Knowledge Library

Beat the heat

Discover new ways to fill your tee sheet this summer

Jul 10, 2019

Courses find solutions to beat the heat

Bishop Pickering was having the round of his life, so he chose to ignore the onslaught of a violent thunderstorm and kept playing. At this point, you may know this famous scene from the movie Caddyshack doesn't end well for the good bishop, but it does make us wonder. How can one's love for the game can be deep enough to play in any conditions – even when the mercury is hitting record highs?

For some, love may not come without an incentive. That's especially true for many courses in America's Sun Belt during the dog days of summer. Oppressive heat can keep golfers at bay, creating challenges for operators working to attract new golfers. They're hoping at minimum to keep their regular customers on the tee.
 

Taking on the challenge

Several GOLF Business Solutions' course partners are taking this challenge head-on this summer. Deep down, golfers just want to play golf, but sometimes it takes a little something extra. Realizing this, these partner courses have introduced promotions and initiatives to combat the heat and keep their customers on their fairways.

Desert courses beat the heat with new promotions. "Heat is a way of life in Arizona," says Tony Barten, General Manager of the acclaimed Legacy Golf Club in Phoenix, "and we prepare for the hotter summer months with a variety of things that help our golfers notice it less."

Handing out mango-scented iced towels and ensuring water stations located around the course are always chock full of ice and water are a few of the special touches Barten says they incorporate at the Legacy Golf Club.

"Legacy attracts golfers with aggressive pricing," says Barten, who notes that a golfer might pay a little less during the hotter parts of the day. Prices are tiered based on demand, and there may be three to four rate breaks throughout the day.

Nearby, at Arizona Grand Resort & Spa, the management team loves its regulars, but the course also attracts a lot of guests from the on-site resort.

As the weather started heating up in May, the golf course and resort collaborated to introduce a "Burger & Brew" promotion, which combines a round of golf and a hearty meal for a price 'that's nearly half-off retail. The course has incorporated paid social media to support the promotion.

"Our guests love a great round of golf paired with a quality burger and beer - especially in air-conditioned comfort," said Director of Golf Jimmy Bills. "The resort restaurant loves the increased traffic during what normally are the slower summer months."
 

Florida takes on the humidity

Across the continent in Florida, where heat combines with humidity, Raptor Bay Golf Club in Bonita Springs uses added value to attract golfers in the summer when the temperatures regularly peak into the 90s. It's not out of the norm for golfers to receive a $5 lunch voucher, drink coupons and even free logoed hats with their regular daily green fee.
 

Texas 'kicks the dust-up'

Texas can heat up quite nicely in the summer, which brings us to several courses in the Dallas area that have preparations in place when temperatures rise.

The Bridges Golf Club in Gunter created an "It's Heating Up" promotion by offering golfers 20% off throughout June. The promotion has generated more than $1,000 and 70 rounds of incremental business so far. Wildhorse Golf Club at Robson Ranch in Denton says it's giving customers the "Shirts Off Our Back" to beat the heat, a deal that includes a logoed shirt and a discounted green fee that has netted the course more than $10,000.
 

Grab-and-go special heats up in California Sun

In the California desert, Indian Canyons Golf Resort has been a popular choice for golf in Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley since 1961, when the likes of Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, and Ronald Reagan used to walk its fairways. Summer is the time when customers are offered the 'course's "Grab ‘N Go" special, which includes 18 holes of golf with cart, a choice of a breakfast sandwich or hot dog, and a small bucket of range balls. Through only 19 days in June, the incremental business was highlighted by 63 rounds sold, which equated to nearly $4,000 in sales.

When summer's high temperatures cause golfers to reconsider booking that next round, promotions like these can offer excellent incentives to brave the heat.

To learn more on how you can promote your course, CLICK HERE.


Stillwaters Golf Course

Alabama course experiences great success on the Platform

Jul 10, 2019

It's a natural assumption that golf courses in or near big cities should attract new customers by adopting strategies that increase awareness. This way, they can take advantage of a denser geographic area.

However, the real question is - can something comparable happen in rural or urban regions? Yes, it can. Perhaps it's because of a willingness by residents of those regions to travel farther for golf on highways that aren't jammed and offer lush scenery. Regardless, increased exposure to golfers online has brought new players to Stillwaters Golf in Dadeville, Alabama - a new GOLF Business Solutions course partner on the Platform.

"New eyes are seeing us on their screens and new people coming in the door," says Witherington. "It has to be because of the Platform because we haven't changed anything else. Within a couple weeks after we got on the Platform, I realized that we had already booked more than 50 rounds that I know we wouldn't have had otherwise."

