6 'what ifs' to consider as summer golf season ends

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Jack Dillon imagines what the golfing industry will look like in 2021

Imagine you are sitting by a fireplace on a cold winter night in January. Yes, I know it is July and as hot as Hades, but please, work with me. The past 60 days have brought great stories about strong rounds of golf, new golfers coming to the course, and returning golfers, who grabbed their sticks out of the attic and decided to swing away, as the virus has changed the way people think about their time and their recreation. These past two months have probably gotten you to think a great deal too: about your property, the success of the day to day tee sheet, and the big question of how to keep these golfers, these people young and not-so-young, coming back to your 1st tee once the pandemic subsides. I have been thinking too about this amazing V-shaped spike in rounds and have thought long and hard about what this might mean. With the many hours of thought, and hot chocolate, filling out yellow legal pads with ideas about the game, I have come up with a list of “what ifs.” 

Ok, we are sitting by that warm fireplace, with our paper, pen, and hot chocolate.  Let us think about the golf course as if we were King or Queen, and could mandate any set of rules we wanted, in order to sustain the current growth. What might your ideas include? Again, you are the ruler so what might you do for your club, your golfers, and for all of golf?  I ran that same exercise. As the King I set out to provide *6 ideas for the game to grow and prosper. That list will appear below as my highfives, *6 thoughts to try & maybe test. If you have thoughts you would like to share, please feel free to send them to my e-mail address in my bio. I believe the game has a very real opportunity to maintain strong growth if we create a strategy and plan. Here are my *6 what ifs, my highfives, on this “cold” day in July:

  1. What if: you and your team spend an extraordinary amount of time with your golfers?
  2. What if: you create an educational program beyond the swing: teaching etiquette, course strategy, and some golf history, with strong follow through?
  3. What if: you develop an economical series of 6 and 9 hole playing lessons with your instructors? Being on the course with these new golfers will mean a great deal to sales
  4. What if: you create a program offering a series of rounds, during down times (if they exist), providing every golfer a chance to play more golf at great rates for the season
  5. What if: you work on staying connected with these golfers away from the club? Build a digital newsletter, as well as other communications developed to create a solid and lasting relationship with these golfers.
  6. *Bonus: What if: you provide very low cost golf instruction, mostly within groups (plus a bit of one on one)? Bring your instructors into the plan through a bonus program and tie the cost into a rounds program. I learned many years ago that: golfers that play well play more, while golfers who play poorly play less. 

I am extremely excited about the industry, the rounds, and the season, as it continues to appear as if people will continue to play. There is real opportunity to grow the game and your business. At the same time, I am nervous, extremely nervous, because we have seen some of this movie before and it did not have a happy ending. The industry, and the people who are the leaders on the ground must be smarter this time. It will be up to you, the course operator and team to develop friendships with these new golfers. Make them feel as guests in your home. Teach them to play, they will play more often, and at your golf course. This is not a job for the industry. It is about the people at the bag drop, the golf shop, and snack bar. When people feel welcome, comfortable, and feel the benefits of the experience, you and the game will win. One last idea: set the markers so the course is short and easier for those who choose to play it that way. As you enjoy that hot chocolate, remember that old quote: “if it’s to be……it’s up to me.” You, your team, and every operator throughout the country. I believe many of these new and returning golfers can stick, as long as they are treated like friends and not as rack rate customers. Drop me a note if you have ideas or want to comment. Thank you. 

Jack Dillon writes the highfives series. Jack has been in this industry for 47 years. He is an experienced speaker, coach, consultant and an expert in purchasing, service, and operations. Contact Jack if you need a pair of fresh eyes. Call Jack at 407-973-6136. E-mail him at dillonjack81@gmail.com.


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