Leveraging a PGA Professional’s “Three Pillars” for Success (Part 1: Retention)

Can you believe it? It’s been three years since the COVID-19 shutdowns helped instigate the “Boom” (or at least “The Bump”) in the golf industry. During that time, all golf facilities saw significant growth in utilization, and many also saw revenue increases.

Private clubs that had been seeking new members filled up and suddenly had waiting lists. This was driven by significant demographic trends, such as the remote work-from-home boom. As a result, we saw the following industry trends:

  • Public facility tee sheets filled up to capacity.
  • Public facility home clubs saw an increase in participation and registrations for events.
  • Golfers in metro areas started to consider joining a local private club to find better access to the tee sheet and a “safer” environment.

Of course, there were many factors that contributed to this “bump” in the industry. However, now that it has subsided, it’s time to start thinking about how we can keep these new players in the game.

Thankfully, the “bump” has been sustained over several years, which has helped fuel the increase in popularity of golf. It has also helped more young professionals start their careers and led to increased compensation for many.

However, there are other factors outside of our industry that are “pulling down” the “boom.” This is a natural ebb and flow of business, as megatrends, demographics, and social factors drive consumers to us or from us.

Given this, PGA professionals are uniquely positioned to make the most of the “bump” that these megatrends gave our industry. As my mentor, Gus Jones, PGA, often said, “People join a club first because of the access, the course conditioning, and possibly because of the recognition. But they stay because of us.”

They Stay Because of Us

There’s so much to unpack in that phrase, so let’s dive in.

  • “They stay” could be rephrased as “they are retained as customers, as clients, or as members because of us.” So, what is the value of these golfers staying?

In 2014, RetailTribe, a “best in class” golf-centric consumer behavior analysis company, shared the results of a study on the golfing behaviors and spending habits of more than 600,000 members at golf clubs of all types.

In the study, RetailTribe learned that when a “loyal/member golfer gets five (5) hours of instruction/coaching in a year and also goes on at least one (1) golf outing/trip with their PGA professional and other loyal/member golfers of the same club or facility, the following can be expected”:

  • They spend 65% MORE THAN other loyal/member golfers on food and beverage purchases annually.
  • They spend 79% MORE THAN other loyal/member golfers on golf-specific merchandise purchases annually.
  • They play 20% MORE GOLF IN THE NEXT 12 MONTHS than other loyal/member golfers will over the same period.
  • They are retained (or THEY STAY) at a rate of nearly 100% (actually, 97%) as “loyal/member golfers” at that facility/club (keep paying dues, buying their annual passes, etc.).

The average “lifecycle of a loyal/member golfer” at that time was 12 years (seasons). This is where the loyal/member golfer “staying” can matter so much. Don’t believe me? Let’s consider something I like to call “loyal/member golfer math” that helps us understand what an “average member is worth” at a given club. To demonstrate, please refer to the table below.

Club NameCOLUMN A: Monthly Dues (or Annual Pass Value div. by 12 months)COLUMN B: Avg Monthly Spend by “Loyal/Member Golfer”(on F&B, merch, carts, guest fees, entry fees, etc.)FORMULA: (COL A + COL B) x 12 MONTHS = ANNUAL TOTAL‘LOYAL/MEMBER GOLFER’ VALUE OVER TIME (1 YR/6 YRS/12 YRS)
CLUB1$500/mo.$250/mo.($750 X 12)= $9000$9K/$54K/$108K
CLUB2$600/mo.$250/mo.($850 X 12)= $10,200$9K/$61K/$122K
CLUB3$700/mo.$300/mo.($1000 X 12)= $12,000$12K/$72K/$144K
CLUB4$850/mo.$350/mo.($1200 X 12)= $14,400$14K/$86K/$173K

Application of the value of “THEY STAY” (or the retention)

If you are a PGA professional at a club that relies on the retention of loyal/member golfers, you need to know this information and be able to talk about it with your employer, board of directors, and ownership.

  • The annual value of a loyal/member golfer relationship is significant. For example, at Club 1, the annual/yearly value of the relationship is $9,000…projected over 6 years, that is $54k in top-line revenue to the club.
  • That’s right, the true value of the relationship shows up in the years from 5-12 and beyond. At Club 4, the estimated value of the relationship with a loyal/member golfer totals $86,000 after 6 years, or $173,000 at 12 years.
  • So, what is the value of a PGA professional “saving the relationship” (aka ensuring “they stay”) for another 6 years? It’s $86,000! And that is just one of these relationships.
  • In other words, this is huge for our business and we, as PGA professionals, are uniquely positioned and equipped to do something about it.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • How are you doing in the ensuring “they stay” department these days?
  • Does your employer know about the following things you do to engage with golfers?
    • You play in pro-ams with various people, as many as you can, during a season.
    • You conduct social clinics versus only private lessons.
    • You create golf travel trips to various locations and for different “tribes” within your golf club community.
    • You and your PGA peers want to play with golfers at your facility.
  • What other activities are you engaging in with intentionality to drive golfer engagement?

This article is intended to be part one of a three-part series. Next month, we’ll unpack recruitment (the second “R” in the pillars for engagement success). If you have any questions or practices you’d like to share with me or with Patrick Oropallo, PGA (our Player Engagement Consultant) on this subject, I would love to hear from you.

Monte Koch, PGA Certified Professional, CEIP
PGA of America | Career C​oach & Consultant​/Certified Interview Coach
Certified Predictive Index Practitioner​

Based in South King County, WA

Book an appointment on Monte’s Calendar

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