The Tradition Course at Stillwaters Golf is part of a resurgent golf and lake community with zoning for 1,200 residences in the area. When it opened in 1996, it featured 36 holes of golf. However, Stillwaters' business plan went through changes, and one of the two championship courses eventually shut down. Located in a triangle formed by the three cities of Birmingham, Montgomery, and Columbus, Stillwaters is indeed a long drive for golfers who reside in any of those population centers.

“You have to make the trip to find us,” says Witherington. “So, once you’re here it’s on us to make the experience special enough that you’ll come back and you will also tell you friends about us.” Withering says he must adapt to limited funds for marketing and advertising. “My customers have to be a big part of my marketing,” he says, referring to word-of-mouth recommendations, “but I do need more exposure and reach, which we now have.”

Witherington is a natural who "can talk them into staying for lunch, even staying for live music that night," once he gets them on-property. His course's reliance on word-of-mouth has given him a nuanced understanding of it. "One of the reasons people go to new places and try new things is because they're motivated to tell their friends what a great choice they made," he asserts. "It's one of their pleasures in life, along with the actual experience. So, when we treat them right, we're giving them an opportunity they want which is to sound smart – and in the process they make us look good."

In Witherington's first full year in 2016, rounds played at the course increased from 8,000 to 12,800. Memberships rose from 72 to 287. "We made golf a profit center here," he says. "We want to build on that." He had a previous, albeit brief, experience with GOLFNOW many years ago.

"It was a long enough time ago that I was getting all my bookings off a fax machine," he says. "It was cumbersome, but I was sure that in the meantime the system had been modernized." While that is undoubtedly true, the Platform at Stillwater isn't like the Platform at a lot of other places, thanks to the paper tee sheet still in use at the course.

Witherington and his GOLF Business Solutions' account representative Scott Huskins, worked together to create a more customized approach for Stillwaters.

"Scott set it the tee sheet so that I get an email beep with every reservation that comes through GOLFNOW and into our Platform. He even helped me program my phone, so everything could come through me."

Stillwaters story inspires us to note that whether you're in the city, the country or someplace in between, you still need a way to get people's attention and keep them coming back.

To learn more about how the GOLF Business Solutions Platform can help you attract more golfers, CLICK HERE.


payments

GOLF Business Solutions announces launch of 'Payments' functionality

Jul 10, 2019

Avoid hidden fees and overcharges for card processing

A great golf course manager knows the customer experience isn't over until the customer drives off. He or she also is savvy enough to realize all the marketing touchpoints that can make an average experience great – including when it's time to pay.

Every operator wants to make things easy for their golfers – booking rounds online, checking in, buying a sleeve of balls, grabbing a snack from the beverage cart, and, hopefully, enjoying post-round food-and-beverage. Golf course management software with fully integrated functionality helps achieve a seamless experience.

Golf Business Solutions' new Payments feature will achieve both the operator and manager goals by making operations run like a well-oiled machine. Payments is a part of a turn-key 21st-century course by allowing the operator to review transactions, check inventories, keep an eye on cash flow, run credit card transactions, and more.

"Payments by GOLF Business Solutions allows you to seamlessly integrate online, phone and in-person payments with your point-of-sale system," explains Charles Kingsbaker, Senior Sales Specialist for GOLF Business Solutions. "With that full integration, the processing of payments requires just one vendor, accepting every payment any customer makes, no matter when or where."

Charles' colleague, Kelvin Wierks, has been part of the team working to build, test, and refine the functionality of Payments. Regulatory compliance, security issues, and the ability to interface with the vast banking and payments ecosystem have dictated a steady pace.

"The payments space is convoluted and complex," says Wierks, Vice President of Business Platforms for GOLF Business Solutions. "Golf courses have been hit with higher costs for payment processing than they rightly should, and the reports they see are too complicated to make sense of. Our mission has been to simplify the contractual process, simplify rates dramatically, and offer the seamlessness of working with a single vendor."

Payments start with transparent and easily understood rates, plus a guarantee of no hidden fees. You can see exactly what you're paying on every transaction, and those transactions can happen via tablet, desktop, online, or in-person. Full integration with GOLF Business Solutions means that wherever and whenever a payment happens, funds will be auto-deposited to your account. All Payments transactions are PCI-compliant (Payment Card Industry), with end-to-end encryption for security.

Early adopters of the technology have been quick to appreciate having all revenue inflows come from one source on a set daily schedule. "You don't have to try and remember when (mobile-device payments middleman) Square is going to pay you," says Wierks. He notes that the GOLF Business Solutions-provided hardware a course receives when it switches to Payments is another facet of the program that gets high marks. "We provide a wireless pin pad and an EMV-compliant terminal," says Wierks. "No more swiping cards – everything has the security of a chip."

