Knowledge Library

Golf instruction can be a key to building your base of golfers

Instruction programs and customer acquisition

Apr 17, 2019

Desire to improve meets the urge to play

If you purchase kibble at a pet superstore you’ll get an email asking you to “rate the experience.” CRM, or customer relationship management, is infiltrating commercial activity ever-deeper—it’s the best way for any business to retain the clientele it has and ensure a decent supply of new users.

But nobody takes lessons in how to scoop dog food into a bowl. Golf instruction, however, is widely available, sought after and comes in more varieties than ever these days. Experts in golf-course CRM see it as one more valuable tool for attracting, engaging and retaining customers.

One such expert is Nicole Roach, Senior Director of Digital Performance Marketing for GOLF Channel businesses. She views the benefits of teaching and coaching in both “macro and micro” terms.

“If you’ve got novice players coming to you for Get Golf Ready 1 or GGR 2, you might be adding to the total golfer population, and capturing that new golfer for your own facility,” says Roach. “You could also use your range and lesson area to connect with an experienced player who books rounds regularly—though not at your golf course. Maybe he attended your early-season clinic or showed up for a spring demo day and bought a couple wedges.”

You’ll want contact information for both these people, which may mean getting creative with a special offer or some other opt-in technique. Obtaining an email address and a number where they receive SMS messages is ideal, but one or the other also is fine.

Collaboration is necessary in this effort. If the teaching pros at your course are employees, you can easily work with them to make lessons and clinics a business-builder on the green-fee side, as well as the instruction side. If they are independent contractors, the path to productive synergy may have twists and turns. But the potential is truly there. Among self-employed, full-time teachers, there’s been a lot of talk recently about a) funneling their lesson-takers onto the facility’s tee sheet and into its grill room or golf shop, and b) getting some credit for it.

It comes down to customer “tags and flags,” as Roach explains. It’s common that golfers who play XYZ Course in April and May then don’t show up again for six weeks get tagged as “Defectors” in the system and, thus, receive a special invitation to come back. The same approach could apply to customers who visit the facility much more for instruction – by creating tags and reach-outs that might influence their money-spending patterns to your liking.

“If you haven’t done any of this, it might be best to take small steps initially,” says Roach. “Start with a few data points—ones you know you could take action on, as soon as the pattern you’re looking for shows up.” 

For example, she says, moms who bring their kids to a camp session could get asked to try a putting challenge while their child is on-property. Those moms who participate would then get an email inviting them to a bring-a-friend women’s group clinic on a weekday evening.

If 30 people do the putting challenge, how many will convert to the evening clinic? What’s a good number for that? “If you experiment this way and your call-to-action gets weak results, you can discontinue it and turn your attention elsewhere,” Roach says. “Set goals and move on if you don’t reach them.”

Among full-time golf instructors, there are trends and practices about which a savvy course manager should know. One is the strong push toward a “gateway product,” known to most teachers as the New Student Assessment (NSA). Instructors in the GOLF Academy network have been converting NSA customers—all first-time visitors—to long-term lesson programs at what many would call an astonishing rate, i.e., well over 50 percent. At some point, the affiliated golf course will want to create an NSA tag and track how much tee-time business a coaching program this robust can produce.

The other trend is group learning, which goes beyond the traditional golf clinic to create repeated, assigned groupings that balance one-on-one teaching with “supervised practice.” Golfers react well to it, thereby convincing many instructors that training and practice as a communal activity has strong potential. That’s good for the tee-time side of things, which is communal by nature. People will practice together, then play together, is the notion—you could find a way to track this pattern and, of course, ways to encourage it.

 

GOLF Business Solutions has the tools to help

You already know about GOLF Business Solutions and its multiple avenues for assisting and advising golf operations. But you may not be aware that it now includes a robust set of teaching-coaching assets. These include the 100-location GOLF Academy network, a membership program called Proponent Group, and the new Instructor Plus full-service marketing platform

The core mission of GOLF Business Solutions, to maximize play and profits at public golf facilities, is more and more becoming dovetailed with a parallel mission: to professionalize the industry’s instruction category and boost profitability for those who teach and coach, meanwhile ushering in new players. That’s what Instructor Plus is all about.

If you’re a GOLF Business Solutions partner course, start a conversation with your on-site teaching professionals about taking advantage of what Instructor Plus has to offer.


Choosing an solid opening date can be better for business

Open for business, early and with emphasis

Apr 17, 2019

There are GOLFNOW resources to assist you

In cold-weather climates, winter oftentimes ends and then cruelly changes its mind. Golfers who’ve been shoveling sidewalks and rolling puts on the den carpet fondly wish for a start to the season. The courses that do the best job of telling them winter is over and it’s safe to roll into the parking lot generally reap rewards for doing so. That’s been the longtime view of Dan Hardy, who covers the Great Plains region as a Senior Area Sales Manager for GOLF Business Solutions.

