Is your golf course marketing strategy getting stale and not keeping up with trends? Are you finding it hard to get one off the ground? With a little bit of creativity and out-of-the-box thinking, you can generate more interest more rounds and more revenue at your golf course. Here’s a list of fresh golf course marketing ideas to help you generate more interest and create messaging that resonates with modern golfers in 2023.
The Golf Marketer's Playbook
Not sure what golf marketing should look like in the 21st century? Don't worry, we're here to clear up any confusion you might have.
Branding is not just about a logo, colors and naming. Essentially, branding means giving your golf course and facility as unique an identity as possible to make it stand out against the competition. At a time when golfers have so many courses to choose from and are exposed to so many different ads, posts and emails online, branding has never been more important. Here are some unique ways to make your course’s brand stick out.
1. Pick a signature hole
Consider how many courses have built their names on one specific hole—the 7th hole at Pebble Beach, the 16th at Cabot Cliffs, the 17th at TPC Sawgrass, the 10th hole at Winged Foot. Now, these are some of the most famous holes in the world, but the point remains: these courses understand how these holes capture the spirit of their property’s design and use them to market their courses to the broader public.
If you’re looking for an easy branding win, pick a hole on your course you believe to be the most dramatic, memorable or special. This section of your course should be front and center in your marketing materials. This doesn’t mean you should disregard the rest of your course, but everything should revolve around your signature hole.
- Shoot a video of the hole (how to play it, a hole history, a drone video, hole details, a hole-specific contest, a game) and share it on social media
- Update your course website with professionally-shot images and videos of the hole
- Include it in both digital marketing materials and on physical marketing materials
- Show it off on your scorecards
2. Advertise your course layout with a drone video
Now that you’ve picked your signature hole, here is an amazing way to show it off! Drone flyover videos are the absolute best way to give anyone who visits your website a feel for what your course looks like, its size and its environment that surrounds it.
You can even use your video to showcase each specific hole, so golfers can understand the layout. These videos make for excellent promotional pieces on your website and can help with selling the overall experience of your course and the value of your brand. Many golf courses include drone footage on their website homepage to attract a visitor’s attention as well as project an image of quality. Here’s an example of what we are talking about:
3. Take quality pictures of your golf course
Taking beautiful pictures of your golf course is an essential part of your golf course’s brand strategy. If you do not have beautiful visuals that highlight your facility’s best features, it’ll be difficult for you to attract new golfers—especially online. It’s important to remember that online shoppers don’t have the same sensory experience as people who come to your course, so you need to go the extra mile to capture their attention.
We are well aware that capturing beautiful views yourself can be difficult and that hiring a professional photographer can be pricy. The good news is, smartphones are now equipped with amazing cameras that can get the job done when it comes to building a library of pictures that you can use for your website and social media pages. That said, hiring a professional team can be an excellent investment, as they will help you capture a wealth of assets you can use in your marketing programs for years to come.
4. Establish a voice, look and feel…and stick to them!
Good branding comes down to:
- Knowing your business and your facility
- Establishing a personality, look and feel that capture your business and facility
- Being consistent in the use of this signifiers in all your marketing materials
From course colors, logos and image styling to how your course is portrayed in photos, videos, website copy and ad copy, understanding how you want your facility to come across and maintaining consistency is crucial is establishing a unique brand.
Establishing a unique tone, look and feel is harder than it sounds and can take some outside-of-the-box thinking, but it’s worth it. If you need help with this, there are third-party marketing resources you can lean on to help you establish your brand and stick to it across marketing materials.
So whether you’re buying a golf course, building a new one or just looking for a refresh, take these branding tips to heart!
