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Scoring a Hole in One With Golf Sales

Rounds played have been waning, but here’s how to be more than on par when compared to other resorts.

Friday, August 01, 2014
Steve Pike
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By most accounts, golf hit its U.S. high water mark in 2002 with nearly 30 million participants. Since 2002, however, golf participation in the U.S. has shown a nearly five percent decline year-to-year, according to Pellucid Corp., a Buffalo Grove, Ill., based company that tracks golf industry trends.

Golf Datatech, a Kissimmee, Fla., based company that tracks golfer participation, reported this past May that golf rounds in the U.S. were down two percent year-over-year.

All of these numbers fly in the face of the industry’s ‘’grow the game’’ pundits. This past January, for example, PGA of America President Ted Bishop claimed golf is “in the best place that the game has been in for a while."

But the numbers, tell a different story, and they include everything from municipal golf courses to high-end resort courses. The golf sky, however, is not completely collapsing. Many golf resorts are standing up well to the game’s participation challenges through savvy marketing, which includes attractive stay and play packages, and quality customer service.

“There is no doubt that the golf industry is a competitive one, and that you have to be very diligent about your potential business, in order to attract the most customers while maximizing your tee sheet to the greatest extent,’’ said Matt Flory, general manager of TPC San Antonio at JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa. “From a golf package standpoint, it is all about creating a bundled golf package between room and golf, at the absolute best value.’’

Flory said that this requires coordination between the department selling the rooms, and the department selling the golf, to create one dynamic package that provides great product, for an attractive price.

“Then, you have to go tell your story,’’ Flory said. “Whether it is from advertising or effective database management, it is important to get your product in front of the eyes of the golfers.

“In addition, we work heavily on presenting the product to those on-site. Through promotions that range from golf special pricing and complimentary rental clubs, it is important for our guests to know golf is available. But we certainly do it with a courtesy message in mind, versus a sales pitch.’’

The Four Seasons Scottsdale at Troon North combines the best of two worlds – the luxury of a Four Seasons property and the Troon North Golf Club in Scottsdale - one of the Southwest’s “must play’’ courses – about one mile away. The resort’s concierge desk can book tee times at one of Troon Golf’s two golf courses and a shuttle takes players between the resort and the club.

“We try to make it as seamless as possible for the resort guests,’’ said Mike Friend, director of sales at Troon North Golf Club.

The Omni La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, Calif., features what it calls “Golf Squad,’’whose members roam the resort’s two golf courses, not as pace-of-play marshals but as roving ambassadors. Their job, said Mike Kelly, the resort’s head golf professional, is to provide support and encouragement to players.

“It is all about making each guest feel special,” Kelly said. “We want every guest to feel right at home as soon as they walk in the door.”

For example, each member of The Golf Squad has a business card with his name and contact number, provided to each guest to use as needed. The cards, Kelly said, not only make it easier for guests to contact The Golf Squad throughout the round, but they reinforce the personal welcome and illustrate the “at your service” mentality of The Golf Squad and every other resort employee.

“Our goal is to enhance the guest experience at every touch point,’’ Kelly said.

The Wintergreen (Va.) Resort offers a nine-hole “golf adventure’’ aimed that families at its Devi’s Knob golf course. Called “Family Fun 9,’’ the program is available Monday through Thursday starting at 3 p.m. and includes golf fees, rental clubs and discounts on golf balls.

The Vinoy Golf Club at the Vinoy Renaissance Resort in St. Petersburg, Fla., saw play increase six percent in 2013 versus 2012 according to head golf professional John Hanlon. The club, Hanlon said, is slated to be up three percent this year compared to 2013.

“We’re one of the fortunate few,’’ Hanlon said. “One of our main goals is to be put the best product out there as possible.’’
By “product,’ Hanlon means the golf course itself.

“You have to have a quality product to attract people,’’ Hanlon said. “We’re fortunately to be a Marriott property. Marriott invests in its properties so we’ve been able to do some maintenance to create a quality experience.’’

For example, Hanlon said, the club last year expanding its practice putting green from 3,000 square feet to 10,000 square feet, and this year made some changes to the first and ninth to make them easier to play for resort guests.

“Those kinds of things make it attractive for groups or individual players who want to come to the resort to play golf,’’ Hanlon said.

Steve Pike
Hotel Interactive® Editorial Division

Bio: Steve Pike is an award-winning golf writer and author who helped define golf business reporting in the early 1990s as the first Golf Business Editor for Golfweek magazine and later at Golf World and Golf Shop Operations magazines for Golf Digest. Pike further pioneered this genre at the PGA of America and Time Warner as the golf business writer and editor for PGA.com. He started in newspapers more than ...
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