By George Moore
SafeTees Pouch, Inc.
(Fourth in a Series)
Golf and golf courses are going through some tough times.
Gone are “the good old days” when we had to phone a week in advance to reserve a tee time at our favorite courses. Now days, it’s not uncommon to walk on and tee off in five minutes, even on weekends.
And to make matters worse, golf is being challenged by something called “off-course golf entertainment.” Beer, food, music, more beer, with some golf-like activity thrown into the mix.
Golf has been losing ground for a number of years, and in 2017, nearly 200 courses closed their doors.
Course Operators React
The trend has shaken course operators and awakened them to the new reality that they need golfers at least as much as golfers need them. So courses are starting to tailor their facilities to meet the needs and expectations of their customers.
The National Golf Foundation reports that “many course operators are innovating with design features that entail less of a time commitment and more of an immediate reward.”
Those design features include short-game practice areas, expanded ranges, par-3 courses of nine holes or less; family putting courses and sophisticated course management techniques.
Back to Basics
But private and public course operators also need to return to basics.
And it doesn’t get any more basic than defining “good course.”
Some operators think “good” means “impossibly tough,” and they spend a king’s ransom to turn their 18 holes into playgrounds for scratch golfers.
Yes, the impossible courses designed by So and So create buzz among the golfing elite. But what about the meat-and-potato folks, the shift workers who can barely afford 35 bucks to play once a week?
Here’s what about them: They don’t care for a second who designed the course. Yes, they want the course to include some challenges, but they also want to have a respectable round without losing a dozen balls before the turn.
Making courses more player-friendly would attract more golfers, certainly, and it also would address a common grievance against golf. It would speed play.
Golf Doesn’t Have to Be So Slow
Golf is time-consuming, no question about it. But it wouldn’t be nearly as time-consuming if golf courses used some common sense. They have it in their power to speed play.
They could begin by limiting foursomes to four players. Not five, not six, not eight, but four. They also could post reminders that players have three minutes, max, to hunt for lost balls. And they could require “ready golf,” which would make a huge difference.
Courses also could designate times (off hours) for senior play, and they could encourage the older (and slower) players to cooperate by offering discounts. That would free up courses for faster players at other times, leaving everybody happier.
More Course Corrections
But let’s not stop there. There are more course corrections that could help reverse recent trends. Courses could:
- Do a better job of marketing themselves. Why not advertise reduced rates early in the season, when courses are still recovering from winter? Why not offer free half-hour lessons for every 10 rounds played. (That would encourage play, with the side benefit of creating a personal bond between course pro and the players.)
- Pay closer attention to grounds maintenance. There’s more to maintaining a golf course than riding around on a mower. Courses need grounds people who understand the game and how conditions affect play.
- Pay closer attention to customer service. Starters should greet players with a smile and send them out happy and in CLEAN carts. And when players finish, someone should ask them for feedback on the course. Finally, someone needs to thank golfers for coming. “Look forward to seeing you again” is always a good close.
- Make darned sure all personnel, from groundskeepers to marshals, are trained to be courteous and helpful. Mean-spirited marshals drive players away. Guaranteed.
Next week: The PGA, the USGA, and how they can help.
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LET US HEAR FROM YOU: Nobody has all the answers. If you have a question or comment regarding anything golf-related, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, subject line “Comment.” Our goal is to encourage a conversation about the world’s greatest game.