(This column appeared in the June issue of Flagstick Golf Magazine)
It’s been a tough spring for golfers and the golf business in Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec. While the troubles of golfers certainly pales in comparison to the issues of those losing their homes and businesses due to flooding, the excessive rain has made quite an impact on our segment of recreation.
Many regional golf courses were closed for days while flooding occurred. Some remain modified to avoid swollen ponds and creeks after we endured one of the wettest months of May in history. It not only denied golfers their chance to enjoy their favourite sport but for the clubs, it meant lost revenue, lost wages for staff, and a blow to the economy.
But, there is hope. A silver lining, if you will, among many dark clouds.
In visiting more than 75 regional golf courses last month I was invigorated by what I heard from many pros, managers, and owners.
First off, the golf courses, in general, came through winter in excellent condition. The turf was well protected this past winter and many clubs say, despite the wet weather, they are in as good of shape as they have ever been.
There is also some positive news on many other fronts.
To start with, I am hearing a lot of discussion again about the need to grow junior participation. And it’s not just talk. No, it’s much more than that. I see many clubs reducing junior rates (green fees and memberships), increasing their junior program/instruction offerings, and deciding that there needs to be more importance on attracting the family unit to their businesses.
Overall, there seems to be a concerted effort to just be better. Clubs are taking a hard look at the future of their business and making plans to have better food options, offer different services, improve their staffing, and enhance their interaction levels with customers. They are also realizing that their competition is not so much each other, but drawing people from many other non-golf pursuits.
That’s not to say things are perfect in the industry. Business is always challenging, no matter the market segment.
Now that courses are working hard to create new programs, events, and services, they can still improve the communication of those messages to their customers and potential customers.
If you do great things, don’t forget to get the word out. Many times, we have staff at courses say to us, “did you hear about so and so” weeks or maybe months after something occurs. Being tuned into the industry daily, if we don’t hear about it, often the customers you are trying to reach may not be as well. Be sure your marketing and communications are effective.
The only people we reach out to through our outlets, be it the print magazine, our website, or our many digital platforms, are golfers. For 22 years, we have been proud to be the key source of information for golfers in this region. We do that daily now through Flagstick.com and our social media audiences.
After an iffy start, the golf season still holds great promise. It is what you make of it.
See you on the fairways.