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Golf Course Business Trends

Understanding what’s really happening in the industry and how to deal with it successfully will determine long-term profitability for golf clubs. Here are a few random statistics, facts and, perhaps, a few surprises to think about. We can help you sort them out, determine what they mean to your future and figure out how to use them to build success.

  • Golfer demographics are changing. The hot demo today is 29-49. This group doesn’t have time to plan… doesn’t have time or the finances to travel to faraway golf destinations, preferring to play at courses and destinations within a three-hour drive. Time is the new currency of today.
  • Golf brings in 1.5 to 3 million new players each year. We lose about the same number. Why? Playing a round of golf takes 4½ hours at best. We too often beat up the average player. Plus clubs don’t put enough concentration on developing casual players into avid players and investing in the service needed to make the experience less intimidating. Growth is basically flat. There have to be consequences.
  • "Overbuilt" describes an increasing percentage of regions, many of the nation’s major metropolitan regions. Yet even within undeveloped regions many golf clubs are still struggling. The problem lies outside the ratio of golf holes to population.
  • How far in advance do golfers plan their golf vacation? Not that many years ago it was one to five months. Today it’s two to six weeks.
  • Most travelers plan their vacations on the Internet. A great percentage of travelers complete their travel transactions on-line. Golfers travel more frequently than all other affluent sports participants. In fact, more golfers took a domestic trip in the last year than skiers, tennis players and sailors combined.
  • Golf course construction over the decade has been primarily high-end... and a competition for who could build the toughest challenge. Yet most golfers are high-handicappers who feel beat up by the course and the fee.
  • According to the National Golf Foundation, the number of rounds nationally were down 10 to 20% in 2008-2009. But the range in performance – from desperate to thriving – is enormous … even within regions. Specific situational analysis is needed – not blanket generalizations.
  • In the face of declining rounds, the focus at courses nationwide has been on cost containment and cost cutting – with limited impact, since so many expenses at golf clubs are relatively fixed. And reducing the level of customer service is not the answer. In fact, level of service and value for money spent are primary factors in choosing where to play. Those clubs focusing energy and resources on increasing revenues have the best chance of success.
  • High staff turnover is one of the major problems in golf course management. As the economics of golf course operations tighten, more and more golf clubs are recognizing that the human resources part of the business requires more attention. More staff recognition, better communication and competitive compensation to retain quality people should be a priority.

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