May 2024 | Two Ways You Could Be More Like Augusta National

   As seen in Golf Business May/June 2024   

jk.jpgBy Jay Karen, NGCOA CEO

I had the good fortune of attending my tenth Masters tournament for about 24 hours, including the 50th anniversary of the Golf Writers Association of America awards dinner. While it was a whirlwind trip, I had enough time to make a few observations about my experience at the world’s most famous golf club, located about two hours up the road from Snellville, Georgia, where I grew up playing golf at Summit Chase Country Club. 
Augusta National has created and curated a patron experience that has been described as “Disney for adults.” There’s some truth to that description, because 1) everyone is happy to be there, 2) you feel like a kid being around such a storied place and in close proximity to famous characters from your childhood (for me, that includes Tom Watson, Freddie Couples, Ben Crenshaw, Jack Nicklaus and more), and 3) the tactile experience is flawless: you won’t find a single piece of trash or see a blade of grass out of place at Amen Corner or in front of Big Thunder Mountain. 
Let me see if I can connect a few dots for course owners and operators. Imagine trying to run a small business with Disney-level expectations. Hard, right? Perhaps. But when I look closely, I see a couple of things that do not require millions of dollars to make happen. 
Everyone from the security guard waving a wand from my shoulders to my shins, to the old veteran guarding the ropes at the clubhouse entrance, seemed to be as tickled as me about having a wonderful experience. I can see the C-suite executives with the tournament wishing this for all the patrons, but the security and service people? I was blown away. This comes down to training and culture – two domains any course owner or operator can be intentional about. From the counter attendant, to the starter, to the beverage cart attendant – when they project a feeling of “I’m glad you’re here today,” there may be nothing more powerful for customer retention. When guests or first-time customers are treated as warmly as long-time members, you know you’re at a special place. Get intentional about this, and your customers will spread the word about how well they were treated.
One for the Women
It’s not unusual or uncommon for the typical golf course or club to have special events just for women. But the page you can take from the AGNC playbook is by exceeding expectations in this realm. History withstanding here, there was a bit of an earthquake in the golf industry when Chairman Ridley announced the Augusta National Women’s Amateur tournament in 2018. The emphasis and excitement put forth by the club, its members and marketing resources are admirable. I can’t tell you how many industry peers asked if I was around to watch the final round of ANWA. What does this mean for my readers? My assumption is that you have events or blocked tee times for women, but do you put forth next-level emphasis and excitement towards it? Are you participating in Women’s Golf Day and announcing it from the rooftop? Are you hosting a member-guest tournament just for the ladies and making the prize packages equitable with the men?
Whether it’s at a mom and pop restaurant down the street, or a fancy hotel in a big city, or even at a little gathering in Augusta, Georgia, you can walk this Earth with eyes open and your “business lens” on. You will find inspiration that can help improve the experiences at your own golf course. 
Best of luck for the summer season!