The Great Escape

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One of my favorite movies growing up was: The Great Escape. It is the story of Allied prisoners in a new type of German prisoner of war camp, plotting and achieving a mass escape, in order to confound their massive war machine. Add Steve McQueen and a motorcycle, and you have what defined “cool” to the male population of the 1960’s. I continue to grab bits and pieces of this true story, every time it shows up on television. As I got to thinking about a next highfives post, I found this title to be spot-on for golf in the year 2020.

Golf was the great escape for so many in 2020. All we need do is review the numbers. They are extraordinary, the stuff of the deepest dreams! Fifty million more rounds than in 2019, with overflowing tee sheets, and great rates throughout. Amazing! Our game, like big box stores, supermarkets, and e-commerce giants, became one of the big winners in a year where a virus attacked everything and everyone. People working from home, stuck in the house with nowhere to go found or rediscovered the game. At first, golf was something to do. Golf courses reopened after several weeks, and people came…….and they enjoyed it so much, they played, and played and played. All of a sudden golf was the thing to do!

As you step back, reviewing the year of pain and plenty, how did you write your story of golf in 2020? No doubt, your people worked harder than ever. They probably did a greater variety of work than at any time in recent past. Teamwork was probably at an all-time high: it had to be. Moving ahead, what are the new ideas you want to carry forward, as you work on plans to put the virus in the rearview mirror? Today’s highfives post is about 5 potential ideas for your club in 2021. Here are my five thoughts:

1)    Think through how you will build your team, your staffing schedule for 2021. Although many on staff probably became real local heroes, they may not want to carry that badge too far forward. People, all people will want to get back to a life, their life beyond Covid.

2)    Build an education program for new golfers, returning golfers, and your staff. There is much to learn, to teach and to train, as you look to rewrite your script

3)    Plan to have more team meetings, more one-on-one meetings with staff. Communications is always critical to great service. This year is about value, retention, education & service

4)    Plan to delegate more to your department managers. Providing these managers exposure to the other departments will make them stronger, give you more time to plan, as well as offering you important time with members, guests, and staff

5)    Take time to observe, step back, visit other clubs. One of the results with a year like 2020 was that managers were far too busy to wander. At the same time, with the pandemic social visits were out of the question. No doubt, the game has changed, your local world has changed. As the world permits, begin to set a schedule that allows you to observe what the game beyond your 18th hole now looks like. Competitors have changed. You will want to gain a real sense of the changes.

Yes, our game was a great escape during this year of the virus. New people discovered the game, others returned, while the regulars too,all wrestled for those few precious tee times. Even through late fall, I heard stories of tee times booked until sunset! Golf courses were booked solid from MA to ND, to OR. People played the game, and then came back again for another socially distanced walk (or ride), over 18 holes. What is your plan to fill your tee sheet in 2021? No matter the plan, look to make the day an experience for every player. Add education, lots of smiles, value, and just a bit extra. We all love surprises. It is time to reset the calendar, the clock, and the budget. With the vaccine coming faster, soon for all, continued success is in your hands. Make it FUN!


Jack Dillon writes the highfives series. This is the 10th anniversary for this post. Jack has 48 years of buying, managing, and building golf operations. Jack is a speaker, consultant, and a expert merchant. Jack can help you build a successful 2021 at your club. Call Jack, he will not bite. Jack can be reached at 407-973-6136, or Jack lives in Orlando, and has helped clubs and suppliers build better service, adding sales and margins, while improving culture.


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