Is “Marketing” a Bad Word for Golf Courses?


First off today, I have a question: Are golf courses “listening” to their social networks? I have left 10 different messages with 10 separate golf facilities in the past week in their “contact us” section of their pretty static websites. In all of them, I left a message that read “I am interested in custom fitting for irons. Do you offer that service? If so, please contact me”. After 7 days, I have yet to have one response. Not only that, but I could not find any information about custom fitting on the websites. All of the facilities had instruction programs listed, some with more details than others. The ten facilities were spread around the Northeast US and down into NC/SC. A mix of public and private courses. Do you think golf courses are “listening” to their customers or asking what they may want/need?

We are all consumers. I had 17 emails in my inbox yesterday that were golf related. Several from GolfWeek, a Golf Galaxy message, a tee-time booking engine, several area public courses and a few that I just deleted without actually looking at content.

Point being, we are approached daily through digital media about golf and related products. I don’t mind that, but a note to retailers and golf facilities: If the subject matter in the email doesn’t catch my attention or makes me say “So what?”, that message is going in the trash and your open rate is going down. But, since repetition is the key to adult learning, your product or service is probably dangling in my brain somewhere.

Golf courses, golf pros….educate me. Inspire me to WANT to come see you. Tell me WHY i should come see you and WHY your lesson tee or custom fitting zone or pro shop is worthwhile and better than the one down the road. Golf facilities, is there a reason you are different than the track down the street from me? Why should I join your club? What’s your value proposition?

Like any consumer, I like a good deal, but there is only so much motivation for me when there is a “Buy 2 dozen balls, get 1 free”. Am I going to buy the balls? Probably, if I need them. But does that mean I’m going to become a “loyal customer” or perceive you as the expert? Probably not. Because you’re most likely not going to do anything to persuade me to “stay”. Can you educate me on ball fitting? What’s the difference between the Bridgestone and the Pro-V1? Does either ball help my game? The answer is “no”. You want to know why? Because you’ve never actually asked what kind of ball I play, and why I play it.

I notice this at most golf courses I visit. No signage to direct me to the golf professional and his/her teaching proposition. Vague mission statements on golf course websites that tell me….not much. Any course can direct me to “book a tee time”. Not many can tell me WHY I should. The “why” is really important to me as it probably is to most golf consumers. It’s why Golf Digest, Golf Magazine and all the others exist. The golfing public has a thirst to learn and is a curious bunch. Local pros and facilities need to quench that thirst for knowledge and not leave it to the main industry players.

I know as a consumer of golf, I’m looking to be viewed as a valuable piece of a golf courses business. I WANT the education, I WANT to be inspired by a passionate golf professional (because that trait is infectious) and I WANT to know I have a trusted source to go to with questions and needs that need solutions.

The PGA Professional and golf facilities around the country are falling a bit short in the “inspiration” and “trusted advisor” categories. You can either snag me as a loyal customer by creating engaging conversations with me and creating a “community” in your area, or you can do what the golf industry has been doing….well, forever and that is….believe players will just “come”. I don’t buy a lot of clothing at Jos. A. Banks, but due to their aggressive messaging EVERY DAY, I know that if I need a pair of khakis or a dress shirt, I know I can get a great deal and that they are communicating with me. They are creating a “conversation”. That’s much more than I can say for most golf courses and golf pros in the country.

I work for a really cool company called RetailTribe. We work with 1100 golf pros and facilities around the world every week helping them grow their business. We help them define what they do, we customize and create content for them to put them in a position where they are viewed as the “trusted advisor” on golf in their area.

We help them educate, inspire and engage with their players. We help them quench that thirst for knowledge from their players. And you know what? Golfers want to have that conversation. They want to be asked “Why do you play that driver?” or “how have you been putting?”. Golfers want to think about their games and discover things. We want to be engaged. We just don’t get asked often enough about what or why we do things related to the game.

By the way, sign up for the RetailTribe “Best Practice Vault” for free information. Good stuff there for golf professionals and facilities.

I’d enjoy hearing your comments or questions. Drop me a message or email me at Enjoy the day.


10 Comments Add yours

  1. Will Hsu says:

    Nice post. I’m publicist and appreciate some of the points you touched upon in your post. Will continue following your blog. checkout if you have time as well 🙂 Cheers!

