Knowledge Library

Ideas to remember when you’re hiring

Ideas to remember when you’re hiring

Jan 16, 2019

Challenges navigating the “talent pool”

Golf course managers take care of the employees and the employees take care of the customers. That’s a time-honored belief that shows how vital it is to find the right people and keep the very good ones from moving on prematurely.

At a rapid-fire pace, we’ll look at a few strategies worth considering when a spot or two or three needs filling.

  • “Hire for X, train for Y,” is a useful concept for any staffing-up scenario. Not every candidate’s experience will match exactly with your needs, but a good work ethic and an eagerness to learn through on-the-job training can go a long way.
  • Be creative. Consider if you could hire two, part-time employees instead of one full-time employee and split the coverage. If the job doesn’t require knowledge of the game, expand your candidate pool by looking at talent that has experience in customer service.
  • Ask open-ended questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” response to get the most out of an interview.
  • Entice candidates by sharing any growth and development opportunities. Is there a path to management or could they help with event planning or social marketing campaigns?
  • Be willing to listen to ideas from everyone in the workplace, especially your front-line workers. You never know the next source of a great idea. The renowned writings of Alan Robinson and Dean Schroeder (check out “The Idea-Driven Organization”) show hundreds of examples of how valuable these sets of fresh eyes can be.
  • And if you’re hiring a golf instructor to teach and promote the game, there’s new thinking on that. According to early research, golfers who get involved with lessons, clinics, club fitting and other game-improvement activity spend more money at the facility. Find a teacher who has tracked his or her spend-per-student (on golf, food, merchandise, etc.) and also kept count of beginner students they turned into golfers. Create incentives to encourage them to work that same magic at your place.


GOLFNOW gives you a ‘Platform’

GOLFNOW gives you a ‘Platform’

Jan 16, 2019

All the technology available to golf course operators these days can be a little overwhelming to consider. The golf industry is full of software “solutions” that too often don’t solve the real issues course operators face each day. Transitioning to a new software system can be difficult enough, and at the most basic level that still doesn’t address one of the key challenges of running a golf course – putting golfers on the tee.

More golf course operations embraced GOLFNOW's cloud-based G1 management platform in 2018 than any other technology in the industry. But if your New Year’s resolution-thinking in 2019 about how best to join the technological revolution is more in terms of baby steps – or if your current solution isn’t doing the trick – remember this:  success starts with the fundamentals. Recognizing that, GOLFNOW packages critical items together in our initial level of service we call the GOLFNOW Platform. Every new GOLFNOW partner receives these benefits no matter what.

The GOLFNOW Platform goes beyond simply connecting your tee times to millions of golfers through GOLFNOW.com and the GOLFNOW app; it includes the important tools you need to grow your business:

  • Tee-time marketplaces that connect millions of golfers with the most comprehensive tee-time inventory anywhere
  • White-label booking engine that allows you to capture revenue from multiple channels and meet golfers wherever they browse
  • Marketing suite gives you the ability to stay in contact with your golfers and keep them coming back time and again
  • Customized, responsive website lets you connect with golfers before they arrive at your course
  • Personal account manager helps you incorporate GOLFNOW technologies into your business and is there to help resolve any challenge or provide advice, when needed

The GolfNow Platform combines essential functions in one package, meaning that you don’t have to rely on multiple suppliers or sources for what your business needs. And it serves as an outstanding starting point from which you can grow your revenue, save time and add more services or technology – seamlessly – as needed.

If you want to learn more about the Platform, contact your GolfNow representative or click here.


Golf Course Operator Holding Ipad

Boosting efficiency and profits, G1 is a system in high demand for 2019

Jan 08, 2019

Widespread acceptance of the G1 Platform

Early adopters of GolfNow One, better known as G1, have given the course management platform high marks. To hear them tell it, G1 has solved problems, streamlined customer purchases across the board and made it easier to manage golf facilities effectively. That positive feedback has circulated through the market and produced a long list of new signups requesting the technology. More than 300 golf courses have switched to G1, including the entire portfolio managed by industry leader Billy Casper Golf.

With enthusiasm for this innovative cloud-based solution heating up, installations of G1 will be occurring at a rapid rate as 2018 winds down and the new year commences. The relative quiet of the off season at northern facilities allows decision-makers some distraction-free time to evaluate their tech situation and see about making a system change. Ideally, that could be done soon enough in order to train staff prior to opening day next spring.