Advanced economies have been favoring digital systems over cash and check-writing for a long time, in the name of security, ease, and data analysis.

"Businesses of all kinds, including golf courses, are moving to a 'pay-anywhere' approach," says Kingsbaker, "which makes the relationship with your payments processor all the more important to the entire operation. Going forward, the advantages a course gains from adopting Payments will only increase, because of new products and services that are in the works. Golfers will notice more and more perks, along with the sheer ease of the experience."

Their favorite course is already the place where golfers are most interested in spending their money—adding. Payments technology is a way to simply enhance that preference.

To learn more about payments, CLICK HERE.


Instructor Plus-1

Why KPIs matter for golf course instructors

Jun 24, 2019

The instruction business can help drive the operation

Your core business, selling tee times and filling up the sheet, generates numerous metrics that are useful to know. Revenue per available tee time, or RevPATT, tells an important story. Days-in-advance per booking also sheds light on how your business runs. Same with many different numbers relating to revenue, profit and details like golfer acquisition cost. We call these KPIs, or key performance indicators.

Each individual subcategory of your operation has its own KPIs. For shop merchandising, it’s cost of goods sold and inventory turns per year, among others. In the grill room, you want data like revenue per ticket and percentage of golfers who convert to F&B customers. Even the beverage cart could have statistics, such as revenue per hour or revenue per transaction, which influence strategy and tactics.

We know that facilities with a quality instruction program see increased play and spending from more-engaged golfers. KPIs for the golf instruction activity at your course are particularly important because lessons, clinics, club-fitting sessions and skills-challenge events connect back to the original business—selling tee times—in a way that the other subcategories don't. Golfers who commit to the game that extra amount—by investing in their game improvement—have been shown to spend more money and time at the facility than those with no connection to instruction activities. When GOLF Business Solutions branched out earlier this year beyond the core function of a golf operation, it first turned its sights on instruction. Just as there is Plus to help with marketing and the selling of tee times, the new Instructor Plus platform also provides marketing, communications and general business support to golf academies and instruction departments at public and private golf facilities nationwide.

"If you want your teaching and training program to function efficiently and profitably––and become the feeder for your tee sheet that it’s got the potential to be––you'll want to look at Instructor Plus," says Lorin Anderson, Vice President of Instruction, GOLF Business Solutions. “Aligned with the support you get from your Plus brand specialist at GOLFNOW, there will be an Instructor Plus brand specialist assigned to your facility, managing all lesson-related marketing efforts—including customized emails, website updates and social media posts.”

And just as you find with Plus guidance and support, a KPI-based analysis will underlie the work that’s done on behalf of your teaching and training niche by Instructor Plus. Business KPIs are somewhat new to instruction, but the pioneers in this effort have discovered their value. For example, Anderson cites a New Jersey teaching professional, Corey Krusa, who tracked an eight-week training program that he started three winters ago. In year one, the program attracted 48 students at $329 each—those numbers provided Krusa a benchmark.

Last winter there were 55 students at that same price, and this winter there were 62—again at $329 each. So, the KPI of revenue growth (within this one service) is trending strongly. Another KPI the experts might utilize is the Sales Pipeline, often studied in tandem with Sales Funnel Drop-Off. To apply these, Krusa would take his winter-program customers and compare that final roster of 62 against the number of golfers who took any measurable steps toward enrolling.

The next step is to study how far toward final commitment the various non-enrollees went. Over time, this exercise would reveal the number of people who had to enter the funnel in order for the tally of actual signups to hit 50, 60 or some other total. Digging a little deeper would mean looking for stages along the way where a potential customer bails out. He would then categorize those checkpoints and see which one or two showed the biggest “defection”. The final piece of the puzzle is sketching out marketing messages to be inserted into the purchase-consideration process at appropriate points.

Anderson also points to an instruction operation he works with in Sarasota, Fla., run by the highly respected teacher Tim Conaway. Lately, Conaway has focused on what KPI gurus call Billable Utilization, generally calculated as Billable Hours divided by 2,000—which is the round number used to state how many hours a year the typical accountant, lawyer or other professional works. This KPI is an indicator of how well you are utilizing assets, including staff coaches, and it can shed light on the effectiveness of your various programs.