“A course’s best-practice at this time of year is to pick a date, do a full open, turn on the tee sheet, post times wherever you can get exposure for them, and reap the benefits,” says Hardy. “Courses that commit to a full open will always do more to promote themselves and boost utilization. A tentative open, the ‘maybe’ approach, puts doubt in peoples’ minds, and as a result you fall off their radar.”

Hardy can back up his words with real tools to help a client course navigate that dreaded return of chill and winter precipitation. He knows that when lousy weather comes roaring back, it’s something of an issue to have people on the tee sheet who need timely information about what’s going on.

“Obviously, course operators don’t want have to deal with those reversals, mainly because of the hassle of calling people back and straightening out the arrangements,” Hardy says. “For that they can rely on our GOLF Business Support department, or our Answers service. We’ll make the phone calls as soon we get word of a closure.”

Meanwhile, if you enthusiastically flip the switch sometime between St. Patrick’s Day and the Masters it may feel like you’ve got the market to yourself. “This time of year you get a shot at making new friends and gaining new customers,” Hardy points out. “It’s a great opportunity to perhaps land a lifelong customer.”

Bob Schulz agrees with Hardy’s point about expectations. “Golfers in cold-weather areas are thankful for the upbeat attitude of a full open and are not expecting mid-season service or mid-season rates,” according to Schulz, who is PGA Director of Golf at The Sanctuary Golf Course in the Chicago suburb of New Lenox, Ill.

Despite its reputation for fierce winters, Chicagoland can have spurts of mild weather in just about any month, and will sometimes deliver an early spring. When Schulz started at The Sanctuary 15 years ago the policy was full shutdown after Thanksgiving and no real hurry about opening back up at winter’s end.

“Those were the days when people like me could take a four-month vacation,” says Schulz. “Things are different now. Our course really doesn’t close in the winter. The Sanctuary did 770 rounds between Dec. 1 and the second week of March—which generated $11,560 in green fees, plus what we did in the grill and in merchandise.”

He says his best performance ever in that time period was over $40,000. “What public golf course wouldn’t want that bonus revenue?” he asks. “We’re full-time and we’re here anyway. All December we’re here doing gift cards. Most of the winter rounds are walking, so there isn’t a whole lot you have to do,” to service play.

The Sanctuary is aggressive with its tee-time marketing during peak and shoulder season—the annual goal is open the online tee sheet on March 1. But the course switches to a first-come, first-serve approach during periods when so many booked times get cancelled due to weather. And when it’s cold, it also gets dark early, so golfers often become concerned about a late-morning or early-afternoon time they’ve booked and call around trying to improve on it.

“It’s better that they just show up, come inside to pay, then go off the tee,” Schulz says.

He admits that if winter play led to serious turf damage he would have to change his approach, but that’s not the case. Only one of his greens gets a tarp cover, the rest keep their cups and flagsticks in place. Pitch marks are really a non-issue, given the frozen surfaces, and what few there are recover quickly when the April sun pours down and the grass jumps out of its dormancy. Even on those January days when carts are let out, Schulz and his crew don’t have to worry about damage to cart covers—the customers show up with cart covers they’ve actually purchased themselves—they bring their own heaters, too.

“People want to be outside, that’s really what we’re selling,” says Schulz. “Then they come inside, and we’re the place where they hang around to eat and drink.” 

When the part of the year that most Midwestern people call golf season does arrive, his course already has momentum—this year’s Masters and the Tiger comeback only adding to it—plus a loyalty factor among golfers that translates to business success.


Knowing your competition

Benefiting from competitive data

Mar 29, 2019

Plus Vision eyes your competition 24/7; use the intel to help maximize your rounds and revenue per round

 

It’s important to know what your competition is doing with their pricing and how much inventory they have at any given time. The only question is: "how do you get that information?"

You could call their pro shops under assumed names and ask for a number of tee times to see what’s available; drive by their parking lots to see how full they are; visit their websites on a regular schedule throughout the day and log what’s available and for what price. In any case, you would need to have a lot of free time on your hands to get all this accomplished.

For those without that kind of free time, GolfNow Plus Vision automates this data collection, monitoring your competition’s websites and capturing all publicly accessible data in real time for your consumption at your convenience.