Social media channels like YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and TikTok have become indispensable tools for raising awareness, engaging with customers and driving revenue:
- Consider that, as of 2022, 50% of Gen Z’s and 44% of Millennials and 37% of Generation X’s use social media daily
- The National Golf Foundation reports that, out of 25 million Americans who teed in up in 2021, 24% were 18-34 year olds—the largest proportion of any age group covered
For golf course operators, there is undeniable overlap here: being active on social media and incorporating it into your marketing strategy is key in 2023 and beyond. Here are some general tips:
- Establish a posting cadence and stick to it
- Review your profiles regularly to ensure that images and information are fully up to date
- Curate your posts wisely
- Mix it up! Don’t post the same content over and over again
Here are some more detailed social media-centric strategies you can try this year:
1. Run a social media contest
Social media contests are an excellent strategy for generating interest in your golf course through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and more. No content needs to look the same, but no matter what you do make sure the contest encourages people to like, share and comment in order to enter/win. Contests are an overlooked method of engaging new audiences, delighting existing customers and building an organic follower base on your social media channels. Best of all you will establish your brand on social media and generate more interest in your golf course. Executing a contest is easy, try one this year!
- Offer discounted rounds and packages to golfers
- Raise awareness about your branded and pro shop merchandise
- Highlight your food and beverage services
2. Re-market your customer list on Meta (Facebook and Instagram)
Did you know that you can upload your email list to your Facebook Business Account and actively promote your golf course to your existing database of customer emails? This re-marketing strategy helps re-engage customers who already know your brand. These lists are the perfect target for promotions and blog posts. The key here is developing an effective email capture strategy. User-friendly tee sheet software, staff training, and online booking tools are known to help the process of email capture.
The first step here is to set up a Meta Business Suite or Business Manager account. From there, you can follow these helpful steps for re-marketing to your existing customers.
3. Leverage your pros on social media
Your team of pro golfers and instructors represents a treasure trove of useful golf-related information and tips that you can incorporate into your marketing materials. Encourage them to showcase this on social media in the form of instructional videos. These can be short clips for Instagram and Facebook or longer videos for consumption on YouTube:
- Swing tips on the range or in a golf simulator
- On-course swing tips, hole breakdowns and course management videos
- Educational videos on golf management or becoming a professional
- Equipment reviews and testing
Creating influencer personas within your organization has the potential to generate shareable content, generate buzz about your course and to demonstrate your pro’s commitment to lessons and growing the game.
4. Update and regularly monitor your review profiles
Do you actively monitor and curate your review profiles on Yelp, Google My Business, golf course marketplaces or The Yellow Pages? If you don’t, it’s definitely time you should! Considering that 94% of consumers say a bad review has convinced them to avoid a business, it’s essential for you to stay on top of bad reviews and do everything you can to mitigate them. And while you can’t control every bad or lukewarm review, you can control the timeliness and quality of your responses:
- Thank any customers who have left a positive note
- For negative reviews, try to write a positive response that attempts to resolve the problem
- Multiple reviews are not just a positive resource for consumers; they also provide valuable feedback for your business
- This can help you understand what you’re doing well or where you need to improve
5. Encourage customers to post about your golf course on social media
When your golfers share how much fun they have at your operation with their followers it’s powerful for encouraging others to come and play. There are many ways to encourage social shares:
- Instagram-friendly design
- Reminder your customers to tag your course or use a specific hashtag
- Customer loyalty software can stimulate online posting by offering loyalty points to anyone who shares pictures and posts about your operation with their followers.
- Browse your mentions on Instagram or Facebook and re-share posts from happy customers
A foundational pillar of digital marketing, email is still an incredibly important part of any marketing strategy in 2023. As of June 2022, 57% of Gen Z’s, 79% of Millennials, 67% of Gen X’s stated that they like being contacted by brands via email. That said, we all know the frustration that spammy, relentless emails can cause. The key for your golf course? Use this medium strategically to send information that customers want.
1. Send out beautiful, engaging, valuable emails
Email marketing is a staple marketing channel in the golf industry. Nearly all of the golf courses we’ve encountered use email marketing in some form or another to reach new audiences and engage with past customers. Most courses, send newsletters or blast their customer databases with deals, promotions, special offers, contests, key updates and more.
No matter what you send, you are guaranteed to see better engagement and conversions if you use nice-looking templates, clear copy, with a clear call-to-action. We recommend checking out these free email templates we developed to help operators send better emails. Here are some other tips:
- Don’t be afraid to show personality in your email subject lines and copy
- Ensure every email you send out has a clear point and a clear call to action
- Establish a clear schedule and cadence to your emails
- Don’t bombard your customers with unnecessary emails
- Segment your audiences and automate your email efforts with the right software
2. Automate your email marketing
Newsletters can be useful, but non-targeted email blasts risk missing the mark. Some customers just aren’t as likely to respond to a promotional email as others are. To improve engagement golf courses need to start sending targeted campaigns that reach the end-user on a more personal level.
