Why ‘Mums the word’ to growing the game    

Golf is one of very few sports that can be enjoyed by all the family.  It’s a healthy, low impact sport that has no age barriers and can be played by everyone.  Golf is the perfect family sport.

If we are looking to attract more families to play the game, then getting mum interested in playing is absolutely key.  I strongly believe that if we can get mum playing golf then she will bring the rest of the family.

Ladies ‘Get into Golf’ sessions are becoming popular and this is something that every single golf club should be offering.  These can be simple taster sessions, where ladies can come and give golf a try under the supervision of a PGA pro or willing volunteers if a pro is not available. 

Ladies tend to learn and enjoy golf best when doing it along with other ladies and with only 14% of uk golf club members being female, there is a massive potential for growth.

Golf clubs need to offer family/beginner tee times, where new golfers can get out and play on the course without the pressure of established golfers racing up behind them.  Most courses have plenty of spare tee times, so offering times for families to give the game a try should not be a problem. If there aren’t any spare tee times, the the course obviously doesn’t need any new members!

There should also be a supply of golf clubs that can be used for free. If I am new to golf, I’m not going to be going out and spending a fortune buying equipment before I know if I’m even going to like it.  Try asking your current members to donate any unused clubs that they have, you will be surprised at how many get donated.  I ran this recently at one club and we got over 40 sets donated!

The family hub

When I was young, we used to pretty much live at the golf course.  My mum, dad and older brother all played and the golf club was the hub of our family time together and I loved it!  

We need to get back to the days of the golf club being the place where families want to spend their free time. I used to love a Sunday afternoon ‘High Tea’ in the clubhouse, getting stuck into a steak pie or gammon steak followed by something tasty from the cake stand.

Mum is key to this success, let’s get her playing.

10 Reasons why you should take up golf

If you have not previously tried golf or have only whacked a few balls on the range, then here’s 10 reasons why you really should take up the sport.

  1. Golf can help lead to a healthy lifestyle.  Walking 18 holes carrying your clubs can burn up to 1442 calories for the average male.North Inch Golf Course. Perthshire. 2015  - 14
  2. You will make some life long friends on the golf course.  Golfers are very social and you’ll make some true friends.
  3. A game of golf followed by a few beers with friends is one of life’s great things.  The beers will likely negate the calories burned out on the course, but they’re worth it!bar-golf
  4. Golf is a great sport to help improve your hand/eye co-ordination.
  5. Golf is a sport for life, you are never too old to golf!old golfer
  6. It’s a great family sport, where everyone can take part and play together.Family-Golf-640_0
  7. It’s a great sport if you like to wind up your friends.  The banter between golfing buddies can be fierce!
  8. You get to enjoy the great outdoors and all that it brings (mainly rain here in Scotland!)
  9. The Golf Course can become your ‘Third Place’.  We all need somewhere that we can relax and spend time away from the stresses of life.
  10. Contrary to popular belief, golfers can be cool!samuel l

 

Taking up golf could be the best thing you ever do…

Why golf clubs need to create new players

For golf clubs to survive and prosper in the future, we have to overcome the current supply and demand  problem.

There are only two solutions this problem.  We either close golf courses until the remaining ones all have enough golfers or we create more golfers to fill up the courses that we have.

None of us want the first option to become a reality, so that leaves us with creating new golfers.  With the correct vision and action plan, we can start to really grow the game once again.  By retaining golf courses, we already have the infrastructure in place to manage the future growth of the game.

Through the nineties and early ‘noughties’ as golf boomed, there were golf courses sprouting up all over the place as developers and land owners tried to cash in on the game.

The rate of this expansion was rapid and as the participation numbers began to level out and then started to drop around a decade or so ago, we have been left with an over supply of golf courses and not enough golfers to fill these memberships.

Over the past few years, all I keep seeing are golf courses battling it out with each other for the membership base that is currently in their geographical area.  The problem with this approach is that in many areas, there are just not enough golf members to go around – the pie is just not big enough to feed everyone.  This can leave us in a situation where nobody gets the share that they need to survive and prosper.

The pie has shrunk and we need to make it bigger

Traditionally, (well certainly here in Scotland), most people have been introduced to the game of golf via a parent or close family member.  There have not been the schemes in place to introduce new adults to the game from non-golfing backgrounds.

I say adults, because there are lots of great junior golf programs in place and these are going to be key to the long term future of the game, but for many clubs they need a more immediate fix.

The reason I am highlighting adult golfers is because it’s these guys who are going to help a golf club grow in the short to mid term and get back on to a sure financial footing.  We need to get more people playing golf, of an age who will be in a position to pay a full membership fee within a year or two taking up the game.

So, what is stopping more adults from taking up the game?

For me it’s simple, there are simply not enough golf clubs operating schemes to help introduce new adult golfers to the game (They are all still trying to win the membership battle!).

