By Harvey Silverman, Contributor, Golf Business | Silverback Golf Marketing
Attending the annual NGCOA Golf Business Conferences always opens my eyes to the complexities of running a successful golf operation and furthers my appreciation for the people who keep the grass green and short while navigating the difficulties of running a complex retail business.
But then, a different and unique perspective hits my email inbox, authored by my friend and NGCOA member Tom Abts, proprietor and resident golf philosopher of the most successful daily fee golf facility in the Twin Cities market, Deer Run GC. Read below how Tom compares running his business to his golf swing. I guarantee you’ll stop and think for a moment – which is precisely what Tom desires.
“As you know, during the off-season, I’ve been trying to improve my golf swing – mostly in search of some distance I’ve lost over the years. However, I’ve come to realize that I need to look at my process for hitting golf shots … and go back to the basics: Grip, setup, backswing, downswing, and finish. And … I’m getting things ready to open the golf course. Apr. 4 has been the “normal” date to open. Like my golf swing … the golf course operation cannot be on auto-pilot … it always needs attention. Unlike my golf swing, Deer Run GC has improved with age.
So, while thinking about my need to go over the steps to hitting a golf shot … I realized it’s analogous to going over the steps to running a golf course. The off-season is the perfect time to do both. So, here I go with the comparisons. I haven’t really thought this through … so I’ll be learning as I write:
1.) Grip. This is how you feel and control the club. I’m a fingers and soft-hands guy. A squeezed club held in the palms eliminates shot-making. Feel is the focus.
1.) Grip. This is your hands-on to every part of the operation. This is how you feel and control the operation. I’m a fingers and soft-hands guy. A squeezed operation cannot adjust as the season goes on. Feel is the focus.
2.) Setup. This is how you position yourself so that you can wind up and then hit the ball squarely at the target. A bad setup makes golf difficult and inconsistent.
2.) Setup. This is how you position the operation before the season starts. Staffing is the biggest piece. Making sure the other pieces are ready - mowers, carts, F&B service, Pro Shop, range, marketing, booked events. A bad setup causes a chaotic season.
3.) Backswing. No matter how good your setup is … if you can’t properly wind-up on your backswing … you’re going to have a tough time hitting good shots. Your body needs to turn and shift weight as you bring the club to the top of the backswing. You need to know where you should be at the top … otherwise you’re lost. It takes balance, rhythm, control and knowledge.
3.) Backswing. That’s how we start every day. The maintenance staff has to get the course ready. The Pro Shop and desk need to be ready to check-in the golfers. The Pub needs to be ready to nourish the players. The carts have to be charged and lined-up. The range needs to be open and stocked with balls. We need to know what that looks like. And we have to do it. As smoothly as possible.
4.) Downswing. The downswing cannot be rushed. A good backswing puts you in position for a good downswing … but it’s not automatic. A great drill is to stop at the top of your backswing … and feel where you are … then, shift your weight and swing the club into your follow through. A rushed downswing will lead to bad shots of all types. Focus on rhythm.
4.) Downswing. Now we’re playing. Golfers are arriving and playing golf, driving carts, hitting range balls, drinking and eating, and admiring our amazing Pro Shop (I had to say it). This is all about rhythm. We cannot be uptight and hurried. We need to be happy and relaxed and into it. Focus on rhythm.
5.) Finish. The finish doesn’t lie. A bad follow-through indicates a bad swing. A good follow-through is complete and balanced - you could stand there all day. It feels good. You want to savor it.
5.) Finish. The finish of a day doesn’t lie. Does it feel good? Did we deal with everything that came our way and make it work? Are we proud of how things went? If we had a good day … it feels great. I want to savor the feel before I lock the doors and go home.
Well, that was fun. I hope you enjoyed it half as much as I did. I’ve had a great off-season … can’t wait to try my new swing at Deer Run GC. But I especially can’t wait to come back and open up the golf course. There’s still a lot of work to do … but we have a good process to get there.”
Tom published this on Feb. 10, timely given the impending opening of golf courses around the country. I wish Tom had been at GBC 2023, maybe as a speaker. His shtick is not just entertaining; it’s also insightful and educational. We all can appreciate that.
If you’d like to read more of Tom’s weekly musings, you can sign up here and expect his email every Friday morning. Or you can always try to reach Tom at Deer Run if you can catch him between working on grip, setup, backswing, downswing, and finish, both his golf swing and his business. Maybe he can help you with either one of yours.