“Our super-users of Plus Vision, both those who use our Plus teams that work daily on clients’ businesses and the clients themselves, make it a morning routine,” said Mike Hendrix, Vice President of Business Services for GOLF Business Solutions. “It’s simple, the layout is intuitive and easy to understand, and in a couple of minutes you can get what all of your competitors are doing today, tomorrow and the upcoming weekend, which typically are the four days that are most important to our clients.”

The importance of competitive data to overall revenue management really can’t be overstated. Brian Skena, Manager, Business Services, Plus - also a PGA Member - makes it an essential part of his work on behalf of his clients. “My team is responsible for the brand and revenue management of our clients, which means we manage their entire online presence — inventory, website, social, position in their market and helping golfers find them with the right products at the right price at the right time. Competitive analysis is a big piece of that puzzle.

For some, pricing the competition is the only consideration. “We have hundreds of clients who are hyper-focused on competitor pricing,” Hendrix said. “And that’s fine. They are running their businesses on their theories. I don’t personally subscribe to that kind of pricing policy.”

Skena agreed. Plus Vision is a tool that very quickly tells you where you stand against competitors; he pointed out. “That piece of information fits into the overall revenue management process. We do well for our clients by creating a good inventory and branding through the use of auto-pricing, which follows a set of rules based on a variety of data. All of that leads us to a certain price under certain conditions. It is not about a race to the bottom.”

In fact, it is about holding or even raising prices when the data indicates. “Typically what we see in Plus Vision use cases is an understanding when your competitors have little inventory left,” Hendrix said. “Now you can connect those dots and make sure you aren’t lowering prices when the inventory landscape indicates supply is low so demand for your product will be high.”

Plus Vision is one of the tools that can instill confidence in your decision making. Also, when employed with other revenue management weapons like auto-pricing, Skena pointed out another significant return for golf operations: “When they see the results, and we are driving more rounds, a story emerges about who the golfers are. We see a unique booker, a different kind of golfer who is responding to the actions we’re taking.

“We as an industry have been talking forever in terms of ‘if we can get each golfer that plays our course to return one additional time than usual, we'd have a record year,’” he continued. “That’s what these tools give us an opportunity to do. It’s a new world out there, and we have to evolve. Vision and the other revenue management tools are how we do it.”


Golf course operations now can communicate with golfers via two-way texting

Expanding services reflect the rise of messaging

Mar 20, 2019

Texting their way to the tee sheet

“Conversational commerce” is more present in the field than ever before. Instant response time, immediate conversation and prompt support – it’s the new standard. There seems to be a consensus that the golf industry of today is leaner and more open to changes in technology and emerging trends. Consumers communicate through a variety of channels and, lately, the use of phones, email and even smartphone apps have not compared to the popularity of instant messaging. The industry is more open to change than ever before, and with that comes more opportunity. That’s clear from the news that GOLF Business Solutions’ popular Answers service now includes two-way texting, Facebook Messenger and website chatting.

 “I have been in the golf business since 1998. I have seen it all and I can say that I prefer the new way of doing things,” says Sean Dugan, Golf Operations Manager at Eagle Glen Golf Club in [CITY]. Dugan has been using the Answers platform for just over two years. “Everyone is moving towards technology because we save time and payroll,” he said.

The truth is that when it comes to entertainment, consumers generally spend more time on their mobile devices. Texting has the back-and-forth of a phone conversation without the need for both people to be free at the same time. Nor will a text conversation veer off into digressions the way phone calls can, eating up time. Email shares some of the same characteristics of texting, but emails can pile up and responding to them can consume time in a way that doesn’t happen with texting.

“If you compare phone, email and chat, it’s clear that preference changes based on user and situation. In many cases, chat or texting delivers a better experience,” says Andy Weeks, CEO of Chicago-based W5 Golf, a GOLF Business Solutions Partner helping build the existing Answers service into a full-on conversational commerce tool. “Website-based live chat was the intro for most consumers – it was well executed and became popular quickly. Now, there’s a real explosion in what people are calling omni-channel business communications.”

Since chat and texting first came along, additional functionality has been layered on. Those bells and whistles are a key reason that Facebook-which already had a huge investment in Facebook Messenger – spent $19 billion to acquire WhatsApp several years ago. WhatsApp is a messaging platform that allows a user to send texts, make voice calls and video calls, send images, documents and tag in their location.

“The world is moving toward chat and messaging because it doesn’t feel like an interruption,” says Mike Hendrix, vice president of GOLFNOW Business Services. “It allows the flow of whatever’s happening to continue.” Texting and chatting simplifies communication.

 “All the functionality that now supports SMS makes it a vital tool for major retailers,” says Hendrix. “The supermarket chain Kroger is selling produce and canned goods through texting. Jos. A. Bank is texting customers to show them men’s dress apparel.”

