Golf has been chipping away at the notion that it is an “elitist” pastime for many years now. But the reputation lingers to some degree and, intentional or not, some courses continue to feed the perception. Whether or not that’s good for business depends on which side of the fence you’re on.
“Here’s the bucket I sit in,” said Mike Hendrix, vice president of business services for GOLF Business Solutions. “I’d rather get some money from a lot of people than try to get a lot of money from a few people. I realize I am an outlier to some degree, and there are operators who say they don’t want certain consumers. They want to be one of Golf Digest’s 50 toughest courses in America and market to that golfer. I am 180 degrees counter to that. Getting some money from everybody is a better way to run your business today in my view.” Before concluding you are in the golf lifestyle business — one where all golfers live and breathe the game and are in constant pursuit of the perfect swing — Hendrix suggests operators first ought to consider themselves to be in the disposable time business. At the end of the day, every consumer has a certain amount of disposable time in a day, week, and month. What golf course marketing strategies are you adopting to get their attention and commitment to spend some of those hours with you?
Joe Dahlstrom, COO of Paradigm Golf Group, which manages multiple golf properties in South Florida, as well as the western and southwestern U.S., is blunt about how his company positions those golf properties. “I’d rather have any brand position other than that old ‘we’re the longest, we’re the toughest.’ That demographic is shrinking so fast. If you are banking it all on the four guys who want to work on and groove their swings, you will lose.”
Dahlstrom’s brother, Mike, who serves as vice president of sales and hospitality for the company, added, “We have done the research and the studies, and when you look at the daily golfer, the game has become more of an activity than it has ever been. It’s about getting together with pals, family, as couples for a few hours of sunshine in a beautiful setting and fresh air.”
For that customer, for whom there are many more multiples than the golf-swing-obsessed “purist,” it’s all about the experience. “Our philosophy,” Mike said, “is to ensure that every time anyone comes to any of our properties, they leave believing two things: We are nice and we are cool.”
That means greeting guests by name and engaging them in conversation at every one of their properties. Depending on the market, they may also hand out free popsicles and rum shots on hot days. Palm Beach National in Lake Worth, Fla. – which recently underwent a $1 million-plus renovation to install new greens, tee boxes and more – offers complimentary use of Bluetooth speakers to every group that wants to play their music on the course. It all adds up to creating distance between what they offer compared to their competition.
As such, Paradigm’s brands also require a different approach to management. “We try to identify who the face of the club will be when we start working with a new property,” Mike said. “Our employees have to be cheerleaders for the product, and they have to make the customer feel like he is the most important person in the world. That means our managers become more PR people than, you know, golf geeks. It’s a new concept for some of them, being out front on social media and in videos. But once they see the response, it empowers and inspires them.”
If that seems as though it flies in the face of convention, the Paradigm Group is fine with that. “One of the first questions we pose to a potential client is ‘how do you feel about change?’” Joe laughed. “Because they have to be open to doing things differently than they have historically if they want to see more revenue and rounds.”
He cited a customer in South Florida who increased revenue exponentially by casting a wider net in their market. Joe suggests not relying solely on old promotional models. In this example, the course had granted member status to locals year-round. "Through the tourist season and peak season, these members grabbed all the best tee times and paid the lowest rates," Joe said. "It’s interesting to note that we also noticed they also tended to complain the most and created the most strain on resources, but they generated the least amount of revenue." Joe believes you have to be willing to look at these kinds of programs with an analytical eye and adjust appropriately. "Protecting your prime tee times is the most important thing," he said. "If you are going to give them up to annual memberships, make sure you set up a structure to get maximum value."
Does all of this mean hitting the total reset button for golf operations that are keen to increase rounds and revenues? Not entirely. But it does mean opening yourself up to a broader mindset, which may conflict with some long-held notions about the golf business. It’s what Hendrix and his Plus team at GOLF Business Solutions work on every day for their clients.
“We are much more focused on winning the attention of specific golfers in our clients’ specific local trading zones,” Hendrix said. “Every golfer has a wallet, and we’re trying to figure out what can we do to grow our share of their wallet and steal that person away from more movie watching, binge watching and the other entertainment options in front of him.”
Discover more on how GOLF Business Solutions can streamline your course operations and help cast a wider net. LEARN MORE.
GOLF BUSINESS SOLUTIONS
GOLF Business Solutions is a comprehensive offering of solutions designed to help any business looking to connect with the sport of golf and operate more efficiently and effectively.
From green fairways to driving ranges to simulators, we have you covered
We add value to our partners’ business by providing marketplace and technology solutions, professional services and dependable partner support, 24/7/365.LEARN MORE
The technology you need to efficiently run every aspect of your operationLearn more
Consulting & support
Professional service and powerful tools to help manage your facilityLearn more
Helping your business stay fully stocked while lowering overheadLearn more
Strategies and tools to promote your businessLearn more
Exciting technology to keep golfers coming to your course more often and sticking around longerLearn more
Turning golf coaches into successful business owners
Our tools and services are developed to help golf instructors grow as teachers, bring in new students and take their businesses to the next level.Learn more
Hospitality & Tourism
Add your facility to the ultimate destination for traveling golfers
Access to the leading source of golf course ratings and reviews by golfers, for golfersLEARN MORE
Reach millions of golfers with our digital and broadcast media
Golfers around the world rely on our marketplaces, television network and instructional content to enjoy and improve every aspect of their gameLEARN MORE
TV & Digital Exposure
Reach millions of golfers with our digital and broadcast mediaLearn more
WHY GOLF BUSINESS SOLUTIONS?
golf course partners worldwide.
registered GOLFNOW users.
golfer reviews of 14,750 courses worldwide.
WHAT OUR PARTNERS ARE SAYING
GOLFNOW is more than a third-party vendor ... GOLFNOW is a partner to your business
Everything was great and easy to use. We will have a 7000-round increase by the end of the year, and I look for that trend to continue.
Plus gives me more time to manage my business … and that’s what I need.
The Plus team helps us adjust prices daily to help fill our tee sheet.
Instructor Plus has been great. My Brand Specialist and I talk regularly to lay out my marketing calendar. He saves me quite a bit of time so I can do what I actually want to do, which is teach and interact with people.
The great thing about Instructor Plus and my Brand Specialist is that they open up a new window of time for me. With the email campaigns and other things we’ve been doing, it’s really helping to fill up my lesson book.