Tip of the Week

Building Value

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When Danny Medina, director of golf at 128-room Omni Tucson National Resort, decided in early 2016 to remove the property’s two courses from third-party booking websites, he knew there would be a trade-off. On one hand, “we didn’t want to be associated with rate cutting, and didn’t want golfers comparing us to other area courses based on price alone,” he says. But on the other hand, Medina now had to get more creative in building the value proposition for off-peak rounds. His solution was to change the amenities offered in the price of off-peak rounds on a weekly basis. So the playing rate will include a hat one week, then a sleeve of balls the next, followed ...
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Rush Hour

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Rather than pay a traditional flat green fee, golfers at The Lodge of Four Seasons—at specific times of the year—pay only for time spent playing at the Lake Ozark, Missouri, resort. Golfers are charged an hourly rate, sparing those with precious time from paying a full green fee. The price structure better matches the resort’s unique constituencies. “We’ve thought about doing this for several years,” says golf director Matthew Tausig. “We started it inadvertently.” That’s when two men insisted on playing despite head pro Chris Lash’s gloomy radar screen’s indication they probably wouldn’t play nine holes. So, instead of the $39, 18-hole winter rate, Lash ...
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Braggin' Rights

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If you think the Ryder Cup is competition at its peak, think again. The Thompson Cup, which holds its sixth-annual matches this fall, might put the Yanks and Euros to shame. The Thompson Cup is a Ryder Cup-style event pitting two courses owned by Arkansas trucking magnate Lew Thompson: Forest Dunes in Roscommon, Michigan, and The Bridges in Montrose, Colorado. Like the Ryder Cup, each team has 12 players. Nine qualify via year-round tournament performance at their respective clubs, and each team’s general managers, club pros and head superintendents play each other, rounding out the other three team spots. The visiting team pays its own airfare, room, board ...
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Coming Into Range

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Sometimes, the best ideas come on the spur of the moment in response to a mini-crisis. That’s exactly how officials at SouthWood Golf Club in Tallahassee, Florida, came up with a new, innovative driving range procedure. Rather than selling range balls by the bag, the club began pyramiding balls in an open setting and then charging for the amount of time players spend hitting them. Customers pay $5 to use the range before a round of golf, $8 to practice for an hour if they aren’t playing, and $16 to hit balls all day. Since being implemented, the concept has evolved from a single all-day rate into its current one-hour or all-day option. This proved to be both ...
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Super Shoppers

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The PGA Merchandise Show is a crucial component of numerous facilities business plans each year. For Reunion Resort, the importance of attending has included some 20 membersa dozen of which are regularsfor the past half-dozen years who walk the floor and help the Kissimmee, Florida, clubs professional staff and buyer find unique apparel lines and cool innovations to carry in the resorts shop. This year, golf director Kevin Baker planned to dole out up to 30 PGA Show passes to club members. Reunion has probably sold six major lines and about 10 different vendors through the years that were recommended by show-going members, whose input into the merchandise mix ...
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Monarch Beach Golf Links in Dana Point, California, walks a fine line in its accommodation of group events. Between the meal and reception demand it gets from corporate groups and weddings at the adjacent Monarch Beach Resort, plus the golf clubs own charity and association outings, general manager Eric Lohman must get creative in order to maximize the use of all possible gathering spaces at his facility. One solution he found was to make use of the tee boxes on No. 1 as meal and reception space. By tenting the long middle-tee area, we can seat 150 guests at eight-person rounds, he notes. The back tee area is tented and used for the serving stations, and a ...
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Extending the Brand

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If the decision-makers at the Haggin Oaks golf complex in Sacramento, California, had been reading the HBR blog post on The Logic of Product-Line Extensions, they might have been guided by it toward their recent successful idea to combine wedge-fitting with coaching and supervised practice. Already a leader in clubfitting and special instruction programs, Haggin Oaks was, in effect, missing an opportunity the same way Doritos was missing outaccording to HBRby not marketing a Cool Ranch extension to the Doritos corn chip selection. Once that new flavor became available to consumers, it gave the brand a jolt that lifted annual sales of Doritos over the $1 billion ...
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Bidding On Bocce

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The best way to attract golfers to your club is to offer them things they love. Sometimes thats golf related, but other times it has nothing to do with the game. Thats what Dallas-based Arcis Golf did with Ruby Hill, a high-end club located in north of Silicon Valley. When the club planned a major renovation, it didnt focus on golf, but on bocce, a lawn bowling game. Two oyster-shell bocce courts were expanded to include fire pits and dining and spectator areas. Social interaction is the fundamental aspect of successful golf communities, Chris Crocker, executive vice president of Arcis Golf, says of the bocce experience, which can attract up to 150 members ...
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Big-Picture Thinking

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The Buccaneer Resort on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands is, of course, a year-round golf destination. Nonetheless, in February, head professional Kenny Peets chose to purchase a simulator with swing-analytics software as well as 93 courses to play, for a few reasons. First, the practice range at the resort was only long enough for players to hit irons; an expansion of the range will be completed by the end of this year. Second, a significant portion of the membership expressed interest in using the simulator to track their swing analytics after they receive instruction from Peets. Third, the simulator will drive additional revenue from resort guests ...
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Clubhouse Craigslist

