Imagine your favourite sports stadium, arena or gymnasium. Now think of standing in the middle of that place without anybody else there but you? Sorta cool but the fun only lasts for so long, right? Without events these places are short on excitement and when it comes to the bottom line, are missing out on their revenue potential.
Nearly 25 years ago, while I was studying Recreation Management, I took a job placement at Queen’s University. Working alongside legendary Athletic Director Rolf Lund he made it clear to me that the secret to his operations were the programs (specifically those offered to the public). Without them his gyms, pools, and fitness rooms were not only empty, but unprofitable. “The facilities are here and we have to pay for them so we better make sure they’re as busy as possible.”
Golf courses are much the same. In a generally seasonal business (does it have to be?) and in an era where competition is fiercer than ever, programming and creative thinking is a key for a successful
As an operator you normally need to maximize revenue in a short period of time. Unfortunately too many are sitting back on their hands and hoping for golfers alone to come strolling in their doors. I hate to tell you, in case you haven’t figured it out by now (and I am sure you have), they’re not coming in any kind of exceptional quantity without some sort of enticement. They also need to be aware of those incentives, but I’ll leave marketing issues for another million columns.
What Mr. Lund also taught me was to think outside of the norm. Consider exactly what it is you have for resources (facility, staffing, etc) and get creative about what you are capable of hosting.
Most golf courses have a clubhouse, a restaurant, and many acres of land. Imagine the possibilities and don’t restrict it to traditional activities. Getting the most out of your “golf” business can mean much more than golf. It can also mean much more to the health of your enterprise.
If you can bring in revenues in a variety of ways think how much pressure it will take off your tee sheet to carry the burden of your revenue needs. It might just keep you from making some rash decisions (discounting, cutbacks in staffing, service levels, department budgets, etc) that are harmful to the long term image and viability of your business.
Be sure to lean on key staff in your creativity, you’d be surprised what kind of ideas an experienced Golf Professional or Food and Beverage Manager might have brewing.
Consider this idea to open your mind. A small par three golf course that had a miniature golf course and a small clubhouse was relatively quiet in the mornings. I mentioned to the owner that she might want to look at inviting some local new mothers groups to have meetings at her place. An odd suggestion you might think but consider the payoff of having young mothers sipping coffee in your clubhouse once a week (without charging them I might add).
Eventually the children of those mothers grow up and have birthday parties. Where is a great place to have a birthday party? You guessed it, a miniature golf course with a clubhouse/restaurant. The long-term bond is created by the weekly mother’s group and makes way for the possibility of return business from an unexpected source. You already have them in the door; they already have a relationship with you. They are already more likely to deal with you again.
How far you take this extended vision is up to you. Just don’t pin yourself into a corner by sitting back and hoping for business to get better. The revenue you’re looking for is is out there, you just have to be willing to find a different way to have it land in your cash register.
Scott MacLeod is the long-time Associate Publisher for Flagstick Golf Magazine and Ontario Golf News. He has worked in the golf industry for more than 25 years. A PGA of Canada Candidate for Membership, he is a graduate of the Recreation Management Program at Loyalist College and Graduate Studies in Golf Operations at the Golf Management Institute of Canada/Wilfrid Laurier University.