Hendrix has in the past seen traditionalism out-duel the acceptance of tech among golf courses, but he feels even partial acceptance of “conversational commerce” will have a big impact. “Courses should see this as just another option,” he advises. “If you’ve got 5,000 people in your database, maybe only 1,000 will want to do business with you this way. Well, let’s serve those customers-and make the work flow more efficient for your staff in the process. We want to help as many operators as possible, to reduce their friction in communicating.”

Looking toward the future of conversational commerce, people like Hendrix and Weeks like to think its value as a marketing tool won’t get tarnished by ill-advised tactics. Commerce via the phone gave us the nightmare of dinner-time telemarketing calls. Email wasn’t around long before spam and scamming became commonplace. Given the benefit of hindsight, that doesn’t have to be the case with messaging.

 “When this channel of communication gets developed as a marketing tool, it’s going to look different from email marketing,” Hendrix predicts. “So much has been learned as email marketing has evolved-what happens with conversational commerce will be more strategic.”

While “conversational commerce” is an easy concept to understand, adoption is still taking place. The Answers service is being implemented throughout the country. When asked to give advice to those who are unsure about this technology, Dugan advises fellow golf course operators, “Don’t get left behind. If your golfer wants to spend money at 11 p.m. and you aren’t available to take their call, they will spend it somewhere else.” Stay current by simplifying communication and serving all your customer’s needs.

Begin Phone Reservation service or contact your sales representative to add this new feature, then start connecting with your course's text-preferring customers. 


SEO tips for your business

Helping Google help your business

Mar 20, 2019

Search engine optimization secrets anyone can employ

For most of us, hearing the phrase SEO (Search Engine Optimization) makes our eyes glaze over. We get that it’s a critical element in marketing, but you’ve always thought understanding SEO and employing it for the benefit of business is the domain of digital savants. Metatags, backlinks, algorithms … the language alone feels like more than you want to take on, especially with the dozen other issues vying for your attention.

It’s true, SEO can be challenging. For those in competitive markets, maintaining a page-one rank on Google can contribute in big ways to the bottom line. So, perhaps engaging the services of an SEO professional makes sense. But for the bulk of the golf operations out there, getting started and improving your search engine rank does not require deep knowledge. In fact, you can take steps today that can improve your appeal to search engines, help you begin to climb in the search ranks and be found by customers in the buying mood.

The biggest mistake you can make in the SEO equation is doing nothing. “You may not see the importance of SEO, but I guarantee you that you have competition in your market that does,” said Mitch Lown, GOLF Business Solutions Senior Manager of Search Marketing, whose responsibility includes making sure GOLFNOW’s website is front and center in more than 100 markets across the country.

“It’s good to have an active monitoring system on which keywords are working in your area.”

“Here’s the good news,” Lown said of operations that have so far avoided SEO activities. “Go to Google and plug in the search phrase “golf courses” with the name of your market. Most likely, your course appears somewhere in the top 50 – and that will be out of hundreds of thousands of results. There are only 49 better than you. You’re not in a bad place. Now, it’s just a matter of optimizing and making adjustments.”

As mentioned earlier, that “optimizing” can occupy a person full-time for operations keen on reaping the benefits of high search rankings. But for this article, let’s concentrate on a handful of points and chores. The more of them you can employ, the better the results. But keep this in mind: This is a marathon and not a sprint. It may take weeks to see your rankings begin to climb. And you can’t rest on your laurels once the climbing has begun. You have to work to stay there. That said, here’s how to kick off your DIY SEO.

Understand a big component of Google’s algorithm is all about content and keywords. Golf course websites tend to focus on visuals more than words – lots of pictures of golf holes, clubhouses and events. That’s fine, but a key element is making sure that your website is easily understood by users and search engines. Having images is great for users, but it’s essential that you make sure search engines can crawl your website and easily understand the primary focus on your site. Utilizing your primary target keywords in your title tag, meta description, headers and content makes it that much easier for Google to understand what your site is about and, in return, Google will understand your page and website is relevant for your target keywords.

How do you know which keywords to use? Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. What are different phrases and keywords that one might use to find your golf course? You can also utilize free keyword tools to expand your list and begin to understand how popular each keyword is in terms of search volume.

Is there a specific quality of your course that makes it unique and attractive to golfers? Terrific greens, Nicklaus design, a Golf Digest pick … whatever it is about your course that makes it special, that’s another keyword or phrase. A third consideration is what your market tells you.

“It’s good to have an active monitoring system on which keywords are working in your area,” said GOLFNOW’s Justin Bolton, a Lead in the Business Services area, who helps smaller course operations on their SEO needs. “You can do this manually by visiting websites of the competition and seeing which keywords they are using. The GOLFNOW Plus service offers software programs that do all the work for you.”