Automated email marketing helps to alleviate this problem by segmenting your email list and sending specific emails written for specific actions a customer can take. Fortunately, modern email marketing software coupled with the power of data-rich CRM software makes automating email campaigns easier than ever before.
A few examples could be an email sent to a customer whose birthday is coming up, or a re-engagement email sent to customers who haven’t played a round of golf in 30,60 or 90 days that offers them a special promo.
3. Learn from your email data
Open rates, bounce rates, click-through-rates—these are key pieces of data that can help you understand which of your emails are working and which ones miss the mark with your audience. Thankfully, this data is readily and easily available via modern email marketing software. Make a habit of sitting down with your team to review your email data on a regular basis and plot out any necessary adjustments.
Online Advertising & Promotions
1. Use the platforms at your disposal to run great campaigns
From Google Search Ads other search websites to YouTube Ads, Meta Ads Manager and Twitter Ads there are plenty of options available to golf courses who are looking to create and manage digital ad campaigns. While it’s always good to rely on digital marketing experts, these platforms also allow you a certain degree of autonomy when it comes to testing ads and plotting a digital strategy.
What keywords will you bid on? What ad formats will you try? Are you after awareness or bookings? What will be your go-to platform? Who will create your ad assets and write copy? There are plenty of pressing questions to consider and tests to run, but online advertising can be a highly effective way to reach golfers if it’s done properly.
2. Embed a re-marketing pixel on your website
Have you ever visited a website and then noticed the website’s advertisements followed you around on the internet after leaving? That’s because a pixel on the site captured your data and put you on a re-marketing list.
Pixel acts like a business partner for your online store. In short, it’s a small piece of code that can do great things for your sales. Embedding a pixel allows you to capture information and build a list of visitors to your website, so you can place advertisements around the web after they leave.
3. Use distribution partners
While distribution partners such as tee time marketplaces remains a slightly controversial topic within the industry, the reality is that it can put your golf course in front of a lot of people. The key is making sure you are getting a fair return for the tee times you will give up.
Conducting this analysis is not difficult if you have the right tools for measuring ROI. Make sure to evaluate all the different distribution partners that exist, since many platforms exist today and have different methods of promoting you on their websites.
Your website and app experience
These days, maintaining your online presence is nearly as important as maintaining your fairways and greens. And while delivering an amazing on-site experience is the most important thing you can do, the quality of your course’s online presence is not far behind. Here are some ways you can look to improve your online presence for both new and existing customers.
1. Optimize your website
From email and social media posts to online advertising, everything you do online will ultimately drive visitors to your site. Once they get there what will they see? What is the goal when someone gets there?
Ideally, you want visitors to book a round of golf or inquire about a new membership. Be ready for visitors with appealing images, well-considered copy and a smart design that makes scheduling a round of golf as easy and straightforward as possible.
Studies consistently prove the impact good web design has on attracting, keeping, and converting customers. We know the idea of undertaking a website overhaul can be daunting — but not as daunting or potentially costly as keeping a website that’s older than some of your employees.
Improving your website can be a boost to your bottom line. So while you might feel like you can’t afford to redesign your website or that it’s not important, think again!
2. Use an online booking widget
Many golf courses still rely on phone bookings, in-person check-ins and cash payments as a booking process. Of course, this workflow was created in a time where advanced technology didn’t exist.
And while there is nothing wrong with continuing to take tee times over the phone, it’s essential to provide golfers with an easy way to book online as well. Consider that more than half of the golfers we surveyed for our 2023 Golf Industry Trends Report preferred booking tee times online:
With modern advancements in booking systems, it is now possible to streamline your booking process and create a convenient golfing experience at your facility. Having your tee times online also means that you can reach a wider audience while lowering your operational costs as your pro shop staff won’t be overwhelmed with phone calls anymore.