We need to look at club membership from a different angle and start creating our own members rather trying to steal them from another club.  There are some great schemes starting to show real results like ‘Get into Golf’, a UK wide initiative.  This way you create new members who will be loyal to your club as you have invested the time and effort in getting them started at this great game.

Get into Golf – Scotland

Get into Golf – England

Finding potential new golfers is not that difficult, there are lots of places to find them.  You can try making contact with the areas large employers or taking stands at non golf related public shows and gatherings.  This is where you will find non golfers.

You can also try High impact sports clubs like football and rugby, where participation often drops off at mid 30’s once the body can’t take any more punishment.

There are lot’s of targets out there, you just have to put a little thought into it.

Golf Club’s need to offer an affordable starter membership category that can be accessed for just a year or two, allowing a ‘newbie’ golfer to get to grips with the game, before upgrading to full membership.

Build up a stock of rental clubs that your beginners can use on the course.  These don’t need to be fancy, just ask your existing members to donate their old unused sets (golfers always have these!).  Most new players will not want the burden of having to invest in all the gear before they even know if they will like the game.

Your Golf Pro is a major asset 

Engage your clubs golf pro in the whole process.  Any new members that you create at the golf club, will be potential new customers for his pro shop and coaching business. I have found that ‘Get into Golf’ memberships are most successful when some level of coaching is included, but this has to be affordable and is best done as a group.

Make your Golf Club friendly and approachable

As a golfer, you may be unaware that the general non-golfing public see golf clubs as unwelcoming places where badly dressed old men spend their time, with rules and regulations from the dark ages.

As a golfer, you also know that to be completely untrue (well for most clubs anyway!)

Golf clubs have to shake off the old stereotype and promote themselves as a place where you and your family would want to go, play some sport and spend your free time.

If someone walked into your golf club tomorrow and enquired about taking up golf with the outlook to join your club, would they be able to walk away with all the information and an action plan to do so?

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Why Volunteers can help transform your golf club

For the average member run golf club, balancing the books at the end of the year can be a tricky task.

With rising costs and a competitive market making it difficult to raise prices to offset, there often has to be a saving made some where.

This saving often comes by the way of a reduction to the green keeping staff or a change to the course specification and as a result many of the smaller ‘nice to do’ things don’t get done any more.  These are generally things that don’t require a qualified green keeper to perform and are more labour intensive than skill based.  The other common area of cost savings is in clubhouse surrounds and decoration.

Although producing a cost saving, cutting out certain non essential works can be the start of a downward spiral, one which can cause the appearance of a facility to deteriorate and the users value perception to drop.  This is a dangerous situation to put yourself in, but one that can be avoided.

Start a Volunteer Group

Most golf club members feel a form of belonging to their club, they don’t just see it as a business to whom they pay a monthly or annual fee.  It is their golf club and they want it to succeed and do well. Many have been members for decades or at least their family line has been, through parents and grand parents.

Traditionally in a golf club, to be a volunteer meant that you wanted to stand on committee.  This is still an extremely important volunteer role, but not everyone wants to go on committee and many will be keen to help the club in other ways… this is where your volunteer group comes in.

This belonging is the basis for your Volunteer Group, your ‘tribe’ of like minded members who all have a common goal of helping ‘their’ golf club succeed.

Volunteer groups can take on a multitude of tasks which will help keep the presentation and standards of the golf club up to scratch.  Below are just a a few ideas of where volunteers can make a difference at your golf club.

  • Small tree maintenance works (Lopping and pruning)
  • Raking leaves
  • Clearing tree fall debris
  • Painting golf course furniture
  • Decorating clubhouse
  • Clubhouse surrounds
  • Bunker raking
  • Bunker edging
  • Cleaning tee signs
  • Sweeping car park

I could go on and on, but I think you get the gist, that there are almost limitless jobs that can be taken on by volunteers, all of which will save the golf club money and improve its presentation.

If you can attract some volunteer tradesmen, then the financial value to the golf club can dramatically increase.

Just as important as the financial benefit however, that a volunteer group can bring to a club, is the good will and sense of ownership and achievement felt by the members.

Golf club membership tends to be made up of many smaller groups.  You know them, you’ve got the dawn patrol guys, the lunchtime crew etc.  If you can get people involved from as many of your groups as possible, then you are well on the road to making  a really successful and club.

These volunteers will go back to their respective groups and talk about all the great work that has been getting done.  With a bit of hope, they will also get some more of their friends involved, growing the volunteer group and the positive momentum of the club.

Get ahead of the game and go set your volunteer group up today.

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How to ‘SET-UP’ your golf course for success

This is one of the most important decisions that a golf club committee can make and is one that is often not given the depth of thought it deserves.  In many cases course set-up is not really thought through in any real detail at all and is simply left to the greens staff to decide with no business rationale.

Now, I’m not talking about the conditioning of the golf course, that IS most definitely the Green staff’s area of expertise and I’m taking for granted that your golf course will be presented in the absolute finest condition that your budget allows.  