    1. Thanks Will. I most certainly will check out your stuff. I appreciate you stopping by mindbodygolf. Would enjoy hearing your thoughts on the post

      1. Will Hsu says:

        I personally believe courses are so pre-occupied with maintenance and management that they forget about the marketing assuming the “if you build it, they will come” mantra. Like any other business, a course needs to do research and should put together a comprehensive SWOT analysis to determine target market (i.e. women, men, young, old, etc.) instead of just generalizing golfers in one big category. Once they’ve figured that out, it’s about execution, communication and proper customer service.

        At least in the Philippines, many of the course pro-shops, restaurants and instructional facilities are run by 3rd parties so hard to determine who’s fault it is.

        Very interesting topic…

      2. You’re so spot on with that. And that’s the reason I was attracted to RetailTribe in the first place and asked them for a job. As a PGA Professional, I’ve lived the Head Pro life for 8 years and know that most PGA Members don’t have the time or expertise to properly “market”, nor do the GM’s. So, they throw out a “newsletter” from time to time, noting the activities at the club and may a clinic or Demo Day. Other than that, there is no value proposition, no real reason for “being”. And it frustrates me. So I’m here to help PGA Members and golf courses position themselves better. To differentiate. I love my job and what we do. Check out the Best Practice white papers we have at in the Best Practice Vault. I think you’ll like them. Thanks for the comments, Will. Looking forward to keeping in touch through the blogs and Twitter.

      3. Will Hsu says:

        I think it’s great that the marketing is headed up by someone who actually understands the game and the mentality of golfers. Will checkout retailtribe now. Do keep in touch. I was born and raised in North Jersey. Perhaps we can schedule a round together next time I’m back in the states.

      4. I’m 20 miles from Merion. US Open is causing quite a stir around here! When you make it back, give a shout. Would be great to meet you

  2. Rick and Will

    I just have to weigh in. I agree with most of what you are saying. I believe that most golf courses do not advertise very well and are not really interested in the internet to drive business to their facility. They rely on word of mouth sales. We all know, that this method is fine, but it really does not allow for targeted expansion.

    I have one suggestion that may be of benefit. During the summer hire a student (as most courses do) to be their part time webmaster/blogger. Update the website daily with the comings and goings of the course. This will relieve pressure from the Pro or GM….they can actually manage. This is not an 8 hour a day job, but lets say 1 hour, three times a day. The PRO or GM can drive the ship and the young summer student can make it happen.

    Rick, I have mentioned before that social media and properly functioning websites are the way of the future…..local pros need to embrace this view to go to the next level.

    Lastly, once you customer actually shows up at the course, it is important that the course acknowledge them. Usually the first person they talk too is standing behind the cash register in the pro shop. Not very good customer service.

    Someone at the course should notice the “new guy”. Then, someone at the course should see if the customer needs anything or has any questions. Make their stay memorable and they will tell 10 people; make their stay underwhelming and they will tell 100!

    That is all for now.


    1. Jim, thanks so much for replying as the “golfer” ere and giving the total “consumer” view. It’s hard for me to have a “clean” view. I like your last paragraph and “making it memorable”. How it happens is one….following up is another and the word of mouth is priceless.

  3. Al Weinhold says:

    Found you from your comment about public golf revenue strategies on LinkedIn. There are many of us in the golf world that have moved out of operations to be able to try and help course operators find there way. I was in operations for 25 years and now sales and marketing for about 10 years. Looks like your path is similar?

    Most of what you have said in your blog above, and your post on LinkedIn is right on and I have been preaching much of the same for many years. It has been an uphill battle to get operators to realize they have got to find ways to engage their golfers.

    All really good stuff!!

    1. Al, thanks so much for your feedback and comments, as well as checking out my blog. Yes, we all need to do our part to help grow the game we love, right? I know a lot of fantastic people from the industry, and I want to think all of us want it to thrive. I just can’t figure out where the majority attitude of “it’s another year of doing the same type of thing” comes from.

      The forward thinking owners, PGA/LPGA Members and industry leaders will overcome! I’ll keep in touch. Appreciate you reaching out to me.

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