Understand that Google resists that you be everything to everybody. It’s far better in Google’s world that you have a few keywords and phrases that are smartly deployed throughout your site. “If you try to jam 47 different things into your home page,” Lown said, “you won’t rank well for any of them. Know who you are and focus on that theme.”

Where to use the words? Headlines and sub-headlines matter more than body text to Google, but they are all important. Also important is how naturally you use your keywords. They should not seem shoe-horned into every sentence but rather flow naturally. Take the time to craft good, readable text because quality matters more than quantity.

Pro Tip: Type your keywords into Google search and see which courses rank at the top. Observe how and where your competitors are using the keywords. Model your usage on theirs.

Give Google more content. Generally speaking, eight out of 10 golf course websites are what we call “brochure sites,” meaning, just a few pages — a home page, an “About Us” page, course tour, scorecard, contact page and often not much more than that. Google crawls content. The more content you have, the more opportunity to get on Google’s good side. As you are able, add pages to your website devoted to your offering. Do you host events, weddings, business meetings? Do you have a restaurant, a bar, a pro shop? Give each one a page and, where it makes sense, integrate your keywords. But also follow the same keyword strategy you use for golf on your other offerings — meetings, weddings, parties, etc.

Don’t forget reviews and social media. When you respond to customer reviews (you are responding to customer reviews, right?) and when you post to your social media channels, consistently sneak in those keywords. Google notices.

"It’s a little time consuming but it’s important that your brand name is consistent everywhere," Bolton said.

Get your name and details right. “Make sure the way you are listed online is consistent across the board,” he advises. “I have a client whose course name showed up three different ways from their website to Facebook to Twitter to Instagram. It’s critical that your name is the same, your phone numbers, addresses, emails, every asset is consistently the same everywhere online.”

Bolton and the GOLFNOW Plus team make it a regular routine to crawl the internet finding inconsistencies for their clients. “If you are Pine Cone Golf Course, you need to find all the Pine Cone Golf Clubs, Pine Cone Club and any other permutation and correct it. It’s a little time consuming but it’s important that your brand name is consistent everywhere.”

Bonus Advice: Do this if nothing else — SEO is not a one-and-done proposition. It has to become a routine you’re dedicated to in order to garner its returns, which may mean you’d prefer to let the experts at GOLFNOW Plus handle it. While you think about that decision, here is one piece of advice Lown offers every course. “Search for golf courses in your market and note at the top of the page that Google returns a map and the top three. Clicking on ‘more places’ at the bottom of the graphic reveals all the results. Find yours and click on it. The graphic that opens up is something called Google My Business and this is editable by you, as the owner of the business. You can add pictures, video, business hours, etc. You should own and control this very valuable space.”

Learn more about Plus service to help with your course marketing. 


using G1 technology

Successful operators use business metrics to play detective and find the clues to profitability

Mar 07, 2019

Minor adjustments and fine tuning make the difference

To succeed in golf course operations, it helps to recognize that, in most cases, it’s a thin-margin enterprise. What you charge for a round of golf isn’t much more than what you’ve spent to make it available. If that sounds discouraging, it really just puts you on equal footing with the likes of Kroger, Costco or United Airlines—all low-markup vendors and all highly successful.

“What tends to work in a thin-margin business is attention to detail and motivating your team to rack up a lot of small successes,” says Charles Kingsbaker, a GOLF Business Solutions Senior Sales Specialist. “The good news is that revenue-management technology can provide the empirical data that will guide your detective work efficiently. Numbers that are easy to access and review will show an operator how to consistently squeeze additional revenue out of their course’s tee-time inventory.”

Representing the G1 technology platform in the field every day, Kingsbaker can demonstrate exactly how this game of small-ball works. The most natural starting point is creating baseline data for performance indicators like revenue per available tee time (RevPATT), a metric combining course capacity with actual dollars spent by golfers to play rounds. A course can apply the stat to a full season of play, to a single day of the week, or even to one four-hour block on the sheet that needs extra attention.

Capacity utilization is another metric that’s vital for smart decision-making and will alert you to the need to adjust. Putting the two together is part of basic analytics among effective managers. “If your tee time utilization is below 35 percent and your RevPAAT yield is only 55 or 60 percent of your highest-yielding round, that’s a scenario where the numbers are telling you some modifications of your pricing is in order,” says Kingsbaker.

Every course has tee times that go unused—the trick is to avoid “set and forget” pricing and be continually conducting tests and evaluating results. Kingsbaker worked with a GOLFNOW client course that identified a low-utilization period and “turned the dial down” on pricing for that part of the tee sheet. The result was higher utilization and a revenue boost of more than $5,000 for that particular block of times, versus the same period a year prior.

