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Player Development Best Practices

Search Best Practices by category by clicking on the links below.

Player Development  FamiliesBeginnersJuniorsWomenRetentionMarketingLeaguesTournamentsOther

To find additional best practices using the Play Golf America Best Practices Search Engine, click here.
For tips to create new golfers, click here.
Learn what what makes a successful program. Click here.


FAMILIES:

Adult/Child Leagues
Kathy Aznavorian of Fox Hills Golf and Banquet Center grows the game through her adult/child leagues. The leagues strengthen family ties, introduce the game to juniors and produce income during off-peak times. With adult/child leagues, kids and grown-ups can help grow your customer base while enjoying the game’s life-enhancing experiences.

Child Care Services
Allison George of Toad Valley Golf Course in Pleasant Hill, IA says: "We surveyed our golfers as to why they left the game.  The most common reason was that they had kids and they no longer had time/money.  I think this is the CRAZIEST reason and shame on our industry for letting it happen. I capitalize on the fact that golf takes 4 hours by talking about how it's four hours spent with the family away from distraction.  Isn't that what people are looking for?  Family time?  I offer a family rate that can only be used by families.  It's late in the evening when my course is rarely busy.  Well, it used to be rarely busy.   Now we're ridiculously busy."

This year, I am offering a day care service at the golf course.  When people call to make a tee time, they are asked if they'd like to use our day care service.  I talked to my insurance and we're good to go and I called the state and they told me that I don't have to be licensed because the parents are on the property. I guarantee you that if you aren't offering a child care service, you are missing out!!  I have 3 small kids.  I spend all my time in these circles with parents. 

Family Scorecard
Golf Club of South Hampton, St. Augustine, FL provides family scorecards and allows juniors free golf on Sunday with a paying adult.  Family night: Kids watch movies while parents play 9 holes. Afterwards everyone eats together.

Rosebud Trail
To compete for the soccer dad’s time, Thornblade Club in Greer, SC, created a small course that allows dads and their families to spend time together on the course. Thornblade placed special markers along the course, which created holes no longer than 100 yards. They created a mascot, Buddy, for the small course and named it Rosebud Trail. The first day Rosebud Trail was open, it received twice the number of group sign-ups than expected.

Kids Play Free
(Marketing Idea of the Month Awarded by Golf Course News to Mike Tinkey)
How do you get people to play during those slow times? Mike discovered through a survey that people wanted more family time while on vacation. Dad’s going off to play golf was being met with resistance, so the courses were empty between 2 and 4 p.m. To change that, Mike came up with the “Kids Play Free” program for that time during the day when play was slow. This would allow kids ages 7 to 17 to play free when accompanied by a parent or grandparent. Afternoon rounds played as well as pro shop and snack bar sales would increase as a result. Everyone benefits – the kids learn to play golf, the grandparents and parents have quality time with the children and the course no longer has any “slow time.”


BEGINNERS:

Beginner League
Fox Hills in Plymouth, MI, offers a development program to help beginning golfers make the transition to playing golf. Their beginner league is designed to allow novices an opportunity to experience the golf course in a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere. The league occurs one evening a week starting at 6:40pm and runs for ten weeks. The first night of the league consists of a non-golfing orientation to the game, focusing on golf vocabulary, etiquette, rules and safety. Light hor d’oeuvres and beverages are included at the orientation. The next week features a clinic on the driving range covering the fundamentals of golf (chipping, putting, grip, stance, alignment, etc.). The league will then spend eight weeks playing “their own” six-hole golf course. The beginner leagues play only six holes each night. They follow regular league play and have no other players following them.

“No Embarrassment” Golf School
Offered by Jemsek Golf, the “No Embarrassment” Golf School is designed for adults who want to take up the game as well as for those who want a better understanding of the fundamentals of the swing, and more importantly, the fundamentals of the game. The school of newcomers and intermediate players includes men and women ages 16 and up. To decrease the participants intimidation by the golf environment, instructors walk the students through the pro shop and bag room and teach them the basics of how to arrange for a tee time, how to operate a golf cart, etc. Students participate in five one-hour golf lessons spanning 5 weeks. Classes cover putting, chipping, full swing, rules and etiquette under the guidance of PGA golf professionals. The fifth lesson involves on-course play. Classes are offered in the evening. The fee includes use of range balls and golf clubs. On the last night, participants are presented with a gift certificate for a free round. To encourage continued play, the “No Embarrassment” golfers may purchase discounted 4-play cards, which are good for four rounds of evening golf. Cart fees are included. Jemsek Golf has realized that many players repeat the program and bring their spouses along. Several consider the program to be a spring refresher and have taken the class four or five times.

