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Buyers Guide Accelerate

What Makes a Successful Program? Proven Elements That Work.

Target Market:  Beginning Adults

Noted here are the key elements of any successful player development program. If you follow these guidelines carefully, you will have new customers at your course.

  • Offer an orientation including intro to course, staff, golf overall.
  • Advertise heavily in non-golfer arenas (newspaper but not the sports page, call local Rotary Clubs, professional women’s groups, etc.)
  • Put up posters in the clubhouse.
  • Schedule orientations for for lunchtime, after 5pm, and weekends for high traffic.
  • At this orientation, introduce basic ideas and concentrate on two factors: making it fun, and selling the lesson package.
  • Lesson package should be affordable ($100-$200) and for 4 group lessons and 5 “on-course” playing experiences.
  • Group lessons should be limited to 8 people.
  • On-course playing experiences should range from 3 to 9 holes, according to the golfer’s ability. They should, however, include etiquette and a pro should be with them throughout the experience.
  • It is imperative that the new golfer is on the course in a comfortable atmosphere at least 5 times.
  • Create a database of participants and use this tool for your retention efforts once the program has ended. (See further details in the marketing section)
  • Call or email them to offer follow-up programs, such as a scramble.
  • Focus on the social aspects.
  • Your goal is to get the participant to the course 10 times during the next year. Statistics tell us that you will then have a long-term customer!

Whatever the market segment you choose to target, ensure that your initiative meets the needs of that particular segment. Here are two examples of target markets you should strongly consider:  women and juniors. These guidelines will help you narrow your focus.

Target Market: Women

Women comprise more that half of the total population. Recent player development programs have found that 67% of their new golfers are women. If you are not meeting the specific needs of women, you are leaving money on the table. Make sure that your course addresses the main reasons why women want to play golf: socialization with husband/family/friends, and use as an aid in professional development.

Following is a list of best practices from the book Women Welcome Here!  A Guide to Growing Women’s Golf by Nancy Berkley and published by the NGF.  (The book is available from www.ngcoa.org.)

Section One - Does your facility: 

• Offer a choice of lesson formats - including group lessons?
• Offer a free introductory golf lesson?
• Provide women with clubs at no charge to new golfers?
• Offer affordable clinics?
• Offer lessons at varying times (daytime and after work)?
• Offer women-only clinics?
• Advertise programs using the key words and phrases “for beginners,” “no experience necessary,” “no pressure,” “fun,” and “meet other women?”
• Offer written handouts with basic information for new golfers?
• Offer supervised practice programs?
• Offer a social time before or after classes or leagues?
• Allow time for introductions at classes and use nametags?
• Help women find friends to golf with?
• Post a “looking for a partner?” sheet in the pro shop?
• Include lessons about etiquette, rules and golf culture during novice lessons?
• Promote and legitimize 9-hole rounds?
• Experiment with “short course” options and 3-hole loops?
• Teach how to play quickly and when to pick up your ball?
• Offer beginners playing opportunities and novice leagues?
• Offer a choice of playing formats: competitive and non-competitive?
• Host a women’s charity tournament or event?
• Promote handicap registration?
• Publicize women’s programs in brochures and on bulletin boards and local media?
• Employ female instructors?
• Have clean, attractive rest rooms on the course?
• Have an attractive women’s locker room?
• Have a women’s association?
> Meet regularly with leaders of your women’s golf committee to access progress or problems?
• Provide mentors and coaches for new golfers?
• Offer late afternoon or early bird tee times for a few holes?
• Offer weekend tee times for women?
• Maintain a database of women golfers?
• Have a newsletter for women?
• Stock a selection of women’s clothes and accessories?
• Display photos of famous female golfers in the pro shop?
• Sell books and videos about women’s golf?
• Play videos about women’s golf in the pro shop?
• Subscribe to golf magazines for the women’s locker rooms?
• Have female staff in the shop and on the range?
• Train staff in how best to serve women customers?
• Offer golf programs for mothers and children, couples and families?
• Have appropriate yardage markers and tee placements for women?
• Provide easy to spot yardage markers between 100 yards and the pin?
• Provide ratings and slopes for women for multiple tees?
• Have a girls golf program?
• Encourage feedback and opinions from women customers?
• Include women on important facility committees?
• Include photos of women and girls having fun in marketing materials?
• Know your women golfers by their skill, frequency of lessons and play, and purchases in the pro shop?
• Send “thank you” notes to your best customers?
• Personally congratulate women golfers on their accomplishments?

Advertising & promotions must show event is:

· Fun
· Friendly and social
· “women-only”  or clearly “women-welcome”
· Bring a friend – or find a friend here 
· No-pressure (for non-competitive events)
· All skill levels invited
· No special skills needed
· No equipment needed
· Offer 30, 60, 90 minute golf experiences for busy women
· Promote 9-hole as well as 18-hole golf
· Use pictures, drawings or photos of woman golfers
· Offer affordable introductions to the game

To retain customers, a facility must have:

· On-course lessons
· Help with “finding a game”
· Lesson leagues
· Beginner leagues
· Choices!!!  Time and formats

Ideas for newspaper stories that have a woman’s angle:

New Women’s Golf Clinics Offered
[Pro] Achieves PGA or LPGA Certification (include plans for women’s golf program)
Tournament to Raise Money for Breast Cancer Research
Club Holding Demo Day for Women Golfers
Golf Course Holds Tournament for Media
Prize Drawing to Kick Off Season  (select women’s prize)
New Officers Elected in Women’s Golf Association

Special thanks to Nancy Berkley for sharing her knowledge with us for this section. A more detailed look at creating women’s programs can be found in her book , Women Welcome Here!  A Guide for Growing Women’s Golf, published in 2003 by the National Golf Foundation. See Resource Section for more information on how to order.