“My hours engaged in the business of the academy are basically like seats on a plane,” says Conaway. “I’m measuring revenue versus capacity, and I want to be at capacity.” The overview version of this KPI exercise is to check the lesson book for hours when Conaway is ready and willing to teach but has no student slotted in. For the peak season that’s currently winding down, unsold hours in his book have been infrequent, generating an impressively high utilization rate. The more detailed version of this KPI is one that Conaway expects to look at as the season winds down and time allows.

Nick Bova, who teaches out of Whippany, NJ., shared with Anderson the impressive KPI emerging from his recent Instagram marketing efforts—specifically, it was revenue per dollar spent on the program. “What I post is an Instagram video that shows my teaching process with a golfer,” Bova explains. “Viewers see the student’s swing before, they see some work I do with that student, including drills, and then they see the much-improved swing afterward.” Viewership has been dramatically high.

“The analytics show me that 45,000 people have seen it,” Bova reports. “From those views, in one single week, I took in four new clients for lessons here at my facility—Anchor Golf Center in Whippany, NJ—plus eight new online clients.” KPI data that measures return on marketing investments would go off the charts in this case. “I spent $150 in marketing dollars and earned $2,000 in new income,” says Bova. “That’s just counting the revenue from initial visits,” which obviously he’ll be able to build on as satisfied customers come back for more. Like Conaway, Bova has recently kicked up his per-hour rate, with only positive results.

As the teaching operation digs into its own “internal” performance data, decision-makers at their host facility should, according to Anderson, measure all the ways that taking lessons and showing up to practice is funneling instruction customers into other revenue streams on the property. “Dedicated golf instructors all want the golf facility where they work to track lesson-takers and see the extent to which they become new names on the tee sheet, new customers in the golf shop, buyers of range balls and significant spenders on food-and-beverage,” says Anderson. “Any course that has GOLF Business Solutions' Plus and Instructor Plus programs as business solutions will be encouraged and guided to monitor those behaviors—very likely with a lot of good news coming out of the analytics.”

To learn more about our Instructor Plus program, CLICK HERE.


Bergen Point Golf Course

Bergen Point succeeds with new tee-time strategy

Jun 24, 2019

Great customers, previously beyond reach

The golf season this year started strong at Bergen Point Golf Course. That's the good word from Bob Miller, GM and Director of Golf at this county-owned facility in West Babylon, NY.  Miller and his staff are known for providing service approaching the private-club level, their challenge was simply getting a larger audience to sample the Bergen Point experience. Exposure with the GOLF Business Solutions Platform filled that need.

As a result, Miller is generous in telling his GOLF Business Solutions representative, Lindsey Wellenstein, that the course’s recent success “is a tribute to how good your product is.” There are solid numbers to back that statement up.

“Since we got started with the Platform this spring, we've seen a 30 to 35 percent increase in business,” says Miller. “In the month of May, we had 440 players come in through the GOLFNOW portal, at $65 per round. That's $28,600 in revenue we wouldn’t have taken in otherwise." Miller's GOLF Business Solutions-provided analytics show 6,600 views of his course in May and another 4,400 in the first two weeks of June. Views lead to bookings.

In the relatively short time Miller has worked with Wellenstein, the two have built a strong rapport and check in with each other regularly. In part through Lindsey's input, Bergen Point scored a difference-making publicity coup right as the good weather was arriving on Long Island. "In conjunction with the PGA Championship at Bethpage State Park,” says Miller, “we got some nice exposure for our golf course on GOLF Channel’s Morning Drive.

Miller and his staff make sure to treat their long-time regulars with appreciation, but they’ve tried to go the extra mile for new players in the Millennial bracket that make their way to Bergen Point via GOLFNOW bookings. "Our tee sheet indicates all our GOLFNOW people," says Miller." We tell them that if they'd like to warm up we will comp their range balls, which they really appreciate. If they’re here early for their time we’ll get them loaded on their cart and let them start using it right away.” Very commonly these newer customers will let the Bergen Point staff know they don't get treatment like this elsewhere. “When they tell us that," comments Miller, “we can be pretty sure they're saying it to their friends, which translates to very valuable word-of-mouth advertising.”

The course has expanded its audience not just in quantity, but also demographically. “These customers are younger, they book online, they book at all hours of the day and night, and they don't complain,” says Miller. “They all take carts, whenever they play. They are a demographic of golfer we haven't seen around here in the past.”

His sense is that they also are not particularly price-sensitive. "Suffolk County, which owns the property, regulates what we can charge for green fees," explains Miller, who is a concessionaire paying rent to the county and operating the golf business as his own.

Miller made a key personnel move when he hired Tim Baker as course superintendent. Conditioning at Bergen Point has steadily improved to a point where, this season, “the greens are perfect,” says Miller. “There's no other word for them.” So, it’s a clear case of the right product, at the right time, being marketed effectively.