$1/Hole Saturdays
Red Fox Run in Gwinn, MI, uses their weekend evening hours to reach beginners at off-peak times by offering $1.00 per hole on Saturday nights. This has the added benefit of increasing revenue.

A Place of Their Own
Oak Grove Golf Club in New Boston, TX, gives juniors and beginners a “place of their own” with a small tee box located on the edge of each fairway. Oak Grove Golf Club commissioned beginners’ tees on each of its 18 holes. To limit aesthetic impact on the course, the tees were located at the edges of the fairways near the rough. Mounds were also constructed behind the tees, so all that can be seen when looking down the fairway from the other three sets of tees is a grassy knoll. They look like regular tees-just smaller. The tees average 500 to 600 square feet, and are built up approximately 2 feet. Distances range from 100 to 130 yards on par-3s, 150 to 180 yards on ar-4s, and 180 to 230 on par-5s. In total the “beginner course” measures just 3,200 yards, compared to 6,800 yards from the back tees. Cost-wise, the investment was minimal—just a few yards of dirt and a handful of seed, with no extra maintenance costs.

Mentor Program
Turquoise Valley Golf Course in Naco, AZ has a great way of making new golfers enjoy their first few rounds—the staff matches the new golfer with a mentor, a seasoned golfer who has expressed interest in taking a new golfer “under their wing.” According to the owners, that keeps them coming back!

Sunset Greens Fee
Sawmill Golf Course in Fenwick, Ontario is helping break down barriers to playing golf by utilizing a "dead" time to allow people to experience the game at a reasonable rate. Sawmill instituted the "Sunset Greens Fee" program. After 6 p.m. each day, people were allowed to pay $10 and walk as many holes as they could get in before dark. The goal was to get people out whether they played three holes, five holes or nine holes. Most of the people who took advantage of the program were women and juniors. However a number of the club's 300 members brought their grandchildren to introduce them to the game. To help ensure the program ran smoothly, tee times were taken up to seven days in advance. Individuals or twosomes were matched with other players to create as many foursomes as possible. The staff was even able to get groups out at shorter tee time intervals because most of the players were beginners and weren't concerned about pace of play. Potential goodwill aside, the "Sunset Greens Fee" program helped Sawmill generate incremental revenue at a time when most golfers were finishing their round. An estimate of more than 30 people took advantage of the special each day, which translated into an additional $300 in daily greens fees. Many participants also purchased merchandise from the pro shop and stayed for a drink or dinner after their round. Even more impressive, the program cost Sawmill nothing to implement. No advertising was utilized, aside from a few posters printed from the computer and hung in the pro shop and around the club. The pro shop staff had to stay an hour longer, but schedules were structured so that they accrued no overtime.


JUNIORS:

Little League Golf
Allison George of Toad Valley Golf Course in Pleasant Hill, IA says: "I have a little league set up like a baseball league.  I have parent volunteer coaches and the kids have "meets."  It's complete with team names like Hogan's Heroes, etc.  I have 150 kids who participate. This gets the whole family involved.  Moms want to know how to play, so they can bring out there kids and help them. Pretty soon, mom is signing up for our Ladies Night Out.  Dads dust off their clubs and hone in their skills, so they can coach them.

I have been doing this for 6 years and I have introduced golf to about 700 new golfers. 
I advertise in the school system.  It's cheap and parents talk.  Parents are used to hauling kids to practices.  Get GOLF on that list!

How we shorten the course for the kids:

  • The kindergarten - 2nd grade play from 150 yards out.
  • The 3rd – 4th grade play from 200 yard out. 
  • During the meets, I set up cones in the middle of the fairway to symbolize a "tee."
  • The 5th - 6th grade play from our hot pink tees. 