Every course counts rounds played, but there’s growing importance placed on the number of unique golfers making up that total. For example, the course that did 30,000 rounds in 2018 will help its cause greatly if it knows, for example, that 5,000 different golfers played an average of six rounds each. Loyalty is great, but a wide user base is a big advantage when you’ve got a marketing platform like the Plus service product offered by GOLF Business Solutions, which can connect with golfers readily via outbound communication and calls to action.

In a "destination" market, the number of unique golfers should be higher than in a very localized market. When that doesn’t happen, it’s a sign the course is missing out on visits from customers who would bring fresh energy to the operation and very likely spend as though they were treating themselves to a special day. “Growing your total of uniques isn’t something we know all about yet, but we do know it’s a negative when that data point trends downward,” says Kingsbaker.

Meanwhile, low markup is not the whole story for golf courses. You also sell high-profit items like beer, wine, hot dogs and golf shirts. Selling more of your tee time inventory (and building your population of unique users) positions your operation to move more high-margin products. “That’s a positive scenario that will show up in your spend-per-visit numbers,” says Kingsbaker. Again, the incremental gain for each unit—in this case a “visit”—doesn’t have to be much in order to add up to a significant boost in revenue. Small successes, all added together, will often spell the difference between disappointing results and impressive ones.

Deliver more at your course with G1. 


golf course operator checking reports

How to leverage your GOLFNOW Central reports and optimize for growth

Mar 07, 2019

Required reading with your morning coffee


Every hospital show on TV has its vital-signs moment. Someone pushes a gurney yelling BP is 180 over 40, pulse is 100 and white-blood-cell count is whatever. It’s a cliche scene but, nonetheless, important because it demonstrates the necessity to look at critical numbers to reveal a patient’s condition.

When golf course operators sign on with GOLF Business Solutions, they don’t start wearing scrubs. But they do gain access to critical performance reports designed to inform them how well or not-so-well their business is doing. Ryan Peers, a GOLF Business Solutions Metro Market Sales Manager, helps course operators become adept at pulling and examining these reports, so they can reset their strategy for optimizing revenue and profit performance.

“Eventually it becomes routine for a course manager—something they do with their morning coffee,” says Peers. “Any course that uses GOLFNOW for tee time distribution has access to a number of fundamental reports they can look at whenever they want, just by logging into GOLFNOW Central. The main report everyone wants to see is Rounds & Revenue – Course YOY, which also gives an average dollar cost per round for the selected period.”

Also in that group, “Core Platform” reports show year-over-year revenue performance for a selected period – most operators prefer a monthly look. “At a glance, you see that February 2018 gave you 2,000 rounds and $90,000 in golf revenue, while February 2019 gave you 10 percent less or 10 percent more,” explains Peers. “You’ll want to know this information as a historical trend that can inform decisions about tee-sheet management.”

Training and support are provided for the operator who is just starting out as a GOLFNOW report reader. “We make sure the operator can go through the reports knowledgeably – just a couple of clicks and very intuitive,” Peers says.

The portfolio of GOLFNOW performance-indicator reports goes far beyond the basic five that any affiliated operator can self-service. To obtain more granular reports, an operator would need to make a request with his representative.

The whole point of all this, in Peers’ view, is simple – “to help a course sell more golf.” Getting the staff bought in and responsive to the reports is also a clear goal. Once opened, they can be saved as either an Excel file or a PDF and forwarded to colleagues, ownership or anyone with a need-to-know status.

Obviously, a decision-maker in any business will be interested in data only as it guides their next move. “In the push to maximize tee-sheet revenue, you test out pricing adjustments then evaluate your results,” says Peers.

Recently, Peers was contacted by one of the operators with whom he works about revenue performance year-to-date and expressed some displeasure. Rounds played at his course for a particular period were down significantly. Revenue for that period was also down, though only slightly.

What happened? In this case, it was the rare case of a robust price increase. “He was irritated by the slight drop in revenue, but this operator had really pushed the envelope with his pricing,” Peers says. “But the real story was he discovered a lot of pricing power—going up something like $15 on average with very little revenue loss.” There is a risk even with small price increases, but this one delivered a lot of information about consumer demand and the price ceiling. The next logical step would be to ease off slightly and see whether a sweet spot had been discovered.

As a golf course operator in this current business climate, your customers can be somewhat less predictable than you might imagine. Don't underestimate the value of a set of tech tools that allow you to price-adjust with precision and ease. Soon, you will be optimizing revenue and profits reliably.

Learn how GOLFNOW Central can deliver for your facility. 


