“The most important shot in golf is the next one.” It’s one of the great quotes contributed to our game by Ben Hogan. If I can expand on it: “The most important three to five year span in the golf industry is THE NEXT ONE.”

IT’S TIME WE GOT TOGETHER AS OPERATORS.  Just the other day, I heard on talk radio about how the airline industry has changed itself over.  It used to be that people could get deals all over the marketplace, including last minute discounting and dumping to sell available seats (Does this sound like our business?).  Entire airline companies were forced into bankruptcy or at least restructuring of debt; yet, here we are in 2012 and the airline industry is in a new season of profitability.

What happened?  The operating mindset changed.  The airline companies got together to better understand the position of each company and the challenges of the industry—and they acted together in such a way as to save the industry! Before they got together, they were at the “mercy of the dumbest operator” in their market (Again, does this sound familiar?).  If one or two of them offered way low pricing or some other offer based on a panic reaction, attempting to fill planes right away, the other airlines were all forced to do the same thing.

I submit to you that in the “micro-markets” we are each a part of, we should do the very same thing that the airlines did to save their industry.  If you take a good look at your facility and your local market, you can segment by facility type, perceived course quality, regular rates, etc.  This is the start, but it’s not far enough.  As operators, we need to collectively educate ourselves, and quite possibly our owners, by asking tough questions about a few very important factors.  These would include:

  • Can I calculate what is our “cost to produce a round of golf” on the average day?  (Include operation costs and, if applicable, some reasonable amount for debt service.)  Is your current average green fee higher than this average cost?
  •  What is our facility’s “real image” within our micro-market?  Does the perceived view we have match that of our target customers/members?  If not, the competing views may lead us to poor decision-making in our overall fee structure—to the detriment of our facility and to the detriment of our micro-market.
  • If we sell an “annual prepaid pass” or similar, what is the average green fee for a golfer who plays 50 rounds annually?  75 rounds?  100 rounds?  Is the average rate at these levels right for your facility?

As great as prepaid pass/annual membership rounds are for helping float a facility here during the longer winters in the Pacific Northwest, do our pass prices adequately price us during the season or are we selling too many at the expense of higher fee rounds in season?  (This is a delicate balancing act to be sure, but it must be made, because the costs for guessing are too heavy on your facility’s bottom line.)

I am not suggesting that you get your colleagues together to set prices in any form of collusion.  However, I am strongly suggesting that each of us make the personal and professional effort to “connect the dots” for ourselves, our staffs and when necessary, our ownership.  Ask these and other hard questions so you fully understand what needs to happen with your rate structure—and if changes need to be made, commit to take action.  If you’re unsure how to begin, please contact me and I will be glad to help you—or contact a seasoned golf professional in your market and present your findings to them.

BE A TRAFFIC BUILDER.  Many of our professionals have embraced the innovation mindset of Golf 2.0 in many areas of their operation.  They host events for women, non-traditional golfers and juniors.  They excel in the key areas of customer/member service and they work very hard to represent their facility in the community.  But all too often, these same professionals don’t give themselves enough time to track their efforts in terms of value to the facility as a “traffic builder or engineer.”  Make sure you track how much traffic you are driving to your facility.

There are many ways to drive and track the revenue you bring to your facility.  Of course, my favorite is through creating new players through Get Golf Ready (GGR) because you are not looking to steal a customer on a temporary basis from your competitor, but rather creating (and training) a new customer.  The new golf customer is your captive audience during their lessons—and can be coached on appreciating the value of their first teaching professional and their new home course, as well as the importance of practicing at least a little and playing the game for the right reasons: FUN, FAMILY and FRIENDS.

Best of all, by starting new customers in GGR and registering them, you can then track their movements as a student and a player of the game primarily at your facility.  If the average GGR student spends $1200 in their first year as a golfer, it’s not hard to see how quickly these new customers can add to the facility’s bottom line (not to mention the instructor’s bottom line).  In this way, you can prove your value as a “traffic builder”, who drives rounds and revenues through every retail outlet at your facility. Thus, you become indispensable.

I truly appreciate the time many of you have given me in visiting your facility over the past two months.  It is a privilege to serve each member of our Section.

I hope to see you soon,

Monte Koch