The Kindergarten – 2nd grade play one hole.  I hold their meets late in the evening.  (7:00 p.m.)  It takes them about 45 minutes to play one hole their first few times.  It is a 6 week program.  Parents volunteer to coach.  Each team has 5 players on it.  You'd be surprised.  Most of the parents who volunteer to coach are really good golfers.  3rd – 4th grade play for one hour and then quit.  At first they can only get in 2 - 3 holes, but toward the end of the six weeks, they can play 5 - 6 holes. 5th – 6th grade plays for 2 hours and then quits.  Once again, they dramatically improve throughout the six weeks.

Sometimes parents even bring younger ones in strollers.  I have them all sign a waiver prior to going out on the course, plus they all sign a waiver when they register their child.

They all have team t-shirts and I hire a photographer and they get individual pictures taken as well as a team picture.
At the end of the season, I give all the kids a golf trophy and I get a local grocery store to donate hot dogs and chips.  We have a big party and hand out the awards.  We have close to 300 people at the awards ceremony.

I charge as much as it would cost to play soccer/baseball in my area, so it isn't very much.  I make up a ton of money in concession sales, drinks, plus the serious kids sign up for my lessons.  I pick a time of day when I'm not busy and have them play at that time.

I have a sign up for the coaches in one hour increments for them to bring their kids out to practice outside of their scheduled meet.  They can practice as often as they like during that 6 week period.  I also hold a meeting with all the coaches and provide them tips on how to teach golf. 

I take all our lost clubs from the previous year and cut them down to make clubs for the kids.  That way the parents don't have to spend $100 on a new set of clubs just to find out that little Johnny hates golf.  I provide them one wood, one iron, and a putter.  I typically sell about 20 sets of junior clubs every year because little Johnny thinks he needs a new set after he uses my cut down clubs a few times. 

I have also created a board, so they help to run the golf program for me.  They're volunteer workers.  Awesome!  It is set up just like little league, so the parents are completely used to this set up." 

Course Access for  Juniors
We charged a $100 range membership fee for unlimited range use for juniors (17 or under) for the season that ran from late April to Columbus Day. Juniors could pay $150 to be a "member" of the course for the season. That gave them the ability to play unaccompanied for $10/round in the afternoons, but full paying customers ($28-35) had preference. At 3:30 pm juniors could play 9 holes for $1 as long as they were playing with an adult who paid $12 for the nine holes. A cart could be used by the adult or a junior with a drivers license at our standard rates. We would usually have 6-8 groups lined up at 3:30 pm during the summer.

One big caveat...Juniors were told that if they misbehaved on the course, they would be banned for a week on the first offense and for the remainder of the season thereafter. You must be clear with the parents on this. We had very few problems.

Junior play went from 1.5% of our play to 7.5%. Granted the $1/player was less, but the juniors filled times when we would not have had much, if any, revenue otherwise.

Arthur Little
Former co-owner of Province Lake Golf
Parsonsfield, ME

Well-rounded Junior Golfer
The “Junior Program” at Glenn Dale Golf Club began in 1985, and to date, over 2000 juniors have participated. It continues to draw over 200 juniors annually from all over the country who don’t have playing privileges at other clubs. Membership is limited to 200 youth who are age 17 or younger. For a nominal administrative fee, juniors are allowed unlimited golf on a space-available basis any day except weekends and holidays before 3pm. Other benefits include entrance into all junior club events; participation in nine-hole and eighteen-hole inter-club team matches; eligibility to play in all Mid-Atlantic PGA, Maryland State, and Washington Junior Golf Association events; and certification by a USGA computer handicap. Previous members who reapply and have played at least six times in the last year have first option in securing their slot for the next year’s program. The program offers four free clinics. Juniors must attend at least three. One clinic, “Rules and Etiquette,” requires the student to pass a take-home test with a score of 100% before they can move on. All juniors must also complete fifteen hours of club service including cleaning clubs, putting bags on carts, changing spikes, assisting in the pro shop, offering support to staff during tournaments, and performing golf course and clubhouse maintenance duties.

Free Clubs
Button Hole Short Course and Teaching Center in  Providence, Rhode Island offers free clubs, thanks to a program consisting of donation barrels set out in nearby clubs and contributions from Titleist. If a kid gets serious about the game, Button Hole see to it that he or she gets a free set of clubs.

