The playing lesson has been around a long time, but new and more effective ways of conducting these on-course sessions are emerging.
Golf is the only sport that isn't routinely taught on its "field of play." That's why you can Google the phrase "can't take my driving range swing to the course" and find pages of articles addressing the problem. Of course, 90-shooters who moan about this usually fail to track how many lousy shots they produce in a range session, but they're still right that ball-hitting on-course can seem dramatically different from hitting on-range.
In general, the emphasis on coaching "situationally" is growing. Leading lights such as Lynn Marriott and Pia Nilsson are gradually leaving the range behind, shifting their focus to on-course work as a standard procedure with every student.
Pinehurst Learning Center students get whatever customized form of on-course work will help them the most. "We may have them hit a drive, hit an approach shot, then U-turn back to the tee to try those two shots again, with a different thought and different strategy," says academy director Eric Alpenfels. "We might go to various trouble areas and drop several balls at a time." And if a player "gets hot," just continuing on, in the zone and encouraged by their instructor, might be the best coaching they ever received.
At Monarch Beach Resort in the California town of Dana Point, award-winning teacher Glenn Deck will sometimes begin a playing lesson with 20 minutes on the range. The idea is to get a baseline for where the golfer and their mechanics are at that particular moment, before heading out. After the range phase is over, Glenn's rule of "no mechanics on the course" takes effect.
"The idea is to find optimal ways to teach the student how to play the game," Deck says. "Which side of the tee box do they start from? Do they know how to calculate yardage so it accounts for all factors? Do they know where they can miss and where not to miss? Are they trying to hit their career shot every time? Can they control distance on high-lofted clubs? There's a whole separate assessment to go through," he says, "The price they pay for that amount of time is considerable ($600 for 3.5 hours, including the range time), but the level of detail we get into is deep. It covers a whole lot of ground."
Colorado-based Dan Sniffen has learned the value of on-course instruction as a retention tool. If a 10-lesson series has gone well but is approaching its endpoint with no on-course work having occurred, heading out to the fairways is a great tool for refocusing the student and restating the value of long-term coaching.
"Going on the course is a good refresher for the relationship, and it can bring the student back to that sense they had at the beginning of wanting to really accomplish something," Sniffen believes. He will use the playing lesson to produce a simplified Strokes Gained worksheet, showing where the player can genuinely lower their score and what sort of practice and coaching is appropriate going forward to do so. "That approach generally leads to a renewal," says Dan.
Are you getting some static from the golf shop about playing lessons? Veteran coach Bill Davis has always handled that issue by repeating what George Fazio told him: Growing the game means teaching most effectively, so that golfers play better—which means you need to take them on the course. The result is they will play more often and spend more money at the facility.
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The playing lesson has been around a long time, but new and more effective ways of conducting these on-course sessions are emerging.
One-year ends, another begins—before 2020 gets going, take this quick quiz and set your sights on greater success.
The end of the calendar year is when businesses reflect on what went well or perhaps not-so-well over the previous 12 months.
The questions below have been used by successful teaching professionals to look back at business performance over the prior year and forward to a better way of doing things—and perhaps more rewarding results. It’s worth your while to print out these questions, which are grouped by category, and keep the page handy. As time allows, fill in the answers by checking your business records and your personal recollection.
Teaching quality: Any lessons you whiffed on this year? Any students you weren’t able to help?
Player success: Are your students getting better? How many shot career low rounds this year?
Percent of book filled: Is your volume building? Level with prior year? Falling off?
Total lessons taught: It’s a simple indicator but many fail to keep tabs on this metric.
Total revenue: Did it hit the goal you set at the beginning of the year (If you didn’t set a revenue goal for last year, it’s strongly advised that you do so for the coming year.)?
Total expenses: Are you still purchasing big-ticket technology? Do you have a strong sense of when “enough tech is enough”? How much do you project to spend next year?
Renewal rate: How many of your students are buying another lesson pack when they run low on the current one (Note: 40 percent is a good benchmark.)?
Sales skills: What is your average order value (AOV)? AOV = dollars-per-booking.
Marketing: What is your ROI on each of the marketing campaigns you tried in 2019?
Business development: Are you turning prospects and meetings—even casual or chance meetings—into actual bookings?
Referrals: How many did you have? Do you have a structured referral program in place, including rewards for those who bring you new business?
Programming: Is it time to move toward more group lessons and fewer individual?