To learn more on how GOLF Business Solutions can attract more golfers to your course, CLICK HERE.


Split Rock golf course

Market your course with video

Jun 13, 2019

The famed sales trainer and motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar, brought the concept to everyman language when he said, "All things being equal, people buy from their friends." He then added, "All things not being equal, people still buy from their friends." It seems like common sense, but "relationship marketing" was considered an innovative breakthrough a generation ago.

It seems simple, but if a course operator wants to sell tee times to golfers, he should try and build friendships with golfers in his area. That's precisely what John Brewer Jr., General Manager of Split Rock Golf Club in Orient, Ohio, has been doing for years. Only now he's using short videos as a high-powered, revenue-driving tool in that effort. Teaming up with his Plus Specialist from GOLF Business Solutions, Melissa De La Paz, Brewer has been planning, producing and posting weekly videos, then tracking the results and continually refining strategy.

"A local company that does video production and marketing for small businesses made a presentation to us that included some of the results they could deliver, in terms of click-throughs and likes and so forth," says Brewer. "The numbers were basically the same as what we're achieving on our own, in our work with Melissa, so that was very satisfying to see."

Golfers who follow "The Rock" on Facebook enjoy the videos and don't mind Brewer's straight-forward approach.

"We're doing this to start a conversation with our customers and see where it leads," says Brewer." It's personal. It's not fancy in the least, and maybe that's why people come into the shop and start talking about our videos and ask us what we're planning to do next."

All marketing and selling should conclude with a call-to-action—that's the accepted wisdom. However, in relationship marketing, the action isn't necessarily a purchase. Earlier this season, Brewer worked with De La Paz on a video promoting a used-ball drive that resulted in some 20 golfers showing up to donate buckets of shag balls that had been gathering dust in their garages.

"We had an unexpected range ball shortage, and I know for a fact that half our players have a big stash of scuffed balls they can't seem to toss out," explains Brewer. "We put out our request via video and got a great response. Everybody was talking about it—that's the whole point anyway, the back and forth interaction."

Mike Hendrix, Vice President of Business Services at GOLF Business Solutions, agrees entirely with the Split Rock concept of video that is sincerely personal. The point of it is making a genuine connection, not an action-driven message that a typical marketer would use.

"When you are selling golf," says Hendrix, "you're basically inducing a person to do the thing they want to do. They want to engage with their favorite activity in their ideal environment. So, let's just get the engagement process started—and video is the tool for that. It's natural and easy to consume video—especially on your smartphone, which is where so much content gets consumed today."

Led by Hendrix and Plus Specialist Gabriela Vaughan, the GOLF Business Solutions team recently introduced Clubhouse Bulletin, a video newsletter customized for private clubs as a way for them to connect with members. The natural ease and charm of Bailey Mosier, a GOLF Channel studio host, supply those qualities. Mosier fronts (and co-produces) these customized "video newsletters" for the top clubs now enrolled in the program.

By using broadcast-quality production elements, with the GOLF Channel Newsroom as a backdrop, a Clubhouse Bulletin segment holds a viewer's attention as it delivers engaging content—news, events, and important updates. Other production values include professional course imagery, a scrolling information ticker, and club-specific branding in each video.

"Club GMs and officers will view a sample segment and assume there's a high cost to get involved," says Hendrix. "But the cost of entry for a club to add this powerful communication tool and really build engagement is very reasonable." While it's generally a means of connecting with and retaining the existing member, Clubhouse Bulletin enrollment also allows a club to create an outreach video showcasing it for potential new members.

Humans are wired to process information visually–it's how our brains work. Golfers are wired to enjoy their experiences at your course or club by personally connecting with the people who provide them with service and a great product. Short videos inviting viewers to come and enjoy themselves will make a strong impression—and produce business results.

To discover more about Clubhouse Bulletin and what it can do for your course, CLICK HERE.


Shingle Creek Golf Club in Orlando benefits from the Premium Marketing Program

Premium Marketing Program fills tee sheets

Jun 11, 2019

For anyone attempting to fill a tee sheet, the gold standard in digital marketing is GOLF Business Solutions' Premium Marketing Program - an enhanced-marketing program exclusive to online tee time sales. It's been around since 2011 and continues to gain a stronghold in the marketplace.

Eligible partner courses who invest in PMP benefit from a wide array of advantageous placements and optimized positioning. The most significant advantage is top placement among the search results seen by golfers when shopping online in a particular market. That top placement has enough prominence to be a real advantage.