G1 checks a lot of boxes, even before you factor in its cloud-based advantages. The golf management software combines all software and operating systems into one technology platform, including tee sheet, point-of-sale, social media, employee schedules, inventory, payroll, vendor relations, and more. The cloud part means that all these functions can be controlled via G1 by a golf course operator from an internet-connected smartphone or tablet, any time and from any location.

G1 user Tom Beeler was in Florida last winter playing golf when some freak warmth sent Pittsburgh golfers to his electronic tee sheet, hoping to tee it up. Beeler, who is PGA director of golf and general manager of Grand View Golf Club in the Steel City suburb of North Braddock, Pa., booked a couple dozen players from his location 1,000 miles away.

“I had an employee pull out some carts and tuck the keys out of sight,” says Beeler, “then I instructed the golfers to text me so I could tell them where to look.” He has taken inquiries from banquet groups while out of town during the off-season and leveraged G1 to get those events on the calendar. “I’ve booked some big parties from down South as easily as if I was home,” he says.

Beeler stays in conversation with his GolfNow Plus specialist to keep apprised of updates and additions to the G1 features and functionality. At the current time he has not yet chosen to have a credit-card swipe added to the tablets used by his first-tee staff, though in 2019 that option will probably be exercised. “If I added that, it would mean on slower days I could move all payments out to my starter on the tee, and not have to open the golf shop. My starter could swipe the payment and I’d could trim payroll to fit my revenue level,” says Beeler.

Even as he keeps a lookout for upgrades, Beeler remains highly satisfied with the way the G1 system’s design makes it an easy learning curve for front-line workers, even if they’ve worked for decades using pre-digital tools. “G1 is set up so that the basics can be done easily, even by people who haven’t been using computers all their lives,” Beeler says. Grand View has full liquor license for the entire facility and can sell six-packs of beer straight out of the shop with purchase of a green fee, not to mention breakfast or lunch snacks, and sodas or coffee. “These are quick add-ons to their payment for golf and our people have a streamlined digital means of quickly getting it processed,” he says.

Asked about problem-solving by G1 at Grand View, Beeler goes straight to the pain point of green-fee receipts that are somehow lost between the shop and No. 1 tee. “Everybody loses that slip,” he says, “all the honest people who actually paid, as well as the people who are trying to beat the system by saying they lost it when, in fact, they hadn’t paid. Now we have most players’ credit card numbers on file and they just pop their heads in and say they’ve arrived—the starter can see the payment recorded on his tablet.” And any pilfering at Grand View is steadily going away as a result. “It is very hard to beat us at this point,” Beeler said, “we have every possible excuse covered with G1.”

Per the request of his GolfNow rep, Beeler speaks up readily when he hits upon a potential improvement to the software. “I’ve mentioned to our guy at GolfNow that there are some functions they could probably improve by eliminating keystrokes and mouse clicks—making it more streamlined,” says Beeler. “They always thank me and tell if or when the fix could go in. Other systems I’ve had aren’t so amenable to that—the rep starts defending his product. You never get that with GolfNow.”

Different facilities have different upgrades and efficiencies they hope to achieve—a superior tech package that’s built to serve all needs will readily provide exactly what’s needed or something very close. Word on the street is that G1 is delivering solutions across the board.

 


Resolve to generate reviews in 2019

Resolve to generate reviews in 2019

Nov 27, 2018

As a rapidly growing digital destination for the avid, traveling golfer, Golf Advisor has achieved record recent growth, highlighted by all-time milestones in 2018 across various key metrics. The site features more than 800,000 user-generated golf course reviews of more than 14,000 golf courses around the world from its active community of golfers, as well as its popular Best of Lists – the latest is scheduled to be announced next month.

Recent moves, like expanding Golf Advisor’s travel footprint through a new Golf Channel television series, hosted trips, expert editorial content and more, help ensure golfers deciding where they want to play next will continue to begin that search at Golf Advisor and GolfNow.

