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The Latest from The Index

Dynamic Pricing

Dynamic pricing during seasonal transitions

Sep 18, 2019

The time has passed for letting the calendar dictate pricing. The times they are a changin’ … on the calendar, that is, as summer turns to fall. This is a common refrain this time of year and for many golf courses, it means checking the calendar to see when they are supposed to change. But is this really the best strategy?

“One of the main discussions we have with our golf course partners is smoothing their transitions coming into and out of seasons,” said Brian Skena, manager, Plus by GOLF Business Solutions. “It doesn’t make sense to abruptly change rates just because the calendar says so. Rather, we would advise to change rates because demand says so.”

It’s a discussion often met with an incredulous look as operators say, “We have always changed our rates at certain points on the calendar. It’s the way we’ve always done it. Our customers expect it. Gosh, it’s published right here on our rate card we have posted in the pro shop.”

“Why have a physical rate card that shows your rate is “x” from this date to that date?” Skena said. “Golfers don’t need to know the price months from now. Let dynamic pricing come into play.” As evidence, he points to the hotel and airline industries, which have made massive profits with dynamic pricing while conditioning consumers to expect prices to reflect demand. “You don’t see airlines and hotels advertising that their rates rise and fall on certain dates. Demand determines what price you see.”

Chris de Laat, Owner of Mayfield Golf Club in Caledon, Ontario, Canada, no longer uses a traditional seasonal calendar to make pricing decisions. “The catalyst for pricing changes is performance,” says de Laat. “Softer days need aggressive pricing and promotions, while busy days warrant higher prices.” de Laat operates by a pricing matrix with a list of criteria that influence his decision-making, including: historical APR; seasonal temperatures; daylight hours; course conditions; competitor pricing, and more. “A motto that resonates for me states that ‘Time is a perishable item – unsold times equate to lost opportunities."

More operators around the country agree. They look at rates during seasonal transitions, but don’t completely rely on the calendar. The consensus is there are a host of other contributing factors unique to individual markets that should influence changing rate on demand, such as weather, course conditions, tourism, etc.

Many of these operators partner with GOLF Business Solutions and its Plus service for rate guidance. Having this support mechanism, and historical and market data it can offer, instills confidence in their decision-making and the timing of their pricing decisions.

Skena said with Plus’ full-service staff, they can be incredibly responsive with clients that are communicating regularly with them. “We can price really well off historical data,” he said. “And when courses are more proactive and willing to communicate with us, we can definitely extend their high seasons.”

To learn more about dynamic pricing and Plus services, CLICK HERE.


Eaglesticks Country Club

GOLF Business Solutions' Advanced Marketing Program extends reach, fuels new categories

Sep 18, 2019

Among the thousands of partner courses that have benefited from GOLF Business Solutions’ decade-long focus on technology, marketing and their position within the world’s largest tee-time marketplace – GOLFNOW – there are many that seek to explore additional business opportunities beyond the tee time.

While still catering to their core golfers, these facilities also hope to attract more casual players, particularly those who might value a club affiliation for social events and networking. These courses are entrepreneurial-minded and are seeking to increase event revenue from events, such as weddings, retirement parties, bar mitzvahs, corporate receptions, and the like.

Enter the new Advanced Marketing Program (AMP) from GOLF Business Solutions. AMP is designed to leverage GOLF’s technology and outbound marketing expertise to reach an audience beyond devoted golfers, and to sell products and services that complement a course partner’s existing daily fee business.

Parker Ross, Brand Specialist for GOLF Business Solutions, has been leading the effort to introduce AMP to the marketplace and uncover the full potential of this new program to further drive business success for its course partners.

“There are best practices within golf course marketing that you follow to optimize a client course’s inventory and build market share among golfers who book rounds online,” says Ross. “That’s not necessarily the path you go down if your goal is conducting a new membership drive – you’re trying to reach a different kind of golfer. Nor is it the optimal way to show your clubhouse and event amenities to non-golfing brides-to-be if you’re looking to drive wedding business. There are people in your geographic market who are very much worth targeting but who really don’t get touched in the normal course of doing business.”

Successful work in these areas requires expertise in landing-page design, paid search and social media marketing, as well as in-depth understanding of both golf course website and ad platform analytics to improve campaign performance and optimize spend across channels.

Ross and colleague, Chanté Osborne, have overseen an AMP beta test run on behalf of EagleSticks Golf Club, an upscale daily fee facility outside Columbus, Ohio. EagleSticks features a Michael Hurdzan-designed 18-hole course and a large, impressive clubhouse featuring event spaces capable of accommodating groups up to 400 guests.

Eaglesticks recently launched a “Club 30” membership drive (celebrating 30 years in business) with the goal of selling 1,000 golf memberships at the promotional rate of $89 per year (note: Club 30 members pay a cart fee with each booking).

A similar campaign was also launched to help generate wedding leads for EagleSticks’ sales & events director, with targeted search and social media ads driving traffic to a custom-made landing page. The campaign generated nearly a dozen leads within its first month, an “exponential increase” over years’ past, according to EagleSticks General Manager Kelly Morrow.

“My comment to the GOLF Business Solutions team was, ‘You know more about technology and market reach than we do, so let’s work together,’” says Morrow. “As for memberships, our first sale came in late July, not long after the launch, and within six weeks our total was close to 100 sales. These are new people to us, more of a casual player—we definitely have the sense that they’ll be good spenders.”

“Without the marketing power of GOLF Business Solutions it would have been very difficult to get the word out about these two programs,” says Morrow. He’s unquestionably proud of the product that EagleSticks represents and sees the immense value in attracting a newer and larger audience to see it for themselves.

To learn more about our AMP service, CLICK HERE.


Palm Beach National

Course marketing strategies — a case for casting a more strategic net

Aug 21, 2019

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.