The First Tee Chesterfield Golf Course pro shop

With strong support, a major upgrade to business software can happen in-season

Feb 20, 2019

Training and transition works, when your course is active

Problem: Your course has an outdated business management system that’s kept you from streamlining the golfer experience and running your operation with utmost ease and efficiency.

Solution: You fast-forward to a cloud-based, “consumer-centric” platform like G1 from GOLF Business Solutions, which combines all software and operating systems into one package. With G1, that means the tee sheet, point-of-sale, social media, work schedules, inventory, payroll, vendor relations—all of it controllable with an Internet-connected smartphone or tablet, from anywhere. That is a robust upgrade over what’s found at most courses, to be sure.

More than 500 golf courses either have already installed G1 or have committed to integrating the technology into their operations. It’s a sequential process that requires training and teamwork, which you may think prompts many operators and their staffs to lean toward a switchover in the quiet of the off-season. But lately, quite a few have seen the advantage of changing out technology during the active golf season.

That realization is based on several factors. The first would be the experience and expertise of the GOLFNOW team that installs, trains, supports and troubleshoots G1 on-boarding—they’ve reached the point where it’s down to a science and the team can anticipate needs and issues before they arise.

Second, is the simple fact that any business training works best when staff members are using the new commands and functions in real-time, with customers in front of them and a support crew alongside. Third, is the importance of having year-round golf staff and seasonal staff on the job together, reminding one another of the operational procedures necessary for every circumstance.

“Transactions, record-keeping and planning procedures driven by software and systems will hit their stride when things become second-nature to the employee,” says Charles Kingsbaker, Senior Technology Specialist with GOLF Business Solutions. “That calls for a lot of repetitions and it requires a staff member to go through the full array of business functions. If you try to do this in a quiet, off-season period, you won’t have those opportunities. As a result, you’ll probably find that re-training becomes necessary.”

Kingsbaker ticks off a long list of business details to illustrate his point. “In one short period at the counter, a staff member may have to sell a season pass, sell a range plan, bill tournament charges to a master account, split tickets at a grill room table,” he says. “When no golfers are around and you’re told how to do that, you’ll remember some of it but you can’t make it automatic until you’re taking care of these things in real-time, repeatedly.”

Golf operators who’ve tried the in-season approach to on-boarding G1 say it works extremely well. Mark Lynch, Director of Golf at The First Tee of Greater Richmond (Va.), with a pair of local facilities, speaks to that possibility. Lynch is responsible for the Tattersall Youth Development Center at The First Tee Chesterfield Golf Course, outside the city proper, and for the Elson Redmond Memorial Driving Range, which is downtown. Having achieved the rank of Major in the Army Reserve, Lynch has a solid foundation and belief that detailed plans are required to make any mission successful.

“I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I said I wasn’t anxious during those few days leading up to our conversion to G1,” says Lynch. “All of my training told me we needed to be prepared and get it right. As it turned out, the launch of G1 as our new management platform could not have gone better.”

As Lynch recounts the story, he stresses the value and contribution of the G1 support staff. “The install on day one and day two got us up to a functional level right away,” he recalls. “The GOLFNOW installers were there on-site the entire week, and in that time my assistants were able to understand how everything worked and they were using the program with confidence—whether that was check-in for golf, inventory sales, updating memberships, or whatever our golfers needed.”

Installing and training G1 during off-season closure is an option, but Lynch is convinced that on-the-fly accustomation is an excellent way to go. “We were able to make modifications to the system based on our specific needs during operations, knowing when the implementation team left we wouldn’t need to call support,” he says. “As we continue to grow the use of the system, we are able to work with GOLFNOW to add components to development to further bolster its functionality and future updates.”

Kingsbaker adds a nuance to this whole timing question. “There’s more than one strategy to the timing of installation,” he says. “An experienced operator knows where on the calendar they can fit in their training and go live, with just the right level of business activity to balance what they need for their golfers and what they want to do with their platform in order to make their move into the next generation of golf operations—which is what G1 is all about.”


Stone Creek Golf Club, Oregon City, Ore.

All upside as Oregon course adopts dynamic pricing

Feb 20, 2019

Online bookings increase, and golfers have no complaints

Back in the day, customary thinking was that the best golf spikes were metal. Even with the advent of plastic spikes, many golfers vowed to stick with steel until realizing the equal, if not better, gripping power of soft spikes – not to mention the fringe benefit of ending the destruction of pro shop carpets and hardwood floors! In short order, the market flipped to all-plastic (and flooring costs at clubs and courses went down for good).

Which brings us to dynamic pricing and the success story written last year by Stone Creek Golf Club, a Clackamas County-owned gem in the Portland suburb of Oregon City, which is managed by Total Golf Management Services.