Maintenance Test
At Sundance Golf Coursein New Braunfels, Texas, their nine-week, five-star junior program tests juniors on game fundamentals, skills, rules, etiquette and course knowledge. Kids can accompany the maintenance crew on such tasks as cutting cups to deepen their knowledge of what a course really is. Once a junior completes the program, graduates can play certain local courses during specified off-peak tee times for only $5 a round.

Nature Tour
The staff at Los Lagos wanted to get involved with local schools, so they set up a field trip for students to come out and visit the course. They provided them with a nature walk, lunch and putting contest. They also hosted a golf tournament fundraiser for another school and incorporated a 45-minute instructional session.

College Scholarship
Believing that collegiate golf is the best opportunity today to earn a college education, Through the Green’s courses offer two college preparatory programs to selected students from their junior programs.  In recent years, as many as 200 college golf scholarships have been unfilled due to lack of quality players, so Through the Green dedicated themselves to providing college prep students with every opportunity to earn scholarships. Players may have unlimited range and practice golf course privileges and receive up to twenty individual golf lessons throughout the year.  College preparatory golfers are placed on an outlined practice and development program and are required to fulfill their practice requirements (including maintaining a “B” average) in order to remain in the program the following year.  Players are also assisted in finding the right college and making the necessary contacts. To date, over 20 young golfers have received college scholarships totaling $1,055,088.


WOMEN:

Lady Putters
Jason Whitehall at Cimarron Golf Club began a league called the Lady Putters for women who didn’t want to play golf on the course. He organized an 18-hole putting course, including a member-guest event that features a fancy miniature putting course. Whitehall also came up with the 150 Club, a nine-hole tournament from 150-yard marker. Over 200 women participate in 2 shotguns. The 150 Club has its own membership fee, opening luncheon, officers and special scorecard. Now women can play the 150-yard course any day. Even the men are excited that their wives are finally playing golf.

The Players Club Women’s Fun Night
The Player’s Club at Deer Creek in Omaha, Nebraska offers a special program for women called The Players Club Women’s Fun Night.  It is a monthly event held for local women golfers, ages 25-65.  The evening includes a dinner promoting golf and local competition. Two hundred golfers have participated in this program and approximately between 90-100 percent of golfers have been retained.  Women’s Fun Night has generated $6,000-$10,000 in revenue for The Player’s Club.

Golfari
Pine Needles' Golfari is a five-day, women-only school that’s heavy on instruction but features a fun, social atmosphere. Each Golfari has up to 150 women participating. Package includes everything from rooms to meals to green fees. Approximately 1,400 students participate in Pine Needles’ instructional schools annually. “We get them past the intimidation factor,” Holly Bell says. “We develop the comfort level so that even if you shoot 110, you should still be able to get out and play comfortably.”

Executive Woman to Educated Golfer
Juday Creek started the “Executive Woman to Educated Golfer” promotion by partnering with a local law firm that offered a professional women’s education series to include golf as one of the discussion topics. The discussion ultimately led to a half-day event out on the course, which allowed Juday to introduce more than 100 women to the game. And many of the same women came back on a regular basis to play as a group.


RETENTION:

All-inclusive Package
This retention program includes: unlimited range balls, access to informal group instruction, reduced green fees, and discounts on merchandise for a $29 monthly fee (fee deducted automatically from credit card to simplify administration and encourage participants to continue each month).  Since the program was launched, participation ranges from 125 to 200 participants depending on the season, which generates gross revenues of up to $5000 monthly.

“All You Can” Package
Golfers pay a flat rate of $29 on weekdays, $39 on weekends and $19 during twilight. The rate includes a golf car, range balls, food and soft drinks and green fee. Golfers receive a hand stamp and can spend the whole day at the course, hitting range balls, eating breakfast and lunch and playing the course. After 18 holes, they could play again (giving tee time availability). They can eat all day from a special menu. The facility found that not many golfers played more than 18 holes or hit more than $1 worth of range balls nor ate or drank beyond what they normally would. Revenue per round increased by 5%, number of rounds increased by 10% and net F&B revenue increased by 10%. And the facility didn’t have to offer additional coupons/discounts during slow times to draw in customers.