It’s common knowledge these days that the majority of shoppers depend on reviews to help them make their purchasing decisions – and golfers are no exception. More than 85 percent of the up to 1 million golfers that visit Golf Advisor each month state that reviews play an important role in making decisions about where they play. This peer feedback is increasingly important, with 87 percent of golfers saying they are likely to believe online ratings.

If it’s not part of your marketing mix, establishing a review strategy for 2019 might be the best New Year’s resolution you can make.

Reviews are valuable currency in today’s marketplace, and the more of them you have, the better. Keep marketing materials handy and conspicuous throughout your facility — stickers, posters, table tents. Print up business cards that ask golfers to visit Golf Advisor and rate their round. Have your cart and bag drop staff pass the cards out. Train them to ask every customer about his or her round and ask for the review. Some operations have iPads or computers available to employees so they can ask for the review right there with the customer.

Train all of your staff to greet guests, communicate politely and deliver top-shelf service. Consider rewarding any employee who gets called out in a review by name. That’s one way to incentivize great service and ensure a great review.

And, finally, put your best foot forward on Golf Advisor by updating photos and content (email customerservice@golfadvisor.com), and dedicate time daily to engaging with reviewers. That two-way conversation is your opportunity to thank customers, acknowledge when you’ve made a mistake and show every potential customer considering your course the kind of experience they can expect.


New GOLFNOW effort: chefs sharing knowledge

New GOLFNOW effort: chefs sharing knowledge

Nov 27, 2018

Experts in the kitchen recruited for advisory board

Course operators who are hungry for new ways to please golfers will be intrigued by GOLFNOW's recent move to form a Chef Advisory Board. The new program recognizes the growing importance of food-and-beverage as a service upgrade for courses and a key to stronger profit performance.

An additional factor in creating this initiative is now a faster product cycle in casual dining. Trends and cycles in this niche have been appearing more quickly of late, making a notable impact on consumer tastes and the overall market. It’s expected that golf management teams will find it beneficial to learn quickly about new menu items or styles of presentation that are making a hit in grill rooms and taverns across the country.

Gathering and sharing best-practice insights and information has become an increasingly high priority within GOLFNOW Business Services—to the point that Mike Hendrix, the division’s vice-president, realized there was this new trail worth blazing.

“It became increasingly clear that our partner courses needed a type of expertise we didn’t have on our team here,” says Hendrix, referring to the dining end of golf operations. To a good degree he drew this conclusion by looking at the Ride component of GolfNow, which serves a growing legion of course managers by lowering procurement costs in several areas, including food supplies.

“We’ve done a good job, through Ride, of helping course partners save money on their food purchases,” he notes. “But it was apparent we could do more to support and assist them. We could do that by gathering the insights of accomplished chefs who could share ideas on menu construction, food preparation, seasonal specialties and the like.”

So, with some additional research and planning, the idea for a GOLFNOW advisory board took shape, with Joe Martin as its inaugural member. Martin is the executive chef at The Country Club at Castle Pines, located in Castle Rock, Colo. He trained at the California Culinary Academy and comes to his new GOLFNOW role with two decades of experience, pleasing golfers in both the grill rooms and the formal dining rooms of prestigious clubs.

“With the club industry moving toward a more casual atmosphere, we have an amazing opportunity as culinary professionals to expand our offerings and creative parameters,” Martin said. “Through GOLFNOW's Chef Advisory Board, we will be able to create a vast network of professionals who will communicate wins and losses in our attempts to please our memberships. As we move forward with this program, it will be a powerful tool for all culinarians not only trying to expand their knowledge, but also to provide a place to share products and ideas that will improve the overall club dining experience.”

As further such invitations are made, they will go not just to those with classic fine-dining credentials. “We’ll look for people who have succeeded and innovated throughout the casual dining niche, especially within golf,” says Hendrix. “For example, we’ll seek out great ideas for preparing and serving food for at-the-turn.”

Board members will pitch in with a certain number of original articles yearly for distribution via multiple websites under the GolfNow and NBC Sports umbrellas. Each of these would include one or more recipes appropriate to the menus of public golf courses. The terms of board membership include having the chefs available to assist the GOLFNOW team at the PGA Merchandise Show, the CMAA Show and perhaps the annual CRB event the Chef to Chef Conference. And their followings on social media will be leveraged, too—advisors will make social media posts on their Facebook and Instagram accounts, inserting attractive photos of their recommended menu items.