Making it easy to book a round of golf means embedding a user-friendly interface that is easy to navigate, clearly displays when tee times are available, and instills confidence in the user when entering personal details and payment information.
The booking tool should also feature a clear call to action that entices anyone who lands on your website to click and book a game. And ideally, this call to action should exist on every page of your website.
3. Start blogging or start a podcast
Keeping a regular blog is an excellent way to improve your website’s organic search rankings on Google search result pages (SERPs). It’s also a great way to further reinforce your brand positioning and show off your golf course’s personality.
There are a variety of posts that golf courses can create such as posts on golf course history, tips and tricks from the pros, event announcements, or updates about course happenings and tournament results.
Just remember: it’s important to be consistent with your content creation as well as to take the time to create quality content that people will actually want to read. A blog that is unimaginative, inconsistently updated and mostly an afterthought won’t bring your course any benefits.
Writing not your thing? Want to explore a different avenue of content creation? Podcasts are have become a staple way of communicating across every imaginable industry. Your operation employs key people with deep insights about swing technique, course strategy, the golf industry, golf course management, horticulture and more.
Much like blogging, podcasting costs very little and can potentially carry a massive upside. Even the appearance of having high-value content like podcasts gives your audience the impression that you are a well-respected thought leader and a source of useful information.
4. Create a mobile app
Hundreds of golf courses across North America arenow using mobile apps to streamline online booking, shopping, score tracking and social communities within their member and customer bases. They provide an elevated level of service and represent a direct marketing channel that sits in the pockets of your audience. Mobile apps give you the opportunity to market your course by sending a variety of push notifications directly to your golfers.
5. Create an online store and embrace omnichannel retail
The COVID-19 pandemic has proven the power and potential of eCommerce. That said, the return of in-store shopping has proved that consumers still highly value in-person experiences. Clearly, both of these sales channels matter a great deal. The takeaway? Empowering your customers comes down to fusing digital and physical shopping and creating an omnichannel experience like the best retailers do.
The omnichannel approach means providing a seamless shopping experience across digital and physical channels. From booking tee times and shopping for equipment to access course information, communicating with staff or purchasing food, golfers can do it all via their computer, phone or in person.
If you’re satisfied with your in-store pro shop experience, why not take it online as well? That way, golfers can browse your inventory and make purchases whenever they want.
These days, you don’t need to hire a web designer or even have a background in tech launch an ecommerce store. Today’s ecommerce platforms are simple and user-friendly and come at a low cost and low risk. Ultimately, this helps to even the playing field between large retailers and smaller golf pro shops.
When choose a platform to launch your eCommerce store, be sure to look for:
- Easy inventory management
- A platform that syncs to your POS
- Customer data storage and management
- User-friendly design
Hosting a variety of tournaments and events is an amazing way to engage the community, grow the game and put your golf course on the map. Here are some strategies you can consider this year.
1. Organize a charity event
Charity events are important because they support important causes. There are always people that need help in your community—show them you care by raising money on their behalf and giving them the proceeds. Doing so will not only do good to the people around you, but it will also draw in new faces and engage your audience. Charity events offer a significant opportunity to increase the value of your brand and get the word about playing golf at your course.
2. Host an tournament for millennial and Gen Z golfers
Driving engagement with young people and getting them interested in the game and your facility is an essential golf course marketing idea. As many clubs are aware, the pandemic led to a massive boom in golf’s popularity unseen since the days of Tiger’s rise to cultural icon. During that time, golfers between the ages of 18-34 made up the largest proportion of on-course participants.
More than that, though, highly popular golf YouTube stars, social media influencers and apparel companies are changing the face, look and feel of the game for younger people. In other words, golf is becoming cool and buzz-worthy again.
So what are course operators and clubs to do? Capitalize on the momentum! Consider hosting a millennial-friendly tournament, relax the rules and reach out the younger generation. Talk to young golfers to find out what excites them and build a tournament day that brings out this demographic.
3. Partner with local schools and organizations to grow the game
Introducing kids from all backgrounds and walks of life is essential to growing the game and changing its culture for the better. The sooner a person is exposed to the game of golf, the more chances they have of making the game an integral part of their life.