The facility’s long-time head professional, Doug Suse, reports that Stone Creek had an extremely positive experience using this tool. Bearing in mind how change can be hard, Suse had braced himself for protests from his golfers. “There was no pushback from customers at all,” he says. “I was surprised. We prepared ourselves for negative comments, and literally there were none.”

The change also helped boost business. Stone Creek’s online revenue for tee times in 2018 increased 30 percent over the previous year – an all-time best. The problem of unsold times going to waste also seemed to ease. Suse saw more new faces than usual and didn’t notice any of his regulars dropping away or playing less.

It’s often said that hotel and airline reservation systems have trained the golfing population to view dynamically priced tee times as natural and logical. Makes sense, and yet the golf course is a place of beauty and site of countless fun experiences with friends – something that Seat 22A on a Delta flight or a room in some chain motel can’t boast. And yet to Suse, the moment of wide acceptance appears to have arrived.

“It’s a better way of pricing, for both sides,” he states. “If demand at a certain time on a certain day is light, the golfer pays less, and they realize that. When demand is strong, they pay a little more, and they’re okay with it. People want to book their golf quickly and they want to do it with their phone.”

The telephone as we used to define it is not part of Stone Creek’s new policy. If you call their shop to book a time, you’ll speak with a staff member and be quoted rack prices. Key point: Entering the world of dynamic pricing is something a golf course can do in stages. For Stone Creek, the likely next step is to go dynamic with phone bookings, as well.

“The dynamic price matrix as you view it online can be quickly scanned,” explains Suse. “Over the phone it might be a lot to explain—that’s what held us back. But we’ve discussed it and obviously there are ways you can direct the conversation and guide the customer along.”

Transitioning to this approach was fairly simple, according to Suse. He sat down with his GOLFNOW rep to go through the basics and hear a set of recommendations appropriate for the course and its market. “He came up with some parameters,” says Suse, referring to how far up or down the software would allow prices to move, “and we settled on the caps we would use.”

Currently the entire calendar year is organized under one matrix, but Suse and GOLFNOW are looking at seasonal variations to their pricing parameters. “The goal is to reduce the amount of unsold inventory and make life easy for customers,” he says. “We’re having success on both those fronts and we think we can use dynamic pricing to achieve even greater success in the future.”


Rory McIlroy and NBC Sports Group launch GOLFPASS

Rory McIlroy and NBC Sports Group launch GOLFPASS

Feb 07, 2019

Modern, Digital Membership Designed to Better Connect Golfers to the Sport

A new digital membership delivering comprehensive benefits tailored to the modern golfer’s lifestyle was launched earlier this week with the help of global golf superstar Rory McIlroy. GOLFPASS, a first-of-its-kind, direct-to-consumer subscription program, offers opportunities to play more golf, comprehensive tools to improve any golfer’s game; high-quality video content; and enhanced shopping and travel experiences. GOLFPASS is the product of two years of development and collaboration between Rory McIlroy Inc. and NBC Sports Group.

Through guest appearances on several shows during a whirlwind media tour of New York City, including  The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, McIlroy introduced GOLFPASS to a national television audience, giving golfers their first introduction to GOLFPASS.

“Golf has been a constant in my life, a passion I share with millions of others. Creating GOLFPASS with NBC Sports was driven by my desire to enrich the golf experience for fans all around the world,” said McIlroy. “Arnold Palmer showed tremendous vision when founding GOLF Channel in 1995 and it now stands as a significant part of his legacy. I have the utmost respect for the impact he made on the game and I will carry that spirit forward by helping to lead our sport into its digital future with GOLFPASS.”

“GOLFPASS is designed to make golf more accessible and fun using NBC Sports’ portfolio of golf tech and services that help better connect golfers to the sport. Whether it’s video instruction from the best coaches in the world or enhancing the golf experience on and off the course, GOLFPASS adds tremendous value for golfers,” said Mike McCarley, president, GOLF, NBC Sports. “Rory is the perfect partner for GOLFPASS, not only because he’s an approachable, genuine and global ambassador for golf – much in the same way Mr. Palmer was – he’s also eager to modernize how golfers engage with the sport in their daily lives, whether watching a screen or with a club in their hand.”

GOLFPASS perks and benefits span five pillars – Play, Learn, Watch, Travel and Shop – which are the most frequent ways golfers engage with the sport. A GOLFPASS membership – $9.99 per month or $99 per year – is unmatched and available today via www.golfpass.com and soon via connected TV, and iOS and Android apps. Memberships tailored for the U.K., Ireland and Australia will launch in the coming months.