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One persons trash is another persons treasure doesnt exactly sum up Desert Highlands Golf Clubs online marketplace, particularly when member-to-member transactions have included the swap of a Porsche for a Mercedes. Lets just say the online marketplace instituted on the clubs website three years ago remains popular. The idea hatched during a 2013 major clubhouse restoration when members asked what the club would do with doomed furniture. They decided to set up an online marketplace within its website, and included photos, descriptions and prices. They sold patio furniture, armoires, sofas, tables and related types of items. The online marketplace was so ...
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Other than due to licensing technicalities, there's virtually no eatery with a 10-by-10 space in some corner that couldn’t use live music to promote dinner and bar business. Lone Tree Golf Course and Event Center, a municipally owned facility in Antioch, California, hires musicians for its Sunday champagne brunch—mostly serving a non-golf crowd—and years ago instituted a “Music by the Green” program with solo folk and pop acts playing from to 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., every other Thursday. Management has learned that performers who bring a following with them—or develop one over time—can move the revenue needle. “It’s not uncommon to get 60 people in here to enjoy ...
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Bottom-Line Boost

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Rental clubs are often an afterthought at many courses, but the management of Monarch Beach Golf Links in Dana Point, California, has created a profitable revenue stream with its new “Flex Set” premium rental program. Golfers who opt to leave their clubs at home while traveling can pay $75 (standard set) or $90 (tour set) for mix-and-match, top-of-the-line clubs that include their choice of driver (nine models), fairway woods/hybrids (nine), irons (10), putter (11) and wedges (10) from manufacturers such as TaylorMade, Ping, Callaway/Odyssey, Nike and Titleist. Customers also receive two free sleeves of select balls (eight models total) from TaylorMade, ...
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The strategy of building “contextual memory” in attendees is critical in adult education. It refers to making a connection between what participants learn and the environment in which they learn it, which strengthens their long-term recall of the information and the experience. The same principle applied at a destination-golf facility can bring considerable benefit, especially because younger generations desire an experience that’s more than just a stroll around a pretty course followed by food, drink and Wi-Fi. Some destination properties are creating contextual memory among their customers quite well. The Hard Rock Golf Club Riviera Maya in Mexico showcases ...
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Want to easily move name-brand merchandise at a discount, but are irked by what it will cost up front? Andrew Spaulding has a suggestion for you. The pro at Broadlands Golf Club in North Prarie, Wisconsin, suggests buying golf apparel at a discount, typically by asking sales representatives for samples or closeouts. “Most reps have tons of samples they can’t get rid of,” Spaulding says. “Many will sell below their cost of 50 percent off. Closeouts get you better size runs, but the discount is usually less.” Spaulding says he is typically flooded with sales reps offering him deals because he always makes sure to ask consistently, a must if a course ...
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Sundown, Profit Up

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Hawaiian sunsets are legendary. Those off the coast of Kauai’s St. Regis Princeville Resort’s Makai Course are off the charts. Well, thanks to Makai’s innovative Sunset Golf Cart Tours program, golfers and non-golfers now enjoy front-row sunset views. “We’ve already had 1,000-plus experiences in the 16 months it’s been up and running, and we made about $100,000 in 2015,” says Doug Sutter, Makai’s sales and marketing director. “About half of that is cart rentals, which turns into people playing. Once they see the beauty of the course, they buy a shirt or hat for the golfer back home. In liquor sales alone, if each person buys a $10 drink, or a couple of ...
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Upending Traditions

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With younger generations being the key to the long-term viability of golf facilities, some course operators are evolving their offerings in a way that upends golf’s traditions. In some instances, the result of pushing the envelope is strong enough to prove that finding a balance between tradition and innovation is essential to keeping revenues healthy. Consider what’s happening at Bethpage State Park Golf Courses on Long Island. Since 2009, the facility has held a “Party in the Park” event every Wednesday in summer beginning at 7 p.m., nearly 90 minutes before play ends. It takes place on the huge deck and patio that overlooks the Black Course’s 18th hole, ...
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Growing Organically

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Farm-to-table dining is all the rage, so much so that management of Skokie Country Club in Glencoe, Illinois, decided to take the movement to new levels. The private club has three organic gardens—more than 3,000 square feet under cultivation—with possibly a fourth garden coming this spring. Skokie also has a flock of 20 heritage hens and nine bee boxes housing approximately 450,000 bees. “We did our first organic garden [in 2013],” says general manager Chuck Scupham. “I just wanted something useful in front of the golf shop. It was met with a little skepticism—and I hired professionals to set this up—but by mid-June the members were pretty enthusiastic ...
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Rewarding Creativity

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Customers reward creativity, especially in golf where anything more thoughtful than a member-member or a weekly ladies day is seen as Oscar-worthy. In Georgia, for example, one club auctioned off four customized golf bags logoed for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines for Veterans Day with profits going to local veteran’s charities. Members poured in to get involved because everyone wanted their branch to have the highest bid. Omni Resorts has been equally creative in 2016, taking advantage of the news cycle to run a promotion called the “Presidential Golf Packages.” Playing off some admittedly stretched presidential history, the programs include ...
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Enticing young players to get involved with a club’s junior program can help create a lifelong involvement in the game and provide some additional revenue. But with so many distractions, it’s often difficult to get—and keep—a junior’s attention. That’s why one club has turned to a novel approach. The staff at Fieldstone Golf Club in Greenville, Delaware, greets each junior golfer that enters the shop and tries to make them feel comfortable. This puts the youngsters at ease and helps break down barriers. Before they leave, juniors are given a novelty golf ball, regardless of whether they’ve expressed any interest in golf. “The kids are so surprised to ...
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Building Community

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How do you reinvigorate a club that has hit hard times and entice the locals to come out and support your facility? Sometimes, it’s as simple as asking the question no one has considered. “I put out a letter to the members at all seven Cliffs properties asking: Does anybody want to jump on a tractor and mow fairways?” recounts Davis Sezna, who served as CEO of The Cliffs Communities in North and South Carolina when the company experienced some of the hardest times in the industry. “I had all kinds of men and women call and say, ‘Yeah, I’d love to do that.’” Sezna’s offer was more than a chance for well-heeled members to ride on a large toy. Rather, ...
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