Pricing: How do you stand compared to your competition? More expensive is okay, if you deliver a better product.
Facility improvements: What upgrades are needed to keep things fresh, modern and confidence-inspiring?
Managerial skills: Are you building a team? How much turnover did you have this year?
Rank yourself in each category. Assess your skills, successes, failures and areas where you can improve. A scale of one to 10 should do fine, but be sure that you look honestly at each area. Hopefully you’re using some metrics to define your success. It’s much easier to have an unbiased assessment of your performance with some hard data to guide you.
What categories need the most improvement? What metrics would you track in 2020 to get an accurate view of your performance? Make an appointment in your schedule book to start this process. Your natural curiosity about how things work and where to find greater success will help you along. The result of a thorough self-review will be a solid plan to improve yourself and derive more value and wealth from your business.
First, you coach them to a better golf game. Then, you take them to places in the golf world they’ve never seen. Nothing builds the teacher-student bond better.
The so-called “destination golf school” at the high-end resort staffed by magazine-cover pros was big business a generation ago. Some of those fly-in resort schools remain, but very few compared to the glory days. In the time since, enterprising golf instructors who enjoy traveling for fun and profit have been taking their students on group trips to great places. It’s a way to deepen the coach-student relationship while helping average golfers get more enjoyment out of their golf-vacation investment.
These are favorable times for any go-with-the-teaching-pro effort, according to golf travel expert Ed Schmidt, Jr. Schmidt points out that Baby Boomers are teed up perfectly for this activity, given how much free time and disposable income they possess, compared to Gen X and Millennial golfers.
“Boomers play more golf than any other age group and many are intent on playing the courses at the top of their bucket lists,” Schmidt explains. “In 2019 and beyond, more Boomers will travel in off-peak seasons to capitalize on discounted trips. Many trip offerings like golf cruises, packages to major championships and pro-ams are designed to appeal to Baby Boomers.”
Women are a big part of this trend, he notes, as affluent retiree couples include golf in their itineraries even as they build in side trips to cultural and historic landmarks. And this is where the instructor who has taught any non-golfing spouse how to play well enough to participate in such trips is perfectly positioned. Any seasoned teacher ought to have at least four cases of a couple that became a golf twosome thanks to their coaching. Invite those players on a trip and they have every reason to say yes.
Award-winning instructor Brad Redding built up repeat business for his annual trip down to PGA Village in Port St Lucie in February and March. “It’s a four-day trip to get their games ready for spring,” says Redding. “The format is golf in the morning and three hours of instruction in the afternoon.” The afternoon instruction includes plenty of supervised practice, an element of game-improvement that has been rising in perceived value among amateur golfers. Meanwhile the morning 18 can act as a playing lesson with focus on decision-making—another hot topic in teaching.
Rob Stocke, director of instruction at White Columns Country Club in Milton, Ga., views travel and touring as the ultimate connection with golfers. “No matter how much time you spend teaching lessons or in the shop,” Stocke maintains, “nothing compares to spending time with members during a golf trip.”
Any golf instructor thinking ahead to the off-season and considering a trip to warm weather with students in tow will want to consider Sea Island, the landmark golf resort in the Golden Isles region of coastal Georgia. Sea Island has a heritage of world-class golf and brilliant instruction to go with its natural beauty and sophisticated luxury—and all that was before two highly relevant things happened. First, a gleaming new citadel of game-improvement, the 17,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art Golf Performance Center, was added to the amenity package. Second, an appealing getaway opportunity was created, the “Sea Island Pro Program.”
Any teacher who participates will receive a $50 Sea Island resort credit for every paid room-night housing a student the professional brings along—this applies to all of the resort’s stellar overnight options: The Lodge, The Cloister, The Cottages, or The Inn. In addition, the professional’s room and golf will be complimentary in every instance where a traveling party of seven or more golfers joins him or her. At the end of the year, a Sea Island gift card gets sent to the professional, to be spent on rooms, food, beverage, resort activities or to purchase merchandise from the Sea Island website.
To learn all about Sea Island’s special travel offer to instructors, Click Here.
Non-students who find their way into your lesson book travel down a funnel—learn how it works and you’ll build your business faster.
The student whose name first appeared in your lesson scheduler this morning likely entered your “sales funnel” weeks or months ago. That’s the nature of finding potential customers and adding them to your active roster.
