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The Most Important Question Golf GMs Need to Be Asking

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Matt Reagan, PGA
Co-Founder and CEO, Operation 36 Golf

A General Manager that is focused on growing their facility knows that Golf Instruction Programs are imperative to a successful strategy. The right program can introduce new golfers and get existing golfers to play better, increase rounds/memberships, and increase spend at the entire facility. This is true for both private and public facilities. 

With the right golf instruction program--everyone wins. This cycle also leads to better paid and happier Golf Professionals. Higher paid Golf Professionals leads to less employee turnover. Finally, less turnover leads to a better relationship with customers and drives a consistent positive culture at your club.  

Sounds like a great cycle right? As good as this sounds, the opposite is true, too. If you set up the wrong golf instruction program, you can actually be doing more harm than good to grow your club. 

How to Know the Difference

Many GM’s start with the wrong question. They ask their Golf Professionals, “How is our instruction program participation?” To which the Pro usually replies, “Great! We had over 100 juniors in our program this year!”

What does that even mean? That could have meant that they saw 100 juniors for a 1-day camp. Is that considered a successful program? Usually, the conversation stops there.

GM’s who use “Participation” as a barometer for how successful the instruction programs are impacting the club are missing a key component.

Participation doesn’t mean it is helping your club.

It can actually be doing the opposite.  If not fixed, the hard work that you are putting in to acquire customers is being wasted. Below is the question you should be asking a solution to solving the problem you may be facing.

A Better Question to Ask

The one question we believe that General Managers should be asking their Golf Professionals is, “Are our golf instruction programs centered around getting people to play more golf at our facility?”  

Why this question? Because the truth of the matter is, unless you make that an initiative at your facility, then your staff may be creating a lot of “Golf Instruction Customers” and not actually helping you create a “Golf Course Customer.” A great golf instruction program creates both.  

A “Golf Course Customer” is someone who plays golf consistently. They are comfortable playing golf, and because of that, they spend in other areas of the facility as well. They keep the facility and game alive.

A “Golf Instruction Customer” works with a golf professional either through private lessons, clinics, camps, or a combination of them all. They are comfortable paying for instruction and practice services.

The biggest problem we see centers around the introductory or beginner golf coaching programs. Because the golfers are brand new, they tend to become a golf instruction customer first. General Managers typically support this notion, because the last thing they want is a bunch of beginners clogging up their course.  We have found that Golf Professionals know that they need to get beginners on the course, but they don't have a model or program to follow and rarely get support from their leadership to take the steps necessary to bring this to life.

This way of thinking is problematic. This sets off a cascade of events you might recognize:

  1. Your Golf Pros will offer a beginner clinic or 5 lesson series
  2. The golfer never plays on the course or has clear goals to improve
  3. The golfer doesn’t get connected to playing the game, interest fades, and they give up on golf.

In that setup, the only person who wins temporarily is the Golf Professional. The worst part is because the golfer never played, they now think “Golf isn’t for me.” All the hard work that was put in to get the beginner to your facility is lost. 

The Solution

So what is the solution to this problem? The solution is making sure your team has an on-course development model integrated with your beginner coaching programs. This includes juniors and adults. 

This means that the golfers are not just going to join a program where they play games in a group class or get 5 private lessons with the pro. They are actually going to get on the golf course, play 9 holes, write down a score and get comfortable playing the game and setting goals to improve. 

We have to remember, if a beginner never plays the game, they will never become a golfer.  Do we just expect beginners are going to be comfortable playing golf outside the program?  Or is it up to program they are in to offer that playing experience combined with coaching to give them a "Complete Program Environment"?

We believe that playing golf should be at the center of every beginner program. That is the secret to engaging the golfers, and turning beginners into “Life-Long Golf Course Customers”

But what about the Pace of Play?

The main reason Golf Professionals shy away from getting golfers on the course is that they don’t want them holding up play. Who wants to get shouted at by their core group of players about the pace of play? It is also very challenging to package up a program to communicate with beginners on exactly how they are going to get them on the course and improve them over time.  You would need a clear curriculum to do that efficiently.

This is the exact reason we created the Operation 36 Development Model. We are changing the way we onboard and progress beginners in playing the game of golf through programming and technology. The program provides a timely and motivating way to get beginners on the golf course. It is the only play-centered coaching program that gives Golf Professionals a complete roadmap to develop a golfer, along with technology to measure their progress and impact at the entire facility.  

Summary for General Managers:

In summary, instead of measuring participation this year, we believe GM’s should be supporting their staff to focus on “Creating Golfers”, not participation. This is a standardized metric we provide Golf Professionals in their Operation 36 Portal. It will not only guarantee growth at your facility and professional staff, but it will also actually have an impact on growing rounds of golf. Isn’t that what beginners deserve? A guaranteed program to help them actually become a skilled golfer? That’s for your team to decide.

Learn more about how we measure this with the Operation 36 Program’s technology by clicking here.

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