Spring Training

Opinions, thoughts and viewpoints from across the golf industry

Spring Training 2021 – Pitchers and Catchers to Report Soon: Are You Ready?

By JJ Keegan, Envisioning Strategist & Reality Mentor, JJKeegan+

With the trade show season coming to a close, many northern golf courses focus on opening their golf course in April. When winter sets in, one might have a week or two to catch one's breath before prepping for the next season.  It never really stops, that's for sure.  As a result, policies and procedures seem to evolve year-to-year without much thought or detailed analysis for many golf courses.


A golf course has many forms of capital:  financial capital (money), physical capital (the course and clubhouse), human capital (management and staff), moral capital (the values and vision embedded in the customer experience), and social capital – the relationships between the people work at your golf course.

Organizations that can leverage their social capital can activate pride, loyalty, and enthusiasm amongst their employees with shared intentionality. Social capital can also create tremendous brand loyalty amongst your customers—Simon Sinek's "Why, How, What?" demonstrates that effectively. 


When everything is equal, the firm with more social capital will outcompete its less cohesive and less internally trusting competitors.


How does a golf course owner build social capital amongst its staff?   A 360-degree communication channel is one method. 


Though a golf course that may enjoy 30,000 rounds serving between 3,500 and 11,000 unique customers, we speculate that the golf course owner personally knows less than 400 of its customers:  those who spend the most or complain the loudest.  Who knows the rest?  The staff that interacts with them daily.  Ironically, the lowest paid employee can significantly impact the quality of the customer service experience and the facility's brand.


We just completed an exciting exercise for a five-golf course Michigan enterprise that we believe has great value for all golf course owners to build social capital amongst its staff.  Each manager and the staff person in the administrative, pro shop and maintenance departments were asked, "Presume for a moment that you are the sole owner of this golf course.  Based on what you have learned and observed with your numerous customer interactions, we would like to propose the rates for 2021 and the policies you would implement." 


Questions posed, including what discounts should seniors receive? Should the age for senior rates be raised from 62 to 66?  What is the appropriate booking window for online vs. call reservations?  Should season passes be offered?  84% said no! Should leagues be charged a premium if the course is required to accept only nine-hole play for afternoon leagues teeing off 1 and 10 simultaneously?  Should outings and tournaments be charged a premium of 10%?  Should volunteers be retained?  There were 30 questions in all.  


What was stunning were the results.  Where great diversity in opinion was feared, a shared vision amongst the five golf courses ranged from a short 9-hole golf course to a championship facility.  Rate increases were advocated based on the numerous comments the staff had heard about the course being a "steal" for what was charged.  You could feel the morale soar as their input was included in the course owner's final recommendations. 


Could your course benefit from a similar exercise?   You and your staff are invited to participate in a survey by clicking here:  



The survey's goal is to help create a consensus amongst your management team regarding the appropriate rates to implement in 2021 and the associated reservation policies and procedures. 


The full survey results will be published in an upcoming March edition of Golf Business WEEKLY.  Individual information will not be shared with other courses and only presented in the context of a group of survey responses and, what it may indicate, possible trends within the industry from which your golf course can benefit.


Entities that undertake "sunset reviews" are often amazed at the learning that occurs and the effectiveness of the new rates and policies adopted.  Here is your chance.

James J. Keegan, Envisioning Strategist, and Reality Mentor. His sixth book, "The Winning Playbook for Golf Courses: Shorts-Cuts for Long-Term Financial Success," was released on June 20, 2020. Keegan was named one of the Top 10 Golf Consultants and Golf Advisor of the Year in 2017 by Golf, Inc. Keegan has traveled more than 2,990,000 miles on United Airlines, visiting over 250 courses annually and meeting with owners and key management personnel at more than 6,000 courses in 58 countries.


** The views and opinions featured in Golf Business WEEKLY are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of the NGCOA.**