Bushwood’s Gopher is Alive and Well: The Rodent Showed Up in a GolfNow Ad


By Harvey Silverman, Contributor, Golf Business | Silverback Golf Marketing 

And here we thought Carl Spackler did his job and rid Bushwood Country Club of his nemesis, a pesky turf destroyer. Some of his methods might have been inhumane, but the gopher, or a relative thereof, has survived and seemingly thriving now as GolfNow’s new spokesrodent seen on ads running during the U.S. Open. You can see the Golf Gopher here.

GolfNow’s new ad campaign aims at the millions of new golfers that joined the game since 2020. It’s cutesy, an animated cartoon character that calls itself a “golpher.” That likely took weeks of research and committee meetings to arrive at that moniker.

But the ad represents an aggressive, likely formidable multi-million-dollar campaign to capture the hearts and dollars of people looking for a place to play and haven’t learned how to save GolfNow’s transaction fees for beer by reserving tee times online directly with their course of choice. This is where you come in.

By now, you should have learned the vital importance of creating customer loyalty and making it easy to reserve tee times online from your website and email templates. You’ve increased your email database and now have at your disposal the ability to ping thousands of golfers who have played your course at least once. I’m here to remind you of other things you need to do.

And if you are a GolfNow client, giving up your valuable tee times for what I’ll show you strips away your identity; this is a warning. If GolfNow is your “marketing partner” facilitating your email program, it uses your brand to grab your golfers. Here are how two emails from different courses showed up in my email box:

golfnow 1

golfnow 2

Both emails indicate GolfNow as the sender. Not until opening them do I know who the course is. The “From” should always, ALWAYS, ALWAYS be your brand, not GolfNow or anyone else. It is your email, from your business to your customers, and it should not be presented as anyone but. It’s a dastardly redirection campaign done intentionally (don’t let them tell you it’s a mistake). It is now accentuated by the new ad campaign on NBC and its many affiliated viewing platforms.

Okay, back to what the more enlightened operators reading this article need to do.

Communicate, communicate, and COMMUNICATE some more. You’re mistaken if you think emailing once a week is too much. GolfNow’s several emails a week might be too many, but they must work because they don’t stop. For most golf courses, creating weekly email content takes work, imagination, and creativity. But look around you – there is always something to write about. Regular emails keep your customers engaged and give them a sense of belonging and that they are part of your community. They’ll be more apt to think of you first when deciding to get out and play. And make sure your email template and website include a bright “Book a Tee Time” button that’s easy to see – and make sure it works (yes, I’ve been on sites that didn’t.)

Extend your communication capabilities with push notifications from your app. Wait, you do have a course-centric app, right? Progressive golf facilities use pushes for everything from course conditions, golf shop, and F&B specials to a simple reminder that it will be a nice day and includes a link to reserve a tee time. Obtrusive? Maybe, for some. But your customers can easily disable the push feature if they choose. You’ll find hundreds, perhaps thousands of customers who enjoy hearing from you, further solidifying your loyalty connection. 

An easy way to fill tee times before GolfNow or a competing course gets your customers’ attention and business is by opening a longer window of tee time availability and charging a fee for the opportunity. For instance, if your window is seven days, open a new window that’s 8-60 days and set a non-refundable, nominal fee of $5 or $10 per person. You’ll have to check with your GMS (Golf Management System) provider – not all can enable this. But it generates cost-free top-line revenue while capturing golfers before they wander off somewhere else. Just ask Southwest Airlines – in its first year (2009) of Early Bird Check-in, it generated $37 million in new revenue. 

We can question whether choosing a rodent despised by every golf course superintendent and most golfers will command the attention GolfNow desires. Maybe they would have been better off hiring one of Hugh Hefner’s monkeys residing in his zoo near the 14th hole of Los Angeles Country Club, placed there when Hugh was denied membership at the ultra-exclusive club after he didn’t award a member’s daughter with Playmate of the Year honors. Anyway, that’s the story. However, Carl Spackler will forever reign in golf folklore. Here’s hoping the gopher burrows its way to oblivion.

Harvey Silverman is a contributor to Golf Business and the proprietor of his marketing consultancy, Silverback Golf Marketing, and the co-founder of Quick.golf, golf’s only pay-by-hole app. Harvey authored NGCOA’s “Beware of Barter” guide and has spoken at their Golf Business Conferences and Golf Business TechCon.

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