Target Market:  Juniors

According to the 2002 Golf 20/20 study, there are more than 4 million junior golfers in the US.  They also found that adults 19-34 who were introduced to golf through a structured junior golf program are playing 50% more rounds and spend 70% more on golf that those adults not exposed to golf through a junior program. In addition, 6 out of 10 children in a structured junior golf program will become avid adult golfers—in other words, life-long customers.

· 70 percent of children quit sports before the age of 13 – the number one reason cited is that “it is not fun anymore”. At this stage it is not important that the juniors have perfect form; only that the associate golf with fun. So keep it light!

· Don’t start them too early, and make sure that the amount of information you give them is appropriate for their age group.  Many owners suggest that you do not invite children do be part of a structured program until they have had at least one year of formal schooling.

· Involve the parents, even if the parents are not golfers. When you are able to have volunteers/parents assist you, be sure to assign each person specific duties.

· Avoid frustration by ensuring the juniors have clubs that fit properly. Have them sized or ensure that they are able to get junior clubs. Some companies that make junior clubs are: La Jolla Club, Nike Golf, Ping, Powerbilt Golf, Taylormade, Tour Edge, U. S. Kids Golf and Wilson Golf.

· Decide who amongst your staff will be responsible for your junior golf programs. Encourage them to contact local schools, park and recreation departments, Police Athletic Leagues, Boys and Girls Clubs, etc. to increase membership.

· Consider offering free green fees to juniors accompanied by a paying adult who have graduated from your junior programs.

· Be sure to include on-course training in etiquette as part of your program.

Marketing Plan: Once you have decided on your target market and the program you wish to run, you should next: Set measurable objectives: Setting objectives for your course are an important part of the success of your program. Use the below action sheet (insert action sheet from get linked kit here) solidify your plan.

Budget: Establish your budget now for the administration of the program and marketing to avoid overspending later. There are several methods that can be used to set your marketing budget, however the recommended method is to use a percentage of revenues. Many businesses base their budge on last year’s sales. The “1998 Advertising Ratios & Budget Survey” by Schonfeld & Associates showed that in the consumer products industry, 7.4 was the average percentage used. More specifically, the 1995 National Golf Foundation survey of daily fee courses reported that 8.3% was the U.W. average for advertising, marketing and promotion budgets.

Set your advertising plan:  Use the below sample advertising plan (insert sample plan from get linked kit) to help your plan your marketing efforts. Stretch your advertising dollars by incorporating internet marketing, trade-outs and co-op advertising with a product manufacturer, other areas courses, or your local NGCOA chapter. Make sure to include promotions and events as part of your plan. Such activities can be a great way to create interest in your course and the most effective way to address customer barriers of price, intimidation and time. Promotions are also a great way to expand your client database. Make sure there is a registration process that allows you to capture information on anyone participating.

Determine Timing:  As golf is seasonal you will want to time your advertising and promotions to hit the market just prior to and during your peak season (s). If your golf season (s) coincides with major golf events or relevant community events, your may want to capitalize on the hype that will be generated and do some additional marketing during this period. For example:  The Masters, a local tournament, or a large 10K run will attract a significant percentage of professionals who also have an interest in golf.

Staff involvement: Share the advertising, promotions and public relations initiatives that you are planning. Make sure that front-end staff has the necessary tools to serve your customers. This is especially important when you are going after a new market segment, as it is your front-end staff that will make the first and most lasting impressions. Stress the importance of completing and maintaining the course database as this will help in the overall marketing and success of the course. Use a staff briefing as an opportunity to get everyone involved and enthusiastic. Ask for suggestions and give them incentives to take the initiative to solicit and serve your target market. For example, get your pros and yourself on the local speakers circuit targeting groups that fit your target audience.

The final key element of success is to evaluate the results of your effort. This is as important as planning and placing your media schedule. Measuring how you did will allow you to adjust your tactics and messages to maximize results. However, be careful not to do this too soon after implementation. Your first analysis can be between 3 and 6 months after your campaign is finished. After that, an annual evaluation at the same time each year will provide you with comparison data. Give your marketing efforts a chance. Businesses tend to change their advertising messages and themes too soon and too often. Just because you are very familiar with your ads and can recite the copy from memory, don’t assume that your audience can do the same.

These guidelines have been developed through the careful study of successful golf courses throughout the history of the National Golf Course Owners Association, as well as from information culled by other industry associations as noted. We are grateful to all the golf course owners listed here who were willing to share their secrets of success for the greater good of the industry. If you have an idea that you would like to share, please contact us at 1-800-933-4262.

We hope that these guidelines will help you build a stronger customer base and increase your profits. Good luck!



© 2000, National Golf Course Owners Association