G.O.D. for a Day
At Shadow Valley Golf Course prior to opening on a weekend, the staff takes all the names of those players who phoned in reservation and puts them into a hat. One is chosen and named Guest of the Day. Then everyone on the staff – from starters to marshals to greenskeepers – is made aware of whom the Guest of the Day is. The Guest of the Day gets a hat with a logo and the initials G.O.D. (which was approved by a local bishop). The G.O.D. gets a free round of golf, practice balls, lunch and drinks. It generates good will and word of mouth.

Practice with the Pro
Dubsdread Golf Course is located in Orlando, FL and owned by American Golf Corporation. New golfers get to “Practice with the Pro” and “Play with the Pro” to help alleviate the intimidation factor. Over 1,000 people have been through the program and nearly 800 were retained.  This program earned Dubsdread over $60,000 in incremental revenue and with resulting lessons, F&B, and merchandise, Dubsdread has nearly hit the half million make in revenue in just three years.

Punch Card to Increase Loyalty
Treeline Golf Club in Houston came up with the Treeline Reward Card to encourage occasional golfers to double their visits to the course. The reward card is a loyalty punch card handed out to 1,633 customers. The greens fee rate with the reward cards start at $47 per round-the full weekend rate. Every time card holders play a round, the price goes down one dollar with the potential for the golfer to play a round of golf for $1.” Weekday golfers start at $32 green fees and can have their cards punched until they reach $21 green fees. In order for them to play below $21, they have to have the holes from $47 and down punched first. The cards are valid for one year from activation date. They are not valid during holidays or with other discounts and can’t be punched more than once in a day. As a result, rounds played by customers given the card increased from 5,239 to 9,571 in one year.

Instant Gratification Punch Card
From the notion that most punch cards reward golfers with the last round free, Curt Walker, Executive Director of the MWGCOA, offers a new concept: “Since your golfer is committed to purchase nine or so rounds by buying a punch card – why not give them the first round free instead of the last? We have all heard we live in an instant gratification world and it just seems logical to help cement a sale which is so advantageous to the owner to award the prize up front.”

Couples Night
Once a month, Fox Hills features a special couples night at the course. The second Sunday of the month, they host Couples Night Out. Revenue per year is around $14,00. Tee times for a nine-hole round begin at 4:30pm. Dinner, consisting of a choice of steak, chicken or fish entrée plus salad, vegetable and potato are served following golf. The cost of the evening covers nine holes of golf with a cart for two players, as well as dinner. They also offer Night Light golf. One night in the summer months, golfers pay 23.50 to play with a glow in the dark ball.  An average of 72 participants play each night. Revenue totals $6,800.

Group Lesson Package and "Playdays"
As an impetus to sell group lesson packages, Fresh Fresh Meadow Golf Club in Hillside, IL, offers two complimentary clinics each week, one for women and one for men. Weekly raffle prizes are given out, and drink specials are offered after the clinic. They Another great idea from this course is to offer “Playdays.” Playdays, offered 3 days a week, are designed to help enrolled students transition their game to the course. Each Playday begins with a free half hour clinic followed by discounted golf and on-course instruction with a teaching pro.

Play Area Courses Package
Deer Run’s Player Packages allows golfers the flexibility of golfing all the pristine courses of Chatham-Kent, and beyond. Why pay for an expensive membership cost when you can take advantage of all the local courses that offer various special rates. It’s a great value for business or client perks, league play, or just a game. Ten 18-hole Weekday Rounds (or 20 9-hole Weekday Rounds) are $250.00. Ten 18-hole Weekend Rounds (or 20 9-hole Weekend Rounds) are $275.00. Call 519-676-1566 for more information.