One way to give young people more chances to play is to partner with your local school’s physical education program to provide lessons and give kids a chance to try out the game.
Consider reaching out to your local school board and offer a fair price. Once the students have been to the course, you can win them and their families back by offering deals and discounts for rounds played with a parent. The idea here is to not only increase revenues in the short-term but also set yourself for the future. See why this strategy worked at Sun City Golf Course in Phoenix, AZ!
Conversely, reach out to organizations like The First Tee or Make Golf Your Thing to see how your course can host events for younger golfers. These are two of many organizations across North America committed to growing the game at a community level.
4. Host family-friendly specials and events
Golf is a game that bonds those who play it together, and family bonds are the strongest. For years, the game of golf has had a great deal of difficulty attracting new golfers to the game and a great way to counter this trend is by changing the negative perception many people have towards the game.
If you are able to give people the opportunity to create fond memories surrounding the game with their family, the more chances they have of one day becoming an avid golfer. Consider offering family discounts and encourage the entire family to get into the game by providing group lessons.
You can also consider hosting a family day at your facility where only families can book tee times which will allow them to play the course stress-free without having the pressure of regular golfers playing at a much faster pace behind them.
5. Celebrate Women’s Golf Day
Women’s Golf Day happens every year in the first week of June where over 900 golf courses in 68 countries held events on their premises. Hosting an event shows the women in your community that you care about developing the participation of women in the sport. Register to host an event and receive a listing on the Women’s Golf Day website, promotional materials, and training tools to host a successful event.
6. Take advantage of seasonal holidays
Seasonal holidays are the perfect excuse to host a special event and generate extra revenue at your golf course. Do you have a plan for this year’s 4th of July? What about labor day? These holidays typically involve time off work which represents an opportunity to get people playing on your golf course.
There are many ways to take advantage of the holidays and your offerings should be adapted to every holiday. For example, for Valentine’s day, you might want to offer tee time discounts for couples as well as creating a custom one-day menu with unique options that encapsulate the romance that’s in the air.
It’s one thing to use golf course marketing ideas to drive new bookings, but what about keeping the customers you already have? Customer loyalty is an essential part of any golf course marketing strategy. Here are some ideas to drive more repeat visits.
1. Implement a personalized customer loyalty program
Implementing a rewards points system gives customers many more incentives to spend and goes far beyond the paper punch cards of the past. Give customers a goal to work towards and the status of maintaining a certain balance. The problem with so many of these loyalty schemes is that they’re generic. Everyone gets the same offers, the same rewards, the same messaging.
While you could argue that this democratizes the program, it also means it’s rarely a factor when deciding where to shop. Customer expectations around personalization are high, but so are the potential rewards. If you can personalize the way you interact with each customer, then you can drive greater loyalty. This will give you greater insights into the customer which can further improve your personalization and further increase loyalty.
2. Reward your top spenders
Retaining valuable customers and generating as much revenue as possible from your top spenders is a proven strategy for boosting the bottom line. The 80/20 rule states that approximately 80 percent of your revenue comes from 20% of your customers. However, identifying your VIPs isn’t always easy so we recommend introducing loyalty programs designed to reward your highest spenders.
Loyalty programs are particularly useful for this because they collect robust data and can help you identify exactly who your top spenders are and who could become a top spender if nurtured correctly. Customer loyalty programs are also one of the best ways to strengthen your relationship with your loyal customers and get them to visit the 19th Hole after every round.
Your food and beverage is an extremely important feature that plays a role in shaping a golfer’s overall experience. If done well, your food and beverage offerings can be a key differentiator and something that golfers will remember when choosing where to tee it up next. Consider the increase in food and beverage sales at Lightspeed courses in 2022:
1. Align your food and beverage offering with your branding
One of the major marketing challenges golf courses face is branding—people aren’t used to looking towards their local golf course to buy food. As with any part of your business, your restaurant requires its own business planning. That’s why it is essential to have a robust online presence composed of an online menu, online ordering and a high-quality photo gallery.
It’s also important to realize that the type of F&B service you offer matters far less than the quality of that service! Whether it’s a full bar or restaurant, a halfway house, a snack bar, or all of the above, it’s important to lean into the service you offer, don’t overstretch your resources, get creative and deliver amazing service.