One obvious step beyond content that covers meals and snacks is information about trends at the bar, itself—the beverage part of food-and-beverage. As part of this program’s mission, advisors and GOLFNOW personnel will keep a lookout for new wrinkles and trends in cocktails, wine selections and the ever-changing beer market. It’s quite possible, according to Hendrix, that a sommelier or master mixologist will eventually find their way onto the board.

Rarified information and creativity from leading food professionals has a particular potency in public golf, according to Hendrix, given that well over 2,000 public golf facilities in the U.S. do not employ a chef with culinary training. That’s one of many reasons why the sharing of what’s learned will be industry-wide, not delivered solely to GolfNow partner courses or Ride participants. “This is a new path we’re going down,” Hendrix says, “and we’re interested in really putting it out there to the industry. A rising tide lifts all boats, is what it’s all about.”

Featured photo:  The Terrace restaurant at The Country Club at Castle Pines


Taking the next step, as a GOLFNOW Premium Marketing Partner

Taking the next step, as a GOLFNOW Premium Marketing Partner

Nov 27, 2018

Reach, frequency, calls-to-action, the whole gamut

Picture the golf operator of generations past, rubbing a magic lamp and wishing for a full-scale promotion and advertising campaign to grow his business. Instantly, his course is seen on billboards and sung about in radio jingles. Postmen deliver his brochures and flyers get tucked under windshield wipers. A guy with a sandwich board walks busy streets, while a prop plane trails a banner across the sky.

It can wear a person out thinking about all the different kinds of promotion course operators can use in order to saturate the marketplace and attract golfers to their first tee. The Internet and connectivity through mobile devices has changed all that. Traditional advertising still exists, of course, if you have the resources. But don’t turn your back on your consumers when online. A digital approach is simple and can be used to better reach, impress and entice your target consumer.

For anyone whose job is filling tee sheets, the obvious gold standard in digital marketing is GolfNow’s Premium Marketing Program, first introduced in 2011. For a little extra investment, courses that become PMP partners benefit from a wide array of advantageous placements and optimized positioning. Just as there are only so many business-class seats on an airplane, there’s a cap on how many golf courses could and will leverage what PMP offers. Currently, just over 1,300 are enrolled in the program.

“In order to be invited to become part of the PMP program, the criteria isn’t how fancy or high-end your course is, it’s much more about how engaged and energized the operator is in attracting their online golfer,” said Ryan Heaton, GolfNow director of sales operations . “The clearest advantage for PMP partners is placement at the top of the search results a golfer sees when they look online for a tee time in that particular area. All the listings are shown, but that top placement, which looks organic, has enough prominence to be a real advantage.”

The percentage of people who see banner ads that come with a PMP account and click to view the promoted course’s inventory can be 20 times higher than the standard across all online products and services. Even more impressive is the “conversion” data: The percentage of people who purchase a round of golf at a PMP course after viewing its inventory is 11.3 percent, compared to an average conversion rate across all of e-commerce that’s only about 2 percent.

There is also “outbound” promotional muscle provided to a PMP partner. “The course is featured in emails to our golfer database, which go out every morning and are geo-based,” says Heaton. One home run of a benefit is appearing as a Featured Course—this is exclusive to the PMP level of partnership and when you land in that spot you are the only option the golfer—arriving with cash in hand and intention to buy a tee time—will see. “That’s 100 percent share of voice,” Heaton says with emphasis of the once-weekly email, “which by any measure is a huge value.”

Among the additional benefits of PMP participation are listings on Destination Pages within the GolfNow portfolio, which appeal to the traveling golfer.  Similarly, there is a “Stay & Play” page on GolfAdvisor.com for every market. Although best suited to resorts, any PMP course that finds a lodging partner can provide that information to their GolfNow rep. Then, package links are set up so that customers get routed directly to the hotel partner, and are provided with a code to book right then and there. “Stay & Play is the third most trafficked page on Golf Advisor,” says Heaton, “so listing yourself is going to result in a lot of very relevant impressions.”

