With the recent and unforeseen increase in the popularity of golf, operators are no longer fighting to attract players to their facilities. The name of the game is now maximizing your revenues per customer. The good news is that there are several different tactics golf course managers can apply to increase their profitability and take advantage of golf’s second wind.
Green fee play, memberships, food & beverage, and pro shop sales are the four main levers that can lead to an increase in revenue at a golf course. Of course, within each revenue stream, many specific opportunities exist for golf courses to produce more revenue. If you aren’t seeing a lot of revenue at your golf POS, we highly recommend taking a look at these strategies and see how you can put them into practice at your facility.
1. Sell packages
If you’re not a fan of discounted tee times, you can always package them with other items. Food vouchers work wonders if you have a snack bar or restaurant. They get customers in the door and often lead to a golfer spending more than what the voucher is worth. The cost of giving away that food item will yield a good return as you get someone to book a round and also potentially spend more at your clubhouse on drinks or more food.
You can also offer a preferred rate on carts, food and beverages or pro shop equipment if your customers buy 10 prepaid rounds upfront. This hybrid option caters to customers who are not quite willing to purchase a membership but are frequent golfers nonetheless. Selling more prepaid rounds will ensure that you get repeat visitors that you can build a good customer relationship with, and eventually convert to members. That golfer’s commitment to 10 rounds also means that you’re keeping them away from competing courses and on your fairways. Also, because golf is a social sport, they’re probably going to bring someone with them for each visit, further building your revenues.
2. Custom memberships
This new trend, primarily in private and semi-private clubs, empowers existing members to personalize their memberships according to their lifestyles and needs. Use your online tee sheet to create a list of member services your facility offers, price them in your golf POS software, and allow your members to pick and choose the services they want. This option offers the most flexibility to prospective members and ensures they are only paying for what they want and nothing more.
Public golf courses can also easily introduce memberships at their facilities. Find A Game, in collaboration with Advance Golf Partners, has created a Premier Golfer Program (PGP) specifically made for public facilities. PGP is all about bundling underutilized assets you have to offer into a single membership. The idea is to transform the occasional and irregular golfer into a loyal customer that usage every inch of your golf course.
3. A well-designed loyalty rewards program
Have you heard of the 80/20 rule? It states that on average 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your customers. Unfortunately, identifying your VIPs can be difficult. Thankfully, you can make your golf POS software do the work for you. Start a loyalty program for your members by setting up simple milestones based on their activity at the club. A well-thought-out loyalty program will create stronger bonds within your member base.
On average, a returning customer spends 67% more than a new one. This, coupled with the fact that gaining a new customer is 5 to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one, means that your primary focus should be increasing loyalty. Implementing a well-designed rewards program will encourage higher spending and give golfers greater incentive to buy exclusively from your pro shop. You can do this by giving out points for purchases, which can then be redeemed on a round of golf or a session at the driving range or anything else you can think of.
4. Branded merchandise
Try creating a promotion where customers who’ve played X amount of times this season get a discount on branded merchandise (windbreakers, balls, or umbrellas). Best of all you essentially turn them into walking billboards and ambassadors of your facility. Having your logo on hats and shirts that people are wearing is a huge opportunity to gain exposure and improve brand awareness. The money you miss out on by giving the discount is much smaller than the profit you’ll generate by selling more rounds.
Another way to use branded merchandise to increase profits is by offering them as a gift when customers spend a certain amount in your pro shop. According to a study done by the BPMA, 79% of people who receive promotional products would do business with that company again. You’ll experience a great return on investment by giving away something that costs you very little in exchange for increased business. Not only are you encouraging direct spending on products in your shop, but you’re also nurturing a long-lasting relationship that will lead to loyal visitors. Using a great marketing program to attract locals to your course only goes so far if they only come once. Instead, you should focus on keeping the same people coming back weekend after weekend.
If you’ve been making stellar merchandise sales over the years, you can approach your merchandise vendors for potential sponsorships. Banners, countertop displays, and preferred rates on the merchandise are all forms of sponsorship and can easily create another source of revenue. The best part about these kinds of sponsorships is that they require very little effort on your part, all you need to do is set up the display!
