Too many people in the golf industry have lost sight of the business they are actually in, which for most golf clubs is the entertainment business. That’s right, the entertainment business— NOT the service business, not the people business, and not the golf business. Golf is the vehicle by which you entertain your members or guests. Having a good course, good conditions, and a great staff are entry level items in this game. Merely adding the word “experience” to your sales literature doesn’t mean much if there are no extraordinary experiences to back it up!
Let’s look at a few areas of your golf club and see how you are doing?
The Golf Shop
Do you have a putting carpet set up for guests to try out a new putter right at the counter? A TV in the corner playing the instruction videos you sell?
On The Range
Do you have video equipment and computer software for analyzing your students’ swings? In the winter, do you have a golf simulator where players can enjoy playing Pebble Beach while six feet of snow covers the ground outside? Do you have a selection of the latest swing aids in a barrel for members to try out? Swing aids are cheap and players love this!!!
One range has an abandoned van in the middle of the range at about 180 yards. It looks like hell, but 40 people are aiming at it and the occasional squeal of delight and loud bang confirm its entertainment value.
In The Restaurant
Is there a theme to provide topics for conversation and entertainment while you wait for your food? Themes can be simple. For example, Haggin Oaks Golf Complex in Sacramento, California, has historical pictures and stories of the club under glass at each table.
In The Bar
Do you have the latest in plasma screen TVs with picture-in-picture technology so your sports addicts can watch Tiger Woods and the Red Sox at the same time?
When I was in my early twenties, we used to go to a hole-in-the-wall bar in Delray Beach. It was twenty miles out of our way and had no ambiance whatsoever. What they did have, or at least claimed to have, was a bottle of every beer in the world. Since, at the time, we didn’t have the money to travel the world, my friends and I decided to do the next best thing and drink our way around the world! Every time we went in the barman would say, “What country will it be tonight?” We traveled from the Trappist monks’ beer in Belgium to the Taj Mahal beer of India and back again.
On The Golf Course
Do you have attractive cart girls or an unusually friendly ranger who provide guests who lose a ball with another one? Staff dressed in 1920s golf attire? Plaques on the course to indicate points at which famous shots were hit? An ongoing hole-in-one-contest videotaped from above? The longest par five in the state? The toughest par three in the state? Choose a prominent feature of your course to bring out and build an experience around it. Think the 17th Green at TPC!!! That’s a very good golf course but the experience is all about the Island green. Take that away and you have a fairly typical Pete Dye golf course.
In The Fitness Center
Recently I spent the night in a hotel that had a small but world class fitness center. In most respects, it looked just like any other gym except that several of the machines were interactive. The rowing machine had a video screen that allowed me to row against another opponent. It led me on a mad quest to keep up with the Olympic rowing team, which I did for nearly five minutes before collapsing with exhaustion. After a short rest, it was on to the stationary bike, a piece of equipment that usually bores me to tears. Not so today as my video screen allowed me to race in the Tour de France. Would the novelty wear off? Perhaps. Nonetheless, if such an experience enhancing option were available in my area, I would be willing to pay a premium price for it. While your club’s gym won’t compete with a 60,000 square-foot health center, you could add a few such machines to create a better experience.
In The Restrooms
In the restrooms — sure, why not? It could be as simple as pinning the sports pages from today’s newspaper to the wall of the Men’s Room, or a more sophisticated approach like different-shaped wash basins. It could be as simple as just having a restroom with a running water-scape on the wall or unusual faucets. It all counts when it comes to building the experience.
In large cities, many department stores actually attract customers because people know they will get clean, safe comfortable restrooms if they go to a particular store, albeit on the tenth floor! The point here is to think out of the box—don’t think like a golf course owner or manager—pretend you work for Disney and enhance every area of your club’s experience!
Remember, your golfers want an experience, not just to hit a little ball around a course. Maybe they want to get away from home. Maybe they want to be with friends or do business. Maybe they like being outside. It’s up to you to understand what can make the golfing experience better and offer it. How can you enhance the experience you offer your customers? What can you add to offer more value? How can you use sight, sound, and smell to make your products and services more appealing? How can you increase the entertainment value of your products and services?
To succeed, your golf club must not only be more entertaining than any club in its market segment, but it must also be more satisfying than the bowling alley down the street. It must be more entertaining than the baseball game on ESPN, the Strawberry Festival, Chili Cook-off, or any of the other 101 events listed in your local papers’ activities section this week.
All The Best,