There’s also the potential to get exposure on Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive” show, as well as promoted in social media postings that reach 175,000 golfers who follow GolfNow on the big three platforms of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

To make the move to GolfNow’s Premier Marketing Program, you have to be well-positioned in your market and ready to try and maximize the golf course asset you’ve worked so hard to build, beautify and properly staff. You can find out more information about PMP from your GolfNow representative. In the digital age, long past the era of sky-writing and sandwich signs, PMP partnership is advertising and promotion that’s unmatched in the marketplace.

 

Featured photo:  Providence Golf Club in Davenport, Fla., a GolfNow PMP partner


Golf’s pure light

Golf’s pure light

Nov 27, 2018

Ohio golf course owner shows Christmas spirit and holiday savvy

What we all wouldn’t do to be able to find a way to extend our golf season into the off season. For innovators like Walter Miraglia, sometimes all it takes is a little creative thinking.

A savvy businessman but also a romantic at heart, Walt had a vision after purchasing Berkshire Hills Golf Course in Chesterland, Ohio, in 2015. He was already familiar with the business, having helped manage the facility before deciding to buy, but this realization didn’t come until he actually stepped on to the golf course as its new owner. In addition to being a great layout for his golfers, Walt saw that the Berkshire Hills’ property provided a perfect driving path for a Christmas lighting display.

If you’ve read posts like this in The Index before, you know that GolfNow specialists recommend that every golf course operator explore and consider any kind of programming throughout the year that can introduce their facilities to residents of their local communities – both golfers and non-golfers, alike. Doing this extends goodwill and also can be good for business.

Driving through the Berkshire Hills Christmas Light Park has become a popular family activity in Chesterland and surrounding areas.
Driving through the Berkshire Hills Christmas Light Park has become a popular family activity in Chesterland and surrounding areas.

Driving through the Berkshire Hills Christmas Light Park has become a popular family activity in Chesterland and surrounding areas.

Located 30 miles east of Cleveland, and exposed to the weather effects of Lake Erie, sometimes it doesn’t take much to turn the hamlet of Chesterland into a winter wonderland this time of year. Knowing this, Walt tapped into the expertise of his designer friend, Rod Nagy, to collaborate on a drive-through lighting display for his golf course like no other. The two men started drawing up plans and the Berkshire Hills Christmas Light Park – two years in the making – made its debut on Nov. 23.

“The drive through the golf course is absolutely perfect for this, there’s a surprise around every corner,” Walt said, referring to the 1.25-mile drive across his 240-acre course.

Admittedly, Walt’s motivation to create the park was not 100 percent financially driven, although he’s excited about the prospects for future business. “This was never about making money, but really about making people happy,” he said. “It may sound cliché but it’s really about bringing joy to others. I have a big family and the holidays are significant to us in many different ways, so I look at this passion project of mine as a gift.”

It costs $25 per car to drive through the display, but Walt says “there’s a $5 discount if you say ‘Merry Christmas.’” There’s also a charitable component, with the majority of the proceeds going to the Ronald McDonald House in Cleveland, American Cancer Society, and the VALOR Retreat at Highrock, a free recreational facility in the Ohio hills that provides combat veterans a chance to reconnect with their families. The remainder of the proceeds help cover his overhead.

Walt Miraglia
Walt Miraglia

“I’m really surprised by the amount of support and coverage we’ve received,” Walt said. “This was supposed to be a labor of love, but the outpouring from the community is blowing me away. It’s humbling and I’m very appreciative.”

It’s not surprising that a project this big in a small community has attracted generous media attention. Walt is using the news coverage and leveraging social media to spread the word about his golf course.

“We also put a full-page ad on the back of the program, which offers an awesome deal for next year’s golf season,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.

 


G1 platform means a new golfer experience

G1 platform means a new golfer experience

Nov 27, 2018

Cloud-based, but that’s just the starting point

Innovations marketed to luxury hotels in the 1920s included the NCR motorized cash register, the Sloan tankless toilet and Hoover’s first upright vacuum cleaner. Overall efficiency was boosted by these inventions, though none of them offered a way to improve customer service.

When room service debuted in 1931 at New York’s Waldorf Astoria, you had back-office efficiency combined with a compelling upgrade to the guest experience … now we’re talking!

That kind of talk these days within golf course management circles is all about G1.