If your golf POS software tracks data you can use it to pull historical sales data and leverage those numbers when you approach vendors. Keep in mind that you’re asking someone to give you money or a better deal in exchange for exposure, so you need to convince them that your golf course is worth the investment.
6. Add an eCommerce page to your website
An eCommerce site is a great way to reach to broaden revenue streams and grow your outreach. Online shopping is now an essential portion of retailing, and its importance keeps growing. Today’s customers want convenience as well as access to information. 85% of customers research products online before buying. You don’t want them completing the purchase of that new driver with another retailer, do you?
Big box superstores aren’t the only ones who can offer information and the possibility to sell their products 24/7 via their website, small pro shops now have the possibility of easily doing so. It’s important to take into consideration that eCommerce isn’t just about selling pro shop equipment, online stores are also the perfect place to sell golf packages and bundles which require no inventory space and can benefit from the outreach of your website to sell to a wider audience—the more product you have to offer, the more chances you have of generating extra revenue.
An online store proved to be a valuable asset during the COVID-19 pandemic for Lachute Golf Club in Lachute, Quebec. The course makes money from golf expos, which had to be cancelled due to social distancing regulations. Lachute Golf Club was able to recoup 100% of the sales that they would normally make by moving them online. In fact, their eCommerce store generated enough revenue to pay the course’s grounds crew for about six weeks while they were closed to golfers.
7. Open up an online booking channel
With a pen and paper reservation system, golf course managers spend a large amount of their time taking hundreds of phone calls from players looking to schedule, cancel, or reschedule their tee times. If there’s one thing we now know, online tee sheet booking has revolutionized the golf industry. If your golf course isn’t booking reservations through a website, you need to get on this trend right now.
With the advent of the internet, tee time reservation has migrated to the online sphere. Most golf courses in your area offer this kind of feature, and golfers expect this kind of service. This doesn’t mean it’s the end for phone reservations, but more golf courses than ever offer tee times through their website or on marketplaces. Having your tee times online means that you spend less time on the phone and more time improving their customer experience.
8. Upselling and Cross-Selling
Cross-selling and upselling are great strategies to maximize your revenues per customer by persuading golfers to buy supplemental products and services. As mentioned in the introduction, for the next few years the golf industry will need to make more money off of its pool of golfers rather than trying to attract new ones. In fact, studies show that you have a 60-70% likelihood of selling to an existing customer, compared to the 5-20% with a new prospect. This means that not attempting to upsell is an entire revenue stream you are missing out on—Amazon attributes 35% of its revenues to cross-selling.
The ideal moment to try and upsell a customer is during the booking process. As a player books a round, they don’t necessarily think about food or golf equipment. However, if you present the purchase opportunity in front of them, the golfer might realize they need a new sleeve of balls and add them to their cart. Luckily, digital tools such as Booking Extras make it easy to implement such a strategy at your golf course. This is a very efficient way to increase revenues and the more people book through your online channel, the more extra revenues you’ll be able to generate.
9. Partner online third-party marketplaces
Third-party marketplaces offer golf courses the opportunity to get their tee times in front of a wider audience. While these services may charge a price for the exposure, the return on investment of using these services is often worth it. Just make sure you have a fair deal with your service provider. Ultimately, a distribution deal should allow you to attract new golfers who may not have previously considered your operation. Just make sure you offer new golfers a great golfing experience to increase your chances of winning over their business and ensure repeat visits.
10. Send an email blast to a highly targeted list
Inboxes are too noisy for unthoughtful and impersonal emails. With modern email marketing software, you can create highly targeted and personalized emails that send automatically based on customer interactions. Businesses using segmented email lists see a 760% increase in email revenues—a personalized subject line can also boost open rates by 50%. Once your campaign is set, use the email marketing tools to analyze email performance, so you can iterate and optimize performance.