Customer Service
When customer service was enough to set themselves apart from competition, Stevinson Ranch decided to make some changes to provide customers with and an unforgettable experience at each “touch point” throughout their day. Some of those extras include:

  • Hand written thank you notes to renewed members
  • Cold towels on a hot day
  • Basket of apples on designated holes
  • Free five-minute lessons from the head pro as he walked the driving range introducing himself
  • Music, fresh-cookies and flowers on the pro shop counter to engage all the senses
  • General Manager staged at the first tee to greet and thank customers
  • Free keg beer off the beverage cart, driven by the owner
  • “Shot of the Day” coupons, redeemable for refreshments, merchandise, rounds of golf or lessons, handed out by course marshals to golfers with the best and worst shots
  • Fashion violations doled out by the beverage cart girls to violating customers who could claim a free shirt from the sale rack or ½ off other apparel

Office Pools
Through the Green at Highland Rim uses March Madness and the idea of the ever popular “office pools” to get its avid and new golfers excited about coming back to the course for the season. Participants who enter a bracket receive credit toward rounds of golf for each correctly picked game up to 34 points or $34, the cost of a round. The promotion encourages customers to start playing earlier in the year and generates customer goodwill. On average, 100 to 200 people participate in the promotion.

Comment Cards 
In Ronnie Musselwhite's (Editor of Golf Business) efforts to get feedback from readers to make the magazine more valuable, he encourages courses to do the same and provide golfers with comment cards. Most likely, not many golfers will take the time to fill out the card, so give them an incentive to. Offer a free beer or complimentary bucket of balls to those that leave behind their thoughts. Most importantly, take the suggestions and act upon it. Make the necessary changes to give the customer what they want.

Inner Circle Rewards Program
As a means of rewarding returning guest, Bud Taylor, PGA Golf Club’s Director of Golf, created the Inner Circle Ambassador Rewards Program. Participating guest can earn 10 points for every dollar they spend at the club. The more they frequent the club, the more points they earn. After earning five-thousand points (that’s $500 spent) guest receive $50 credit to use at the club or learning center. Membership in the program also earns guest a free round on their birthday and free range balls before each round. Guests pay $39.95 for membership in the program. In 18 months, membership has grown to include 750 members. 

Multi-Tier Membership Program
The Golf Club at Circle C in Austin, TX incorporated a multi-tier membership program intended to “ Leave No Golfer Behind”. With each increasing tier, members receive additional benefits that, for the most part, are inexpensive for the club to implement. Some of the benefits include: reserved parking, free instructional clinics, free guest passes, reserved range space, complimentary GHIN handicap service, and member games every Friday. The club uses each benefit list to encourage members to upgrade to the next tier.


MARKETING:

Community Involvement
Eagle Trace Golf Club in  Clearwater, Minnesota contacts local schools about having kids take their physical education classes in the form of lessons at the course and goes to local women’s business groups and offers to host their events. Eagle Trace also implements innovative marketing ploys to lure people to the course, such as special rates for women on opening day of fishing season (Fishing Widows Special) and Mother’s Day. They include reduced merchandise, food coupons and anything to promote golf.

Receptionist
With increased competition from the municipals courses, Allison George, General Manager of Toad Valley, decided to get aggressive with her marketing.  “The absolute best money in marketing I spent was this year when I decided to hire a receptionist,” say George. Because her golf staff was always busy checking in players, they never had enough time to dedicate to the calling customer. Now with the receptionist handling the calling customer, taking personal information, promoting specials, etc., the golf staff has time to properly handle the customers in the pro shop AND their database has increased by three times. Another duty of the receptionist is to call 10 customers from the previous day and thank them for their business and remind them of the specials. “The golfers love this and are always surprised by our thank-you call.”

Sales Training
Charles Stricklan, with Lions Gate Partners, LLC, wonders how simple is it to ask a customers if they would like to play again, or have lunch at the restaurant after their round? Surprisingly, many golf staffs still don’t do it. And it is most likely because they haven’t been taught to do it. If the idea is to sell more rounds, golf packages, meals, etc. wouldn’t you take the time to ask your customer if they would like to buy more rounds, packages, meals? Stricklan offers some advice to the golf staff, “remember, ask for the order if you expect to make the sale.” 