As an added new feature, PMP provides a newly redesigned way for participating courses to show up on the Destinations page. This top-of-page placement is sure to catch the eye of any golfer traveling outside his or her home base.

"What the golfer sees is high-res imagery and information about the property, funneling the user directly to the course's inventory page to facilitate the booking," says Matt Guy, Senior Manager of Sales Operations for GOLF Business Solutions. "Previously, the up-top placement of the PMP partner had a banner-ad look. We've moved to a tile-type design that creates a solo spotlight position above the fold."

PMP golf courses are part of an exclusive group, with just over 1,300 enrolled in the program. Being a good fit is all about how engaged and energized an operator is, and whether his/her strategic ideas align with the concepts on which PMP is based.

The product development team at GOLFNOW has tweaked and improved the program steadily, using performance analytics along with feedback from course operators. The revenue record over that period tells a compelling tale of effectiveness.

“When you look at the before-and-after for a course that joins PMP, the average revenue increase within the GOLFNOW booking platform is 30 percent,” says Guy. “Courses in the program get seen online very prominently, as part of a rotation. At times they will be shown exclusively. The overall result is much-improved click-through to completed bookings.”

The majority of current PMP golf courses have been on the platform for multiple years without interruption, according to Guy. “When a spot opens, the GOLFNOW rep in that geographic area will generally have several courses in mind as a replacement.” A belief in optimizing revenue through effective use of dynamic pricing is a primary indicator of strong potential as a PMP partner.

PMP courses are also featured in daily emails to the platform’s golfer database, which is geo-based. A significant benefit appears in the “Best Bets” email. This email is exclusive to the PMP level of partnership, which makes you the only option that the golfer arriving with cash in hand will see.

“That’s 100 percent share of voice,” says Ryan Heaton, Director of Sales Operations for GOLF Business Solutions, with emphasis on the once-weekly email, “which by any measure is a huge value.” In addition to that exclusive Best Bets positioning, participating courses also gain access to the “Book Early” email. It spotlights PMP partners and is delivered to golfers’ inboxes based on their booking behavior and similar course interests.

Similarly, there is a “stay and play” page on GOLF Advisor for every market. Although best suited to resorts, any PMP course that finds a lodging partner can provide that information to its GOLFNOW rep. Then, package links are set up so that customers get routed directly to the hotel partner and are supplied with a code to book right then and there. “Listing yourself on the stay and play page will result in a lot of very relevant impressions,” says Heaton.

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

To make a move to GOLF Business Solutions’ Premier Marketing Program, you must be well-positioned and ready to try to maximize the facility you’ve worked so hard to build and beautify. PMP is unmatched in today’s marketplace. CLICK HERE to learn more.


Golf Advisor reviewer

GOLF Advisor - why ratings and reviews matter

May 28, 2019

When was the last time you spent money without first checking reviews and ratings online? Verifying what others think of the product or service has become integral to the buying process. It’s true for washing machines, hotels, restaurants, shoes and plumbers. It’s even true for golf courses.

Mike Lowe, Vice President and General Manager of GOLF Advisor, has been involved since it’s inception with golf’s leading source of course ratings and reviews.“We saw the potential for user-generated reviews and built a great foundation on GOLFNOW,” he said. “Within a year of our launch as a separate brand in February 2014, GOLF Advisor already had become the internet’s leader, having aggregated nearly 300,000 reviews.”
 

GOLF Advisor
 

GOLF Advisor’s rapid trajectory has continued hosting nearly 900,000 reviews covering more than 15,000 courses worldwide. They’ve recently expanded GOLF Advisor's travel footprint through a new GOLF Channel television series, hosted trips and more. These offerings ensure golfers deciding where they want to play next will begin that search at GOLF Advisor and GOLFNOW.

To benefit users, GOLF Advisor expands its content offerings well beyond merely posting user-generated reviews. Trust is essential, says Lowe. “When you’re on GOLF Advisor versus Yelp or others, you are getting expert editorial from our writers. These ratings and reviews from the experts are matched up with peer-to-peer reviews. Additionally, from our angle, you know that the golfer giving five stars on the course you are looking at is John Smith who is 55 to 64 years old with a three handicap. It gives you, the golfer, the best of both worlds — reviews from experts and from the actual golfer that you relate to. When our writers say you can expect a great experience, you can see if golfers like you are saying the same thing.”

That attention to high-quality content has paid off. “When we launched we had no presence in the search engine rankings,” Lowe said.

“Today, a major percentage of our traffic comes from search. We rank extremely well for destinations and also really well for golf courses. That strong SEO presence not only is great for getting new customers, but also, once that golfer finds us, they use us as one of their stops. They look to us for advice.”