Automated email campaigns make your life easier as a manager and continuously nurture your audience with relevant information. The bigger your email database grows and the more emails you send, the more you’ll need to automate at least a portion of your campaigns. While there’s still room for weekly newsletters and one-off campaigns, automation will provide a certain level of legitimacy to your brand that the others can. The goal is to make sure your emails are timely, personalized, and hyper-relevant to the reader; they simply make sense when they arrive in your customers’ inbox at the right time.
11. Implement self check-in
Why do some people always show up with just enough time to spare? It’s just human nature. And when you have a packed tee sheet and multiple groups arriving at the pro shop at the same time, you’ll wind up hearing about it from your frustrated Starter. And with good reason, these backups don’t only clog up the pros shop, they slow down the pace of play for hours on end. By putting in place self-service stations in your clubhouse, you can considerably improve the golfing experience while reducing operational costs with reduced staff. Self check-in kiosks have also proven themselves useful during the pandemic. To further create a contactless golfing experience, the team at Landscapes Golf Management implemented this technology at their courses which truly created a safe golfing experience.
12. Offer golf by the hole
In 2020, as the pandemic brought in a wave of new golfers, 9-hole golf rounds soared—today’s golfer doesn’t want to spend hours on the course. Have you considered offering golf rounds by the hole? Selling golf by the hole is a great strategy as it allows your customers to determine how long they want to play, outside of the traditional confines of the 9 and 18 hole rounds. It’s worth noting that, within the history of golf, the 9 hole round is a relatively new concept that was created to reduce the amount of time it takes to play the game.
Modern software makes it possible to build upon this idea and gives the player the freedom to play and pay for however many holes. This means a player can choose to play only their favourite holes, or challenge themselves with only par 5’s. It’s up to the guest how exactly they want to experience the course.
13. Dynamic Pricing
Many individuals in the golf industry perceive dynamic pricing as being a discounting tool—and that scares them. While discounting is one aspect of it, that shouldn’t stop you from using dynamic pricing as you are the one who determines the parameters—you’re the one in control. Wouldn’t you rather have an automated dynamic pricing strategy in place than sending “Rate break” emails to your golfers? Dynamic pricing is about finding what your tee times are worth at any given time. As our friend Leif Hanson, Director of Golf Operations at Mickelson National Golf Club says, “Tee times are only worth what someone is willing to pay for it, it’s a commodity. Unfortunately, the way it is our industry is that a tee time is not worth as much when it’s sunny and 25 degrees as it is on a rainy day.”
14. Text Message Marketing
Text message marketing is a powerful tool made to improve the golfing experience and generate more revenue at your golf course. While emailing might be king in the golf industry, text messages on average receive a 90% open rate as opposed to 20% for emails and response rates are 7.5 times higher for text messages. In addition, with SMS marketing, you can reach golfers directly in their pockets while they’re on the course. Imagine how much success you can have by promoting a 20% discount at your restaurant through SMS marketing. However, keep in mind that text messages can be used for much more than promotions, you can also use them to welcome golfers, solicit feedback or invite them to an event. The idea here is to be timely and convey a clear message.
15. Order Ahead
Curbside pickup has proven itself to be a very valuable tool for operators. The world was hit with a global health crisis but that didn’t change the fact that after a round of golf, players are hungry and want to enjoy a meal and drinks with their friends. With curbside pickup, golfers can order ahead while they’re on the golf course and have their meal waiting for them once they’re done. This is a great tool to combine with SMS marketing to create a streamlined ordering experience. Having the ability to order ahead can also help with issues of the pace of play as golfers can quickly pick up their order after the 9th hole so they can keep playing without any interruptions or delays.
Whether your facility is private, semi-private, public, municipal, or resort, you have to rely on multiple streams to generate revenue. The key is to use all these streams in tandem, don’t focus solely on one. When choosing your strategies, try to combine different departments of your facility as much as possible. This way, your customers get a seamless experience, which leads to happier golfers and a happier bottom line.
There are a lot of ways to increase revenue at your golf course. You just have to take a look at the four main sources of revenue at your golf course: the pro shop, restaurant, green fees, and memberships. Do a brainstorm with your employees and get creative! Customers always appreciate it when they can tell you are putting effort into your promotions and they’ll reciprocate by opening their wallets.