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Cantankerish

Jon Taffer: Golf Rescue?

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I admit.  I do not know who this guy is except what I read in this article. Some of his ideas are mildly interesting, but the guy apparently has never had to think very hard in his life. Why is he talking?

 

He just about contradicts himself:

"We have to make the game go faster and...Get more people to play — which will also happen as it gets quicker "

"Get ‘em to stay one more hour on property to participate in something else when they play golf. "

 

He does not do math:

" When you look at the statistics, 44% of golfers play less than 10 times a year "

" We need to get that 44% to play an 11th time. If we do, that’s 10 percent more volume from them "

 

I don't think he understands the logistics of how TopGolf works.

" Look at TopGolf, who’s taken the game and reinvented it in a different kind of way for a different kind of audience and look at the success they’ve had by energizing golf. You wonder: Why couldn’t clubs do that at certain times?"

 

He thinks that broadening the base means to make the sport more exclusive.  He says so in several places.  This example is typical.

" I don’t think you can have golf without hospitality; the two are one thing. There is no golf if we don’t work on creating the experience, and that experience doesn’t only happen on the course."

JonTafferGolfCourseRescue.jpg

Iconic "Bar Rescue" host Jon Taffer started in the golf industry—and he's got strong opinions on how courses should adapt to a changing world.

 

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The last thing I want to do is spend more money or time at the course for the most part.  Of course that is part of the reason golf is struggling.

If anything would make me spend more time/money it would be better practice facilities. It is certainly not food/drink/entertainment.

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Yep.  All you need to do is stock premium scotch at those overcrowded, rundown munies, and golf is saved...   :doh:

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"Get ‘em to stay one more hour on property to participate in something else when they play golf. "

From a private club standpoint, this is completely true.  If a member spends more time at the club, he'll meet additional people, or spend a bit more money in the tavern, or use a different service that the club provides.  All of this contributes to the health of the club. 

He does not do math:

" When you look at the statistics, 44% of golfers play less than 10 times a year "

" We need to get that 44% to play an 11th time. If we do, that’s 10 percent more volume from them "

I don't see what's wrong with this, this is a 10% increase (or more, the stat says "fewer than 10 rounds") in volume from THAT GROUP.  Not 10% overall, just from that specific group.

I don't think he understands the logistics of how TopGolf works.

" Look at TopGolf, who’s taken the game and reinvented it in a different kind of way for a different kind of audience and look at the success they’ve had by energizing golf. You wonder: Why couldn’t clubs do that at certain times?"

Again, if golf facilities can find new ways of having fun on the golf course, without decreasing the current utilization, that's a win.  How about a 3 or 4-hole quickie tournament some evenings, say after the last 18-hole group has teed off.  Maybe a dozen people stick around an extra hour to be able to play in that little mini-competition.  That's a win.

He thinks that broadening the base means to make the sport more exclusive.  He says so in several places.  This example is typical.

" I don’t think you can have golf without hospitality; the two are one thing. There is no golf if we don’t work on creating the experience, and that experience doesn’t only happen on the course."

How many complaints have you read about pro shop staff turning off customers, bartenders ignoring certain customers, making those people consider giving their business to someplace where they feel more welcomed.  This isn't exclusivity, its simple customer service.  We all notice and appreciate good service.

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1 hour ago, DaveP043 said:

  We all notice and appreciate good service.

Seems to be harder and harder to find anywhere these days. 

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39 minutes ago, IowaGreg said:

Seems to be harder and harder to find anywhere these days. 

That's why it stands out.  Its a small thing is many ways, doesn't cost much, but certainly helps bring people back.

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2 hours ago, DaveP043 said:

"Get ‘em to stay one more hour on property to participate in something else when they play golf. "

From a private club standpoint, this is completely true.  If a member spends more time at the club, he'll meet additional people, or spend a bit more money in the tavern, or use a different service that the club provides.  All of this contributes to the health of the club. 

He does not do math:

" When you look at the statistics, 44% of golfers play less than 10 times a year "

" We need to get that 44% to play an 11th time. If we do, that’s 10 percent more volume from them "

I don't see what's wrong with this, this is a 10% increase (or more, the stat says "fewer than 10 rounds") in volume from THAT GROUP.  Not 10% overall, just from that specific group.

I don't think he understands the logistics of how TopGolf works.

" Look at TopGolf, who’s taken the game and reinvented it in a different kind of way for a different kind of audience and look at the success they’ve had by energizing golf. You wonder: Why couldn’t clubs do that at certain times?"

Again, if golf facilities can find new ways of having fun on the golf course, without decreasing the current utilization, that's a win.  How about a 3 or 4-hole quickie tournament some evenings, say after the last 18-hole group has teed off.  Maybe a dozen people stick around an extra hour to be able to play in that little mini-competition.  That's a win.

He thinks that broadening the base means to make the sport more exclusive.  He says so in several places.  This example is typical.

" I don’t think you can have golf without hospitality; the two are one thing. There is no golf if we don’t work on creating the experience, and that experience doesn’t only happen on the course."