You devise a digital management platform that can deliver these benefits only if you start out with customer-centric focus—that’s indeed how it was in the planning and development of GolfNow One – or G1 for short. G1 is next-generation cloud-based technology for golf facility management that holds itself to high standards where efficiency and integration are concerned, but seeks to set itself apart by delivering a “frictionless experience,” as Kelvin Wierks describes it, for golfers.

“People didn’t know they needed Uber until Uber came along,” observes Wierks, who is Senior Director, Business Platforms, for GolfNow Technology. “Streamlining everything the consumer does throughout the economy is a sweeping trend, and we know golf courses will benefit from it immensely.”

As a business management platform, G1 combines all software and operating systems used at a golf facility into one platform. So that’s tee sheet, point-of-sale, social media, employee schedules, inventory, payroll, vendor relations, and more—all controllable by an Internet-connected device, from anywhere.

Explaining the mindset and mission behind G1 development, Wierks differentiated between a vendor that can improve an operation at the margins versus one determined to bring game-changing differences in how a course serves its customer. “We’re about helping an operator grow their business, not just run their business.” he explains. “A course partner of ours should measure G1 on whether it brings in more customers and influences customers to return more often and spend more on each visit.”

On the “spend more” question, some early evidence is in, namely beverage-cart revenue at Peoria Pines Golf Course in the Phoenix suburbs. Scott Richmond, GM of Peoria Pines, is just finishing his second month as a G1-powered facility and already has made an upward forecast for beverage-cart sales. Actual revenue for that category in the fiscal year now closing is $50,000—but he’s projecting a 25 percent increase for the 12 months upcoming.

“This industry has 99 percent of beverage carts out on the fairways using cash, which absolutely holds down spending compared to what we’d get if payments could be made by credit card,” Richmond says. “In one month using G1, I saw that proven out. As a result that revenue line on our 2018-19 budget went up.”

Chase McGowin, GM at Twelve Stones Golf Club outside of Nashville, Tenn., also touts the efficiency of G1 with his course’s beverage cart operation. “Everything we sell automatically gets pulled out of our inventory, so we know where we are at any given moment,” he said.

McGowin doesn’t stop there, saying G1 also has improved his check-in process. “We now have a much more efficient system,” he said. “Our starter used to have to walk back to the pro shop to resolve any situation – causing us to fall a tee time or two behind. Now, with a tablet in hand and the G1 platform, he can solve those types of situations right there on the tee.

“It just makes things more efficient. Golfers are playing in a more appropriate time frames and they don’t complain about slow play.”

Other dynamic shifts and upgrades in customer experience with G1 will be welcomed on the golf side of his business as they develop—but for now, Richmond says he also loves the changes he’s seeing in his restaurant operation. Servers at Peoria Pines are taking meal and drink orders by tablet and staying on the floor to continue serving customers instead of heading toward a point-of-sale terminal at the bar to make entries.

“Incorrect orders, missed items and delays in getting the orders in front of the cooks—that all happens when you’re using paper and pen then getting interrupted on your way to the terminal,” says Richmond. “That’s not happening anymore, which has produced a lot of positive results. Customers get a better experience, the servers are less stressed and we can turn tables faster.” One unintended positive is better tip money, which further adds to employee morale. “A digital restaurant check has gratuity options automatically generated, and what we’ve found is that patrons all seem to choose the middle option, 20 percent,” Richmond says. “That’s increased the average gratuity from 15 percent to 21.5 percent.”

Josh Brunet, general manager of Eagle Lakes Golf Club in Naples. Fla., is another early adopter. “The G1 product has been an excellent asset to our company and we’re excited about its potential to take us to the next level,” says Brunet. “We’ve been able to use G1 to seamlessly integrate our tee sheet, give our staff the mobility of a tablet to operate more efficiently, and the marketing tools also are integrated, so it’s extremely valuable to us.”

Brunet is expecting his G1 experience to only improve, based on GolfNow’s strategy of building it with a feature package that’s foundational, not maxed-out, and directing its team of 15 dedicated engineers to make upgrades quickly and regularly based on partner feedback. “You can always find new technology out there, but a lot of companies provide it to you and disappear,” he says. “With GolfNow and G1, we’re in constant communication. Their support is best in the business by far.”

That’s a nice compliment, but only fitting when a course partner commits to a new management platform. They should expect its provider to makes things so easy and satisfying for them that it feels just like room service.