There is no question that ratings and reviews of your course matter on GOLF Advisor. Lowe says his team is blunt in explaining that fact to operators who may take a casual approach to customer reviews or ignore them altogether.

“It’s free, there is no cost to them to respond to reviews, change photos, feature their strongest characteristics and so forth," he continued. "They can choose to engage or not to engage. But the fact is we see the golf courses who do get involved really benefit.”

Mission Inn Resort & Club in Orlando can attest to the benefits. “To say that the GOLF Advisor reviews and ratings have helped the resort is quite an understatement,” said Drew Toth, director of sales and marketing. “Golf rounds and golf package growth are up substantially.”

Michael Bowery, director of golf for Mission Inn, echoed that view. “We have a whole mix of business we have cultivated over the years — corporate business, golf tournaments, fundraising events. When we get everyone together before a shotgun start, I’ll share the story about how special this place is. When I tell them they are about to play El Campeón and it is consistently a top-rated golf course in the state of Florida on GOLF Advisor that gets their attention.”

Bowery pointed out Mission Inn’s exemplary ratings and reviews on GOLF Advisor are a key element in the selling process.

“The tough part is getting the golfers’ attention and getting them out here. Once they get here and experience Mission Inn, they come back. I mean, we have a group that has returned every year for 43 years. But when people are planning a golf event in Orlando, and they see our rankings are so high, they add us to their rotation. Ratings and reviews are the most powerful part of the marketing mix,” Toth said simply.

To maximize its power, you must nourish your connection to the golfer and engage them in the review. Thanking someone for complimenting your course goes a long way to cementing a loyal customer relationship. And when a golfer cites something that was lacking in his or her experience with your course? Acknowledging the customer’s issue directly, perhaps even offering a bounce back round at a discount, is a proven way to restore a customer’s perception. Their review is also feedback to guide what to fix at your facility, especially if you see the same complaint more than once.

Lowe likes to remind operators — especially those concerned about negative reviews — that the overall average for courses is 3.9 stars out of five. “Most golfers are sharing great experiences. And on those occasions where there may have been a bad review because of course condition or a temporary situation at the facility, our algorithm heavily weighs the most recent six months. A bad review in the past isn’t going to poison your rating forever.”

Whether it’s mitigating a less-than-stellar review or upping your ratings review game and reaping the rewards, Lowe offers some simple advice any operation can start employing today:

“Enthusiastically and consistently solicit reviews.”

Reviews are valuable currency, and the more you have, the better. Remind golfers throughout your facility. “Print up business cards that ask golfers to visit GOLF Advisor and rate their round,” Lowe said. 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 available so employees can ask for the review right there with the customer.

“And most importantly train all of your staff to greet guests, communicate politely and deliver top-shelf service. I work with some courses that reward any employee who gets called out in a review by name. That’s one way to incentivize great service and ensure a great review,” says Lowe.

Finally, Lowe advises all courses to put their best foot forward on GOLF Advisor by updating photos and content and to dedicate some time daily to engaging with reviewers. Two-way conversation is your opportunity to thank customers, acknowledge when you’ve made a mistake and show every potential customer the experience they can expect.

Discover more about how GOLF Advisor can boost your business today! LEARN MORE >>


GOLFPASS

New ‘perks’ program motivates customers

May 28, 2019

Golf is a lifestyle for a lifetime. And as we golfers pursue our passion, the most popular ways we like to connect with the game is through playing, learning, watching, shopping and traveling. There’s no question that we’re always up for a round!

Members of the new GOLFPASS program, recently launched in partnership between Rory McIlroy and NBC Sports Group, are psyched about the host of exclusive, ongoing perks and benefits that not only help them make those connections but also make it easier to get out and play.

Now, golf courses that partner with GOLFNOW have an opportunity to make their own connections with avid golfers through a new program called GOLFPASS Perks.

The concept is simple and on-boarding is fast. Select the Perks you want to offer from a range of categories including food and beverage, golf shop, tee times and more. Examples include 2-for-1 drinks, same-day replay and complimentary range balls. Golfers booking tee times on GOLFNOW will be able to see that you offer Perks through a visual icon badge as part of your listing. Note that at least one selection from each category is required. Courses are also welcome to offer their own custom Perks. 

GOLFPASS Perks may be new to the market but it’s off to a fast start, with 100-plus courses already participating and prior testing revealing solid proof of consumer responsiveness.

Jerramy Hainline, Vice President of Sales for GOLFNOW and Golf Advisor, has been shepherding the program from development to early deployment, including the beta test. “What we found from our initial analytics is highly encouraging,” says Hainline. “Year over year, in comparable time periods, the partner courses we studied show greater engagement with customers coming through the GOLFNOW portal and a higher spend per visit by those customers.”