Birthday Promotion
High Meadow, located in the hyper-competitive market of southeast Texas near Houston, is a daily fee course owned by David Goff. Goff knew that in such a competitive market he had to build a base of loyal customers and cater to them. He needed a way to easily gather more information about the people who play at High Meadow. That’s when he and his staff developed the Birthday Promotion. The program starts with a simple question at the counter: Are you signed up for the Birthday Promotion? If they’re not, customers are asked to fill out a card with their name, address, phone number, e-mail address and birth date. During the month of the golfer’s birthday, the club sends a birthday card with a coupon offering a free round of golf. Since its inception in December 2001, Goff and his staff have mailed an average of 250 cards each month. What’s more, the program had a 20 percent utilization rate in 2002, generating incremental revenue for the course. Last year, the total investment was roughly 50 cents per card, which equaled $1,500 in costs. But on the revenue side, approximately 40 cards were redeemed each month, yielding an additional $4,200 monthly, or $50,000 for the year.

Kick the Player Back
Woodland Hills Golf Course was looking for a way to encourage players to make another tee time after finishing a round. Solution: placing an ad on the GPS system in the golf cars. On the 17th hole, an ad flashes across the system’s display, encouraging golfers to book a tee time for the following week before they leave the course. Those who take advantage of the program receive a 10% discount on their next round.

Customer Appreciation
Steve Sanders, owner of Great River Roads Golf Club, needed a way to attract players to his course despite the economic struggles Illinois is facing. To fill slow days, Sanders visited local businesses and suggested they have a customer appreciation day on his course. When they said they didn’t have the funds, Sanders offered it to them free of charge. “I tell them it’s free the first year. Hooks them up every time. We do our job, entertain the client’s customers and they will pay every year after that.” Sanders also notes all the sales his club does in food–and-beverage and merchandise on those particular days. 

Hotel Partnership
Apple Tree Golf Course in Yakima WA partners with hotels is surrounding areas to help with advertising their stay and play packages. The hotels contribute an equal share of money to the advertising opportunities and in return, Apple Tree offers their partner hotels a monthly feature on their web site and the opportunity to include a flyer in their mailers they produce for their three different 2-day tournaments.

Collecting Customer Emails
Email is a cheap, easy, effective way to communicate with your customers on a regular basis. Therefore it is so important to build your database of emails and collect as many as possible. Utilize the following simple tactics to collect customer emails:

  • Guest Sign-in Sheets
  • Tee time confirmations: Ask customers if they would like a confirmation emailed to them.
  • Reward employees for capturing the most emails.
  • Web site: Sign-up to receive the online newsletter
  • Online tee sheets: Online tee sheets automatically build your customer base AND improve customer satisfaction, which will improve retention rates.
  • Special promotion: Give customer a chance to receive a free round of golf or other special promotion by having them provide you with their email address.
  • Raffles: After events, allow customers to enter raffles by supplying their email address or business card.
    Tournament Players: If you hold tournaments at your course, require tournament players to fill out an event registration form and provide their email address.

Clinics for Local Area Groups
Facing a depressed economy, Frank Guastella, co-owner of Red Fox Run, knew he had to create more golfers. To do so, he reached out to a nearby university, which already offered a golf class, and convinced the instructor to move the class to Red Fox Run. Soon after Frank was approached by another group to conduct a clinic. The local makers of prosthetic devices for people with disabilities asked Frank to host a clinic, which included lunch and a nine-hole scramble, at their site. Now the program takes place at the course and has been going strong since 1997. With the success of the relationships Frank established, other local groups started to take notice. The personnel at Jacobetti Veteran’s hospital sought out Frank to conduct a “Get Hooked On Golf’ clinic for participants in their substance abuse program.  After the clinic, several of the participants returned to the course and are now regular players.  Although he didn’t see immediate results on his time sheets or in his pocket, by partnering with non-traditional customer groups, Frank was able to establish meaningful relationships with future customers.


LEAGUES:

To spice up league play, Toad Valley Golf Club general manager, Allison George, came up with fun, little games to incorporate into participants' rounds.

Putzy Turvy
In this game, participants count the putt first in their score.  For instance, if they have a 7 and 2 putts, their score for the hole is 27.  We flight them all, but it adds for some fun.  The guys love talking about how they shot a 323.

Middle Out
Participants play their regular round, but we flight them starting in the middle of the pack and work our way out.  This helps the golfers who are just average and always shoot the wrong round.

3's Count
We only count the Par 3's

Topsy Turvy
This is similar to Putzy Turvy.  The difference is the score goes first, so if they had a 7 with 2 putts, then they scored a 72 on the hole.