How many complaints have you read about pro shop staff turning off customers, bartenders ignoring certain customers, making those people consider giving their business to someplace where they feel more welcomed.  This isn't exclusivity, its simple customer service.  We all notice and appreciate good service.

That is all very interesting.  IIRC, you are a member at a club, and that works well for you. Maybe for me someday if I can ever play as much golf as I would like to.  But I bet that because of that difference, we have different views on what we want from the place.  From your answer here I am guessing that you feel connected to your club in a way I can not. Meeting people and hanging around are not part of the deal when I play a round. I always have to arrange for five hours to fit a round in between other responsibilities.  Occasionally I will get some beers if my cart-mate is a close friend.  But I probably could not tell you what is served at the bar or if the bartender is friendly.  I am pretty much there for the course only.  What brings me in are interesting holes, well-tended greens, and a good price. Everyone I know who golfs feels the same.

I imagine that this is a completely different experience to yours.  And I think you are correct that he is thinking of a private club. ESPN says that 71% of courses are open to the public.  So I think he is more interested in doing his thing in familiar territory (saving struggling private golf clubs) than in growing the sport.

BTW, at the risk of being a true nerd, his math is certainly off.  "fewer than 10" means "at most 9" (whole numbers here), so strictly speaking, the entire statement is mathematical nonsense when he says "11th".  But no matter what, it is not ever going to yield the 10% increase he says. I think we get his point, but the inexactness of his thinking in not negligible.

Now that I have revealed my true penchant for stupid details, I suppose that at the end of the day I just wish I had stumbled upon a guy who gave a crap about golf and not just about making money off of golf.

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17 minutes ago, Cantankerish said:

That is all very interesting.  IIRC, you are a member at a club, and that works well for you. Maybe for me someday if I can ever play as much golf as I would like to.  But I bet that because of that difference, we have different views on what we want from the place.  From your answer here I am guessing that you feel connected to your club in a way I can not. Meeting people and hanging around are not part of the deal when I play a round. I always have to arrange for five hours to fit a round in between other responsibilities.  Occasionally I will get some beers if my cart-mate is a close friend.  But I probably could not tell you what is served at the bar or if the bartender is friendly.  I am pretty much there for the course only.  What brings me in are interesting holes, well-tended greens, and a good price. Everyone I know who golfs feels the same.

I imagine that this is a completely different experience to yours.  And I think you are correct that he is thinking of a private club. ESPN says that 71% of courses are open to the public.  So I think he is more interested in doing his thing in familiar territory (saving struggling private golf clubs) than in growing the sport.

BTW, at the risk of being a true nerd, his math is certainly off.  "fewer than 10" means "at most 9" (whole numbers here), so strictly speaking, the entire statement is mathematical nonsense when he says "11th".  But no matter what, it is not ever going to yield the 10% increase he says. I think we get his point, but the inexactness of his thinking in not negligible.

Now that I have revealed my true penchant for stupid details, I suppose that at the end of the day I just wish I had stumbled upon a guy who gave a crap about golf and not just about making money off of golf.

I understand that we're coming at this from different viewpoints, but I think a number of his points remain valid for public facilities as well as private.  "Growing the game" requires healthy golf facilities, which means they have to find ways to stay in business.  Many private clubs struggle, and are always looking for ways to get people to the facility, whether its for golf or for something else.  For certain golfers, those in your situation, its unlikely a course will find ways to get more from you, but there certainly are portions of their customers who could be enticed to spend more time.  Maybe an upgrade in dining would bring in non-golfers.  Maybe live music would bring in non-golf business.  Maybe those same things would encourage SOME golfers to play later in the day and stick around for more fun.  That difference in revenue could make a big difference.  Simply having a nice golf course isn't always enough.

For better or worse, golf IS a business.  It takes a whole lot more money to run a successful golf course than most people could imagine, and golf as a business isn't really growing right now.  The idea of bringing people in with new ideas, of trying to find ways to earn a few extra bucks from the current customer base, of maintaining and attracting "customers" by providing good service, I'd guess those are strategies common to every single business in existence.  And without people making money from golf, we wouldn't HAVE golf.  Nobody's going to do it for free, we all need to get paid.

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14 minutes ago, DaveP043 said:

Maybe an upgrade in dining would bring in non-golfers.

There is a golf course near me that has a popular restaurant on the premises, and on the weekends it is very crowded with non-golfers during brunch hours. This course also has tons of parking to accommodate the extra customers. The restaurants/bars at some of the other courses I play at locally are virtually empty all the time. I can see this being a good source of revenue if done right.

Personally I'm only interested in playing golf, and I do most of my practice and warm up at home, so the golf course is the most important aspect for me. If increasing revenue from other services on site results in a better maintained golf course, I'm all for it.

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If it's a good, challenging golf course then I will utilize the bar/lounge/restaurant after my round... if that bar/lounge/restaurant is exceptional.  Locally it's Eaglemont.  On the West Coast it's Pebble Beach's Tap Room or Bandon Dunes' Bunker Bar.  It's always a push/pull whether to head home or enjoy more amenities of the course.