Lots of valuable evidence about how Perks can motivate your customer is available through our G1 premier management solution. “We’re looking forward to having lots of G1 partner courses badge their GOLFPASS customers on the system and automatically get reports that show visit patterns and spend-per-visit, and which of the perks are getting the most usage,” says Hainline. “That is rich data for the operator to see at a glance and utilize for current and future marketing initiatives.”

Meanwhile, the GOLFNOW data analytics group will be learning more and more about GOLFPASS use in general, so that suggestions and tie-ins can be offered to course partners on a regular basis. “People who sign up for GOLFPASS who identify with “Play” as their No. 1 motivation are the most loyal, most active golfers in our whole ecosystem,” says Hainline. “The Perks icon is a course’s way to tell that group of people there is a red carpet rolled out for them.”

 

Click the following links to learn more about G1 or GOLFPASS or contact your market sales manager today.


 


Drones can help capture the perfect fly-over video of your golf course.

Bolster golf course marketing through visuals

May 15, 2019

Photos and videos are proven ways to impress and engage with your audience.

You’ve maintained and updated your golf course to make it stand apart, but that’s just job one when it comes to image. Job two is marketing your course in distinctive, eye-catching ways that will increase golfers at your course. Society is more visual now than ever before. People respond strongly to what they’re shown - whether it's a first impression or cumulatively over time.

“A course’s website and its promotional materials can help create an emotional connection that keeps customers engaged and builds their loyalty,” says marketing expert Lindsey Mammen, director of creative solutions, GOLF Business Solutions. “One of the best ways to do that is through photography and video that’s lively and well-executed.”

Mammen drives her point home by citing statistics from digital marketing firm HubSpot, which states that embedding videos in landing pages can increase conversion by over 80 percent. They also say that adding a video to marketing emails can boost click-through rates by 200 to 300 percent. “It’s worth reviewing your visual presentation, and asking whether it’s got this kind of potency,” she said. “Will it attract, inform, excite, and charm the people who see it?”

Building blocks for visual marketing can include the course and clubhouse photos, course videos, and the design production. With the arrival of drone technology, golf courses have gained a useful and relatively affordable visual option—flyover video and still shots. In the past it was unusual to see aerial visuals of public courses, but lately, there’s more of it showing up.

Pictures and videos on websites start with homepage beauty shots and can extend to images that cover the services listed across the website. To gain a more visual advantage, courses might look at improving the imagery they use for those secondary assets. In general, pages for practice facilities, leagues, instruction, junior clinics, or 19th Hole dining seldom get a strong visual showcase. According to Mammen, “relying on text explanations to impress a site visitor who’s curious about those aspects of your business is a lost opportunity.”

 

Stand out from the crowd with professional drone footage and imagery

Outbound marketing, such as email and social media posts, will need to reflect or echo the visual “signature” found on your site. Email marketing fights for your audiences attention and strives to be remembered. The inbox of any customer you’re marketing to gets filled up with messages from a wide array of sources. Remember, the level of sophistication in branding and selling utilized by other marketers is what you're measured against. Engage your audience with your style of snapshots and links to short videos through email and posted across your social channels.

 

Promote your strengths with creativity

Sometimes a different approach to video can be effective, but keep in mind that it should be faithful to the brand you’ve created. Take the out-of-the-box efforts of Palm Beach National Golf & Country Club in West Palm Beach, Florida for example. Mike Dahlstrom, director of sales and hospitality, takes on the character of “Mikey D,” who horses around on-camera to make a point. In his short videos, Dahlstrom hangs out with regulars, paddle-boards across water hazards, and runs beat-the-pro trick shot competitions.

The tagline “P2B” is shown in a GIF animation during the intro and outro of Dahlstrom’s amusing home-movie presentations. That’s done to continually support a brand identification of Palm Beach National as the “place to be” for golfers in the region. Also, a pop-up box with "book now" call-to-action is shown to engaged users as the video clip is rolling. It’s clear that Mikey D has a particular talent for performing, and this course is dedicated to investing in marketing all facets of their business.  

Palm Beach National’s approach isn’t for every golf course – and it shouldn’t be. Palm Beach National wins by focusing on visuals and staying consistent with their brand and key messaging - a lesson we can all learn from "Mikey D".

So, if your competition is sending out lively, engaging messages with clear visuals - take notice. Your recipients love the game, but marketing to them is solely based on rules of engagement. 

 

To learn more about our marketing services, CLICK HERE.