Dreaded Pink Ball
We use the hot pink Flying Lady golf balls.  It's a 2 or 3 person game.  Participants take turns using the pink ball, so basically you have the golfers score, plus a score for the pink ball.  If they lose the pink ball or it goes in the water, then they are disqualified.

String Game
This is a two or three person game.  Each team gets 18 inches of string and scissors when they go out.  They play best ball.  The trick is that they don't have to count putts if they have enough string.  When they use the string as a putt, they have to cut off what has been used.  We usually send them out with instructions on this one.

Subtract Your Age
This is a good game to incorporate with your seniors.  We try to make it so that everyone wins at least once throughout the season.

Pin Prize Shootout
We put crazy pin events on all 9 holes.  One year we had a lawn gnome and we put it out next to a green, so the pin prize was closest to the lawn gnome.  We have farthest right on drive, farthest left on drive, shortest drive, etc.  We have a pin prize on each hole.  Depending on the season, we might have money left in the prize fund, so we'll have one hole that unbeknownst to the golfers, the winner gets $200.

 
TOURNAMENTS:

Blue ball 
In blue ball (for prostate cancer) each foursome gets a blue ball.  The foursomes that finish with the blue ball are in a drawing for a special prize. (Courtesy of John Goodwin, Ramblewood Country Club)

Yard Stick 
On the green if you’re within the remaining length of the yard stick (sell for $20) you can use it to eliminate that final stroke. Example- if you’re laying four and you’re within five inches of the hole, break off five inches from the yard stick AND you get a four.  Keep using the yard stick until nothing is left or you can't use it any more because your putts are not inside the remaining length of yard stick. (Courtesy of John Goodwin, Ramblewood Country Club)

Sell mulligans
(Courtesy of John Goodwin, Ramblewood Country Club)

Marshmallow Long drive
The great thing not the "best" golfer gets the prize. A former pro could barely get it off the tee, it kept exploding on him! (Courtesy of Terry Avery at Carman Creek Golf Course & Practice Facility)

Speed trap for the golf carts
(Courtesy of Terry Avery at Carman Creek Golf Course & Practice Facility)

Fire Drill
Drive from the tee box with a fireman's coat and hat on. (Courtesy of Terry Avery at Carman Creek Golf Course & Practice Facility)


OTHER:

Less than Nine
Ramblewood Country Club in Mount Laurel, NJ has offered "less than nine" rates prior to a shotgun start.  As an example, they'll shut a nine down about 2.5 hours prior to a shotgun (figuring 15 minutes per hole).  So if someone goes out an hour before the shotgun, they figure four holes.

6 Hole Rate
Broken Tee Golf Course in Englewood, CO offers a 6 hole rate as the 6th hole finishes close to the clubhouse.  Their current rate for 6 holes is 38%-40% of the 18 hole rate.  They used to offer this about 2 hours prior to sunset but now allow this to be played anytime if they have openings.  Tee times can only be made on the same day.  This way they do not lose out on 18 hole play. 

Clock Watchers
Hunter’s Ridge Golf Course installed clocks on the first tee and on every third tee thereafter to help with pace of play on the course. The clocks are built into birdhouses, making them very unobtrusive. The clocks were backset, using USGA pace of play formulas that were calculated on a per-hole basis. Long travel distances from greens to the next tee are factored in as well. For example, golfers teeing off at 8 a.m. will see 8 a.m. on the clock every third hole if they are keeping up with the pace of play. If they are playing too slowly, the clock will show a later time; if they are playing more quickly, the clock will show an earlier time. The tee time is posted on scorecards and on the cart, making it simple for players and the ranger to know what time they should be looking for on the clocks.

Positive Reinforcement
Marada Golf Course wanted a way to get golfers to repair divots and ball markers and keep pace of play. In order to due so, Marada Dollars were issued to those golfers who did just that as an incentive to keep up the good work. Marada Dollars, in the form of a wooden nickel, marked with the courses information and a “thank you”, are worth $1 off a round of golf. The idea came to Evans Crawford from her mother, who suggested she reward people for doing the right thing, not punishing them for doing the wrong.

If you have any best practices you would like to share, please email them to sgurley@ngcoa.org.


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