Edited by Double Mocha Man

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24 minutes ago, Double Mocha Man said:

If it's a good, challenging golf course then I will utilize the bar/lounge/restaurant after my round... if that bar/lounge/restaurant is exceptional.  Locally it's Eaglemont.  On the West Coast it's Pebble Beach's Tap Room or Bandon Dunes' Bunker Bar.  It's always a push/pull whether to head home or enjoy more amenities of the course.

I get to Palm Springs every January for a week of golf.  Almost every golf course that we play has a really good restaurant attached, and we often stay for lunch.  Its a captive market, people are already in your facility, you should do everything you can to get them to stay (and of course spend more money).  One course, the Classic Club, includes $15 in food credit with every greens fee.  Of course we're going to stick around.  And it doesn't have to be "exceptional", but it does need to be pretty good.  I'll go back to a good golf course with good food and exceptional attitude and service, but a really good golf course with ornery staff and minimal food, possibly not.

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Every summer a buddy & I play in a 9 hole men’s league at the local muni. A few years ago the course started providing a full Buffett dinner after the round and you might be surprised at how many people stayed to partake, not only did the golfers stay but friends & family (our wives included) would come to enjoy the dinner as well. Hell, my wife would get there early to enjoy a couple cold beers while she waited on us to finish lol. 

Ultimately, they stopped doing it because they just didn’t charge enough for the Buffett and they were barely breaking even. If they had charged just $5 more, I believe they would’ve made money and almost nobody was going to skip it because of a slight price increase. 

I guess my point is that if you give people a good reason to hang around after their round, they will and they’ll spend more money. 

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Something I find interesting about those who are only in it for the course is this: You want to have a top rate facility with nice bunkers, immaculate fairways, and fast/tough greens, but you also want the price to be reasonable.

These two have almost always been mutually exclusive in my experiences, save one course. That course was Aston Oaks Golf Club in North Bend, OH. It sits right on the Ohio river and is extremely hilly. The quality of everything at the course was top class as far as a hack like me is concerned. Nice quite carts with built in GPS, all the grass was well maintained, and the layout was challenging and exciting. The cost of a summer weekend round with a cart there was 38 dollars. That is the exact same price as our munis are here in Dayton, and the quality of those courses are below average IMO.

Here is the kicker. Aston Oaks is the only golf course/club that I have ever been to where the restaurant/bar was packed. If you are wondering how they can keep the rate so low when the quality of the course is high, one need look no further than all of the butts in chairs in the clubhouse. We arrived at 10 A.M. and they were packed for breakfast. They were packed at 12:15-12:30 when we stopped for drinks and food at the turn. And when we finally got done (sometime around 3 I believe), they were still packed.

You and I may not use the restaurants/bars at golf courses, but there are plenty of people who will if it's a quality place.

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Heading to Sarasota in mid February.   A couple of the courses are offering either a breakfast before the round or lunch after.   It is a good selling point.  

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1 hour ago, Double Mocha Man said:

If it's a good, challenging golf course then I will utilize the bar/lounge/restaurant after my round... if that bar/lounge/restaurant is exceptional.  Locally it's Eaglemont.  

Not to mention they have the best restrooms I've ever seen, save for a high end hotel.  And after a couple beers you're gonna need one of those.  I once met a gentleman running for Governor in that bathroom, standing at the next urinal.  I wished him luck in the race... but didn't vote for him.

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A local course here seems to be drawing more golfers by have more money games such a 9 hole random draw scramble every Friday night and twice on Sundays and a Tuesday evening 9 hole par 3 contest which also sets up nice for kids and newbies. They also have a winter indoor simulator league.  But no high end amenities and they also abandoned the bunkers to save money.  The manager makes it sound like they are doing better now. This in a poor, rural area of S. Ohio.

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4 hours ago, Cantankerish said:

That is all very interesting.  IIRC, you are a member at a club, and that works well for you. Maybe for me someday if I can ever play as much golf as I would like to.  But I bet that because of that difference, we have different views on what we want from the place.  From your answer here I am guessing that you feel connected to your club in a way I can not. Meeting people and hanging around are not part of the deal when I play a round. I always have to arrange for five hours to fit a round in between other responsibilities.  Occasionally I will get some beers if my cart-mate is a close friend.  But I probably could not tell you what is served at the bar or if the bartender is friendly.  I am pretty much there for the course only.  What brings me in are interesting holes, well-tended greens, and a good price. Everyone I know who golfs feels the same.

I imagine that this is a completely different experience to yours.  And I think you are correct that he is thinking of a private club. ESPN says that 71% of courses are open to the public.  So I think he is more interested in doing his thing in familiar territory (saving struggling private golf clubs) than in growing the sport.

I think you’re only looking at things from your own perspective. If a golf course has a good bar/restaurant, the restaurant itself will be a draw. The course will earn revenue from people who don’t even play. There will be plenty of golfers who stick around for food and drinks.

There’s absolutely no reason to stick around at the courses that I normally play. They offer nothing but the course and some practice facilities. If they had a good restaurant I’d probably stay for a beer and lunch. It’s not my primary criteria for picking a golf course, but it’s certainly a way for a golf course to make a little extra money from me.

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