in all industries and golf facilities are no different. I often see how important it is for golfers to finally play that tenth round of golf so as to activate the free round promotion. Good loyalty programs at golf facilities offer a free round after a certain volume is hit, but also include discounts in the pro shop and food and beverage service as well. I often see tee-time preferences and first notice for events and outings included in loyalty programs. Further, your loyalty program should include an email component and perhaps a dedicated page on your website. It is always good to make your most loyal customers feel special!

Remember – your website should promote all of the above-noted activities!

So as you contemplate ways to grow your golf course revenue in 2010, don’t forget to keep thinking about new promotional activities that stimulate interest in your facility. Remember, every new customer you create could be worth scores of golf rounds over the next few years!

Thanks for your attention. I sincerely hope the information is useful. See you down the road.

Richard Singer

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As I review golf facility operations in 2010, one area of golf revenue generation is more clear than ever – ITS ALL ABOUT THE INTERNET! There is no doubt that the Internet is the most cost-effective form of advertising outside of word-of-mouth. The Internet is having a larger and larger impact on golf as time goes on. Golfers, especially when traveling, are using the web more and more to find places to play. The web has several key advantages over other forms of advertising:

  • Cost: A website is relatively inexpensive to setup and maintain.
  • Reach: As the name “world wide web” indicates, the Internet is international in scope. Today, almost every household that contains a golfer will have access to the Internet.
  • Information: The amount of information that can be put on the web is virtually unlimited. At the very least, clear directions and contact information can be used to dramatically increase business.

In my consulting engagements I have found that some golf facilities have really outstanding websites, while others simply do not. What is it that separates good from bad in golf course websites? Here is a selection of key items that the most successful golf facilities (public and private) are using on line in an effort to drive new business to their facility.

First, it is essential that the website be kept current for rates, hours, etc. The best sites are the ones that are constantly being updated with new promotions and news items, so that customers get in the habit of checking them regularly. The website should include:

  • Pictures of the facility
  • Verbal descriptions
  • A full scorecard
  • Map/directions to the course
  • E-mail signup – allow a way to sign up for an e-mail program.
  • Information about group and individual lessons
  • Current rates and operating hours
  • Amenities
  • A calendar or news of promotions and upcoming events

Second, I have observed that the most common problem with golf facility websites is that they look great and are very informative, but if prospective customers cannot find it, it does not do you any good.  It has to be designed such that today’s web search engines will find it based on key terms people are likely to use. Therefore, the first task is to create a website that can be found easily by prospective customers looking for golf in your area.

The website should be promoted in all advertising and literature put out by your facility!

So as you contemplate ways to grow you golf course revenue in 2010, don’t forget to keep your website up to date and easy to find. The money you spend in this area will come back to you many times over. Definitely more than most any other advertising you can consider.

Thanks for your attention. I sincerely hope the information is useful. In the next postings we will continue our discussion of golf facility marketing with a review of some successful golf course promotions that have been tried by golf operators in the last few years.

See you down the road.

Richard Singer

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One of the most important aspects of my consulting services with golf courses is to assist with improving the marketing of client golf facilities. Through the years I have often found that golf courses tend not to market their services the way other businesses market, thinking that the “golf course will market itself.” However, in this ultra-competitive golf industry environment, golf course marketing has become a critical element in the success (or failure) of golf facilities nationwide. As I work with golf facilities in 2009 I am finding that the most successful marketing / promotion programs that are genuinely driving customers to golf courses are email campaigns, and not necessarily campaigns that offer discounts!

One of the things I like to do when working with golf course clients is sign up to the facility’s email list. This way I can see what the club is sending to its customers and prospects. What I am finding is many very clever ideas used to drive both new and repeat customers to the golf facility, for BOTH golf and other services (i.e. merchandise, F & B, lessons, etc.). In today’s world, it Is clear that email is the most effective way to stay in touch with customers and let them know what is going on at your facility (events, tournaments, etc.) and when you are offering specials and discounts (for golf and merchandise / F&B promotions). After a while I get conditioned to seeing the emails, and they also function as kind of a “newsletter” about what is going on at the course.

The most successful campaigns I have seen this year typically fall into two categories: The food and beverage campaigns and specials that involve the attraction of a new party to the facility. For example one of my golf course clients did a successful promotion this summer offering a free round of golf to any customer on the club’s email list that brought three other new customers not on the email list. This way the course was able to attract three new paying customers and add three names to the email list. Then these three new customers brought in three friends of their own and the cycle just kept going. This client was able to add over 200 new email addresses to its list during the course of the promotion.