The options you choose should depend on what your target customers are looking for when they play your course:
- Find a balance between production speed, food costs and quality
- Staff appropriately, prioritize food safety and be realistic with menu choices
- Keep your F&B menu updated with selections your customers care about
- Do your research, survey golfers and listen to your staff to learn how you can improve service
- Ensure your course branding and your F&B branding are aligned and go together
2. Make your restaurant a community hub
For golf courses with larger hospitality operations like a full bar or restaurant, it is important to consider that your customer base can extend beyond the golfers who tee it up on any given day. According to our 2023 Golf Industry Trend Report, 55% of survey respondents said that they sometimes dine at a golf course on days when they haven’t played golf. Also consider that:
- 82% said special promotions would encourage them to dine at a golf course restaurant
- 53% would consider participating in golf clubhouse social events
By these stats, investing locally and marketing to the local community seem to benefit golf courses. From partnering with local suppliers (think breweries, wineries, food trucks, etc.) to hosting social events, offering promotions and engaging in community outreach, there are plenty of tactics that can help make your bar or restaurant more of a destination in its own right.
Promotions & Sales
1. Use text message marketing
Text message marketing requires some strategic thinking. You can’t just blast anyone with a text. Instead, there has to be some context as to why you are sending them a message. One great example is sending text messages to people who are actively playing a round on the golf course—send them F&B specials and easily increase your revenues per round. If your software permits you to send text messages to players directly from the tee sheet, sending these promotions is very simple. Make sure any text message you send has clear and immediate value.
2. Sell business or corporate packages
Do you actively seek out and market to businesses that are looking to host a company event? Even if you are new to the game, golf is a fun sport to play in groups. With the right tournament format and amenities that everyone can enjoy, everyone from the office can have a fun afternoon at the golf course. This year, why not try developing a business package strategy and actively marketing your operation as a fun place for offices to spend some quality time.
3. Create a referral campaign
Referrals are known as one of the cheapest marketing strategies because you put your best salespeople in charge: your customers! Word of mouth is still considered the most influential method of generating new customers since humans have the intrinsic quality of trusting their friends and wanting to share experiences.
Instituting a referral program will help incentivize customers to spread the word about you. One strategy to implement a referral program is to use loyalty software that permits members to refer their friends through their customer profile. With these loyalty systems, you can set clear reward parameters that incentivize referrals by benefiting both the referrer and the referee.
1. Use smart promotions
In today’s business landscape, data is the engine that drives all good marketing efforts. If you’re going to be at all effective at growing your golf course, you need to back up your strategy with powerful insights that can only come from accurate information. The days of lazily slapping tee time promotions on a website, newsletter, email, or print ad are over.
Grasping what goes on in golfers’ minds involves analyzing their actions with powerful software. In-depth analysis and reporting tools let you accurately plan your marketing moves and measure their effectiveness.
Modern golf management software offers the opportunity to understand exactly how well promotions are working—whether you got a good ROI and which customers and player types used each promotion.
2. Make use of data and business intelligence reporting
Data is crucial for informing your marketing decisions. You need to collect detailed data for each customer to be able to build a meaningful customer data profile. Once you can segment your customers based on data, you can understand their behaviour much better and determine what type of messaging is necessary to reach each group.
Business Intelligence reporting is useful for benchmarking the success of marketing initiatives. For example, if you are building marketing campaigns in an attempt to encourage more online bookings, your reporting tool will be able to show your spread between phone and online reservations before, during and after the campaign. This will allow you to determine whether your strategy is effective or if adjustments need to be made.
Feeling inspired by these golf course marketing ideas?
Beyond these ideas there are many, many ways to bring a fresh marketing angle to your golf operation. Putting effort into improving your strategy demonstrates the value of your brand to your customers and will leave them wanting to come back over and over again. That said, in addition to good strategy, well-timed campaigns and clear messaging, you need a technology partner that can help you execute.
Do you want to bring your golf course marketing ideas to the next level and increase revenue? Talk to one of our experts today to discover how Lightspeed Golf can help you stand out from your competition.
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