The ongoing effort of retaining new golfers

By |  February 1, 2018 0 Comments

Another year has come to a close, and my thoughts turn to winter projects, early-order programs and a little more time with the family. When things slow down, I also have time to reflect on the past year, analyze my failures and successes at the golf course, and create a plan for the new year.

We have a team that does an excellent job for our members. In order to maintain that level of excellence, we have to pinpoint where improvement is needed. Like the golf industry, the team is strong overall but still faces many obstacles.

Simple measurements point to a growing industry, with rounds increasing and more golf courses spending money to improve their product. But broad metrics are not the only measurement tools available.

In my weekly staff meetings, I like to discuss how important it is to acquire new golfers and retain those golfers. The club consistently spends time and resources reaching out to potential members. However, the work does not stop there. Once we get those new members, it’s even more important to make sure we keep them. Retaining members is how we grow our club and put it on a solid financial footing.

There are common themes in making the golf industry more successful: Attract more women, kids and millennials to the game. Offer a variety of different ways to play. Change the rules and tools to make it more fun.

Sometimes, concentrating on the larger metrics of the golf industry causes us to overlook what is happening in the trenches — the day-to-day operations of the golf course. It is like a restaurant. If the back of the house is falling behind, the front of the house will too.

Consequently, decisions by superintendents and clubs have direct implications for the overall success of the industry. If we do not address the major challenges facing the turf industry right now, it won’t matter how many golfers we attract. They may not like the product they are getting.

The overall goal of every superintendent on their golf course is to meet or exceed expectations. Clubs are reaching a point where tough decisions must be made that will make meeting those expectations more and more difficult.

Challenges such as community noise ordinances, dealing with Washington political issues such as immigration policy and WOTUS and regulatory restrictions on new herbicide chemistries all have direct implications on the ability of the superintendent to offer a product that will be accepted and enjoyed. Issues of how and when the course is maintained will either make golf more accessible and more affordable or less accessible and more costly.

Labor shortages and a lack of new assistant superintendents and trained mechanics will have an impact on the bottom line of budgets. Assistants are fleeing to jobs that offer 40-hour work weeks, weekends off and pay more than $40,000 per year. Most clubs cannot just raise budgets to accommodate such drastic pay increases. The successful operation will be able to find a way to meet expectations without reducing quality.

If we are not working to find solutions to these ever-mounting challenges, maintenance standards will be negatively affected and we will be unable to keep the golfers we are working so hard to attract.

Without focusing equally on acquiring new golfers and retaining them, the golf industry faces a vicious cycle. However, the turf industry is doing well. It is strong because we have great people working together — salespeople, course managers, associations and government agencies. But as the golf course industry continues to adapt, it is important to remember, identify and correct the everyday challenges facing superintendents in the trenches.

 

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