In general, I tend to like promotions that offer discounts for new customers who are not presently on your email list. This way you get the revenue from the new customer, plus capture some record information so as to stay in communication with that new customer. The best part of all is that this form of advertising can be done with minimal expense. Compare that to the “phone book” ad so many golf courses continue to pay for.

So as you contemplate ways to drive more customers to your golf course this year, don’t forget about email. If you do not yet have a formal email program, think about adding one. If you are already capturing email addresses think about ways to expand the list and reach many new customers. It is almost 2010! Email and internet advertising is where the successful golf courses will be this year.

Thanks for your attention. I sincerely hope the information is useful. In the next postings we will continue our discussion of golf facility marketing with a review of some examples from the best golf course websites I have seen this year.

See you down the road.

Richard Singer

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As I travel around the country working with golf course operators, one question I often get is about marketing the golf course – “How and when do I market this golf course?” Well, one thing I can say about this subject is that it has been a hot issue for me and my clients in 2009, and I have seen some clear examples of when not to market your golf course.

As we know, there are four basic components of marketing (Four “P’s”) – Product, Promotion, Price, Placement. The first level of this marketing management philosophy is probably the most important with golf facilities – Product. At a golf facility the product is your golf course. If the golf course is not in ideal condition, all other marketing efforts (promotion, price, placement) are not likely to succeed, and may even backfire. I have seen this on two separate occasions with municipal golf operators in 2009. Here is a summary of what happened:

Heavy rain fell in late spring / early summer, drenching the golf course which does not drain well as it is.  The municipality went ahead with a pre-planned promotional push to drive new customers to the golf course. The promotion worked and all these new customers experienced soggy conditions and a rather un-enjoyable round of golf. These new customers left unhappy, unlikely to ever return. Also, they told friends and acquaintances about the conditions, who also told others and so on. In the end, the course gained a reputation as being “under water.” One rumor was even started that the course was going to close or be sold, leading to further declines in rounds activity and cancellations of pre-booked events.

So, the moral of this brief story is simple – make sure your golf course is in its most ideal condition (product) before embarking on an extensive advertising campaign (promotion).

Thanks for your attention. I sincerely hope the information is useful. In the next postings we will continue our discussion of golf course marketing with some examples of successful advertising campaigns for both rounds and memberships that I have seen this year.

See you down the road.

Richard Singer

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In the last few posting we have been discussing the world of municipal golf, and what is the clear emerging trend toward privatization of municipal golf courses. In my next few postings I am going to shift over to a discussion about private golf facilities and how these golf courses are reacting to the tough economic environment of 2008-09 and what they could be doing to improve their standing and position in the coming years. I note that this is a timely discussion in that the NGF has studied the subject very closely with the 2008 publication “The Future of Private Golf Clubs in America,” that noted a significant contraction is expected in the private club market in the next few years, either through transformation into public golf courses or outright closure of facilities. I also hosted a roundtable / seminar at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens on September 9, 2009 “Helping Local Private Golf Facilities Thrive in Difficult Times.”

As I travel the country consulting with golf facilities of all types, I find the private clubs tend to be the most concerned about their future and also the most confused about what to do to improve their performance. The idea of reaching out to non-members to make use (for a fee) the club’s facilities is appealing, but what are the legal / tax ramifications? If they want to become more active in the outing / tournament business, what is the impact going to be on existing members and is the additional revenue really worth it? If fees are lowered to attract new members, how will the existing member base react?

These are among the most common questions posed by my private club clients, and often are the most difficult to answer without appropriate analysis and due diligence. In the coming postings this Fall, I will be drawing on the expertise of several leading private golf club consultants to discuss the state of the private golf club business and to facilitate a discussion about ways to enhance membership and/or revenues for this upcoming season.

Postings in the coming weeks will include a discussion of:

  • Is my membership plan relevant in 2009-2010?
  • Can we golf memberships sell in this economy?
  • What are other clubs doing to survive?
  • Can a club advertise for new members?
  • Is going taxable a viable option for your 501(c)(7)?
  • Can a club advertise for non-members to use club amenities?
  • Should clubs be pursuing non-members to use the club?
  • Should clubs re-think its stated purpose and its best customer?
  • What benefits do reciprocal arrangements provide to clubs?
  • What is the importance of golf to a club?

Thanks for your attention. I sincerely hope the information is useful. In the next postings we will start to discuss issues related to operation of private country clubs and how these facilities can be more economically self-sufficient, especially in these challenging times of 2009.

See you down the road.

Richard Singer

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