What I’m talking about is the playability of the course.  Things like the width of the fairways, the length of the rough and what trouble lurks in potential bail out areas.  I’m talking about everything that will determine how easy or difficult the golf course will play.

By making just a slight change to a course set-up, you can quite easily make it play 5 shots or more harder.

Over the years, I have seen many times where the playability of a course has changed significantly from one season to the next, due to only a slight change in its set-up.

In most cases this is not a good thing for your golfers or your business.

The set-up of your golf course, will be one of the most determining factors as to how successful your course will be and it must be clearly documented within your written course specification or business plan.

 

How SHOULD you set up your course?

There are several things that will influence your decision, but the main two are,

  1. What standard of player is your current core golfer?
  2. What type of player would you like to attract?

Catering for the bulk of your users is absolutely key and you must be very careful if changes are being considered to attract a new target golfer, who’s requirements may differ from the majority of current players.

A course may tweak things slightly in order to attract a new type of golfer, not realising that by doing so they have potentially alienated their current golfers and run the risk of losing them to another course.

In the golf business as in all business, you cannot be everything to everyone.  If you are a club full of mid handicap players, then do not go out chasing after category 1 players, just aim to be the best, most enjoyable members club in the area.

 

How difficult should your course be?

Unless you are a destination golf course, one that people will play no matter how hard you set it up, why would you set up your course to be more difficult than it needs to be?

If you haven’t already realised, golf is a pretty hard game.  Losing a ball in the rough when it’s just a few yards off the fairway is no fun for anyone!

Dr Alister MacKenzie, (designer of Augusta National) wrote in his ’13 General Principles of golf course architecture’, “There There should be a complete absence of the annoyance and irritation caused by the necessity of searching for lost balls”

These principles were written back in the 1920’s and still stands very true today.

There should be a complete absence of the annoyance and irritation caused by the necessity of searching for lost balls. – Dr Alister MacKenzie

Golfers have ego’s and knocking these by making the course too difficult is not going to encourage them to play more. In fact it will have the opposite effect.

The key to setting up a golf course for success, is to make it look more difficult than it actually plays.  This way you get to massage a golfers ego, by allowing him to tame a course he perceives to be harder than it is.

You want a Championship course look, with a members course playability.  In over two decades of working in the golf industry, I have never seen a golfer come off the course following a great game and complain to me that the golf course was too easy.  Following a bad score…..well that’s a different story.

The key to setting up a golf course for success, is to make it look more difficult than it plays.

Take it Hole by Hole

You need to take each hole of your course individually and go on a customer journey.  I’d suggest setting up a small group, made up of a mixture of handicaps and gender.  This should also include your head green keeper and Pro (if you have one).

Walk the course and then play the course, taking down notes from all involved.  It may be worth just playing 3 or 4 holes in each session, allowing enough time to discuss the views of each player.

A golfer will always see the course through their own eyes and with their own golfing ability in mind.  Being objective and seeing each hole/situation from another players perspective can be difficult and this is why it should always be a group effort.

By involving various sections of your membership, you will also create some meaningful engagement and if the group members are chosen wisely, you can spread this involved feeling far and wide throughout the various wee groups within the club.

My Top 5 tips on golf course set up

Below are my ideas on how to set up the ideal members golf course for maximum enjoyment and resultant revenues.

  1. Fairway width – Keep fairway widths generous.  If you want to toughen for lower handicaps, then consider tapering after 220 yards.
  2. Fairway Cut – Decide on fairway cut height.  Mid handicap players don’t like the fairways too short, low handicaps don’t like too long.  Around 13mm would be middle of the road.
  3. Semi Rough – This should be your main rough and cut to between 25-35mm.  This is long enough to give definition and trick up your next shot, but will not cause you to lose a ball.  Any deeper rough should be kept well out of play, so that only the worst of shots will be punished.  Where possible, keep these more to the left side of the course (We have less hookers than slicers!)
  4. Keep the Right Side clear – The majority of club players slice the ball.  It is the absolute bane of their golfing lives and they hate it!  Despite all their efforts, they cannot get rid of it.  As such, keep the right side of fairway landing areas clear of deep vegetation and too much trouble.  Allow them some respite!
  5. Greens – For the average golfer, trueness of the greens putting surface will win over speed every time.  Yes, we’d like some speed, but a true putting green is a much more enjoyable experience for the average golfer than going for maximum speed.  This also keeps maintenance costs down!

 

 

 

 

How I see it

Having worked in the golf industry for over 25 years and been through the good and the bad times, I thought it was time that I started to pass on my thoughts and beliefs, along with the experiences I have collected.  I have been publishing swing instruction videos and written articles for many years and although this blog will include golf instruction at times, it is going to be more about how I see the industry as a whole and how we can help to grow this fantastic game of ours.

Niall