Friday, May 4, 2012

3Jack's Ideas For Helping Golf Courses

Often times I see a lot of things I don't like about how golf courses are run and I think they miss out on a lot of opportunities.

I think one of the main problems facing golf courses these days is that most golfers have less vacation time. I remember growing up my dad had 4 weeks paid vacation and it accrued if it was not spent. I think after 20 years of work, he wound up accumulating nearly 2 years of unpaid vacation. One summer he finally decided to use it a ton. It was also the worst summer of my teenage years :)

But, I think that was pretty much the norm for paid vacation for a lot of white collared and blue collared jobs (my dad worked for a power company which was sort of a hybrid of blue collar and white collar). Now the standard PTO is about 2-weeks.

I think what has happened is that because there’s less PTO for golfers in their jobs, they wind up valuing their weekends even more. Thus, 4-1/2 hour rounds are viewed negatively. In fact, I think that golf courses need to try and eliminate the 4-1/2 hour round all together because it just takes up too much of people’s time. Not only that, but just the idea in a golfer’s head that if they play a round of golf that it will take about 4-1/2 hour round needs to be eliminated altogether.

I believe that the first step a golf course should start to think about is not that they are competing against other golf courses, but that they are competing against other hobbies, interests, etc. for the weekend leisure time of golfers. They are not just competing against Golf Course X that is across town, but against college and professional sporting events, parks, concerts, festivals, etc.



I think this is the biggie. Rounds of golf, particularly since we have so many golf carts, need to be faster. It’s SIMPLE supply and demand that 95% of the golf courses neglect. A golf course only has so many hours of sunlight in a day. In order to get more golfers playing your course, the rounds need to be quicker. If you hire 2 rangers, a starter and make it an objective for the course to get rounds of golf under 4 hours, this can happen easily.

On the forum members have talked about ‘educating’ golfers as to how to player quicker, which I agree with. But I still believe that when courses enforce faster pace of play, the golfers learn how to play faster.



I think Jack Nicklaus brought up a good point with the 6-hole rounds of golf. However, there are some tricky parts to doing this. For one, the routing of the course may not be conducive to 6-hole rounds. I think one can get around this by placing an employee in a golf cart between the 6th green and 7th tee and check which players are playing 9-holes or 18-holes of golf versus which ones are playing 6-holes. The big dilemma is being able to properly route the 6-hole rounds to the clubhouse without golfers bothering the other golfers still playing.

The pricing would also be tricky because ideally you want the golfers to pay the most money (18-holes). Courses could take the step of charging something like $40 for 18-holes, $30 for 9-holes, and $20 for 6-holes. The key is to keep the pace of play moving so 4-hours for 18-holes doesn’t sound too bad of a bargain and one could get in 6-holes for $20 and less than 1-1/2 hours.



I believe what we are seeing more and more of is the popularity of driving ranges. Back when I was growing up playing golf, driving ranges were not exactly all that prevalent or all that nice. Now, every course seems to have a pretty elaborate driving range. Driving ranges work because they are typically low cost to maintain and golfers are willing to go to the range because they can pretty much determine how much time they want to spend.

Courses could be more creative in using the popularity of the range to their advantage. Perhaps have a deal where for $25 they get all of the balls they want for the day and lunch. Perhaps a deal where for $30 they get all of the balls they can hit, a demo day and have a buffet where they can watch college or pro football later on. If a golf course is going to lose out to football games in the fall, they might as well get golfers to watch the game in their restaurant or grill.


How many of us have gone to a gym where there is a day care while the parents, usually the mother, sends the kids inside the day care while they go work out? I know golf courses have a thing against noise, but once again this is a missed opportunity for golf courses.



When I played Celebration Golf Club a few weeks ago, I noticed that they had a set of tees on each hole, roughly 80-120 yards from the green. These were met for beginners, children and lesser golfers in general. I do believe that golf courses have become much more friendly to junior golfers over time. I remember when that wasn’t exactly the case when I was a junior golfer. However, golf courses have to keep in mind that junior golfers have the greatest lifetime value as a customer than any other demographic of customers on courses. The key is to get them into the game very early. So, one more set of tees like Celebration Golf Club has could be instrumental in getting them to enjoy the game versus having them hit a drive and their parent pick up the ball and let them putt on the green.


That’s the general theme here. Think ‘outside the box’ and go against the norms in the golf course industry. I was thinking of getting together with some operations specialists who deal with managing assembly lines and seeing if we could apply their principles to the golf course. I know that one of the principles is that you want the slowest person to be in the middle of the assembly line while the 2 fastest to be the first and the last in the assembly line. Perhaps there’s a way to use that principle to a golf course’s advantage.


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