Not all who enter the funnel will make it into the lesson book, but some and perhaps many of them will. Lately, an intro evaluation often referred to as a “New Student Assessment” is recommended as the turning point that marks a completed passage through the funnel and into active lesson-taking. Some of those newbies turn out to be your best students—committed golfers who keep showing up, practice dutifully and truly improve.
You want to understand what your funnel looks like, how it functions and how prospects travel through it to become active clients. Here are a half-dozen basics to ponder:
- The funnel is double-edged—it’s a happy place but also a place of pain. Anyone who’s even vaguely thinking about booking that first lesson naturally has positive feelings about you. They’ve heard good things, they’ve stopped by to chat, they’ve been impressed by your website, all good indicators. The pain part of the equation involves golf skill levels they’ve never reached and can’t seem to acquire just through ball-hitting and YouTube tips. Think of your funnel as the place where negatives meet a positive—your presence on the range and your ability to guide them toward real progress. Getting them started involves getting them to really acknowledge their frustration and to talk seriously about goals.
- Among all the prospects in your funnel, some you’ll be familiar with and some you won’t. Because of websites, social media and old-fashioned word of mouth, there are going to be customers in the consideration phase whom you’ve never met or even heard of. Events like get-acquainted clinics, demo days, bring-a-friend, and the like are ways to get people off the fence and into a New Student Assessment.
- Funnels in a kitchen cabinet are all shaped the same but sales funnels can take a variety of shapes. At a public driving range the entry point would likely be wider than at a member-only club. Then there’s the question of how long it is from entry to the place where the relationship begins—at the range it’s probably longer than at the club.
- Some people can be told they’re in the funnel, working their way toward taking lessons. These are people with outgoing personalities who enjoy a running conversation that’s half-joking, half-serious. When you tell them, perhaps month after month, that “we’re starting next week, just need to pick a time,” they enjoy the back-and-forth. They still need to be “closed,” however, using the same honest conversation about problems and solutions that golfers typically all need.
- The “referral” section of your funnel deserves some special focus. All peer-to-peer recommendations have extra punch to them, particularly so if the golfer who is touting you has noticeably improved or the friend they’re talking to is legitimately interested in improvement through instruction—or both. People who enter the funnel via a direct peer endorsement are more likely to make it all the way through to your lesson book.
- When something good happens—you win your chapter’s teaching award, a student of yours finishes top-10 in the city amateur, you start getting booked as a regular guest on a local radio program—think long and hard about what kind of funnel-filler it could be. In the latter case, have the radio station announce that the 15th person to call the listener line gets a free lesson with you. Meanwhile everyone who calls reaches a recording that asks them to leave their name and email address, so you end up with at least 14 new people in your funnel. If three or four of them come for an NSA, it was more than worth the time you donated to the one winner.
Staying in contact with your customers is a critical function for any golf course — even during seasonal closures. If you’re starting to make preparations for either closure or significant downtime, you can create and schedule email campaigns in advance to share golf course news, holiday greetings, and upcoming events with your golfers through the marketing tool within GOLFNOW Central (GNC).
Advanced scheduling allows you to focus on other business tasks that you face during the off-season, while still maintaining a crucial touch point with your customers so they are ready for that first day of the season.
How-to setup an email
Setting up a campaign in GOLFNOW Central couldn’t be easier. Simply select Marketing from the top menu and then choose view under campaigns. You will then be taken to the 'Campaign Movement' screen at this point. Click the green 'Create a New Campaign' link at the top right, which takes you to the Campaign Editor screen.
Now, complete the six tabs to customize your campaign—customers, promotion, email, text message, social media, and schedule and review.
Customizing your campaign
The Customers tab allows you to define the audience for your campaign. You can decide if everyone who opted-in to receive marketing messages from your course gets this notice, or you can narrow the list by pre-defined groups by selecting customers with specific course tags attached to their names.
Next you can decide to include a promotion with the campaign, an email, a text message or send your campaign out via your social media. When creating an email, you can choose to embed tee times directly into the email for fast, one-click booking. Also, don’t forget to use the administrative settings to add your social media links and logo for a professional-looking email every time. You can send yourself a test to make sure you are happy with your finished product on all platforms and services.
The final tab, Schedule and Review, lets you send the campaign immediately or set it up to be sent at a later date. Once your campaign is scheduled, you can always go back and review it by selecting the Scheduled tab under Campaign Movement. There will be a blue line that displays the send time for that campaign.
After sending out your campaign, you can utilize the “Analytics” tab to gauge its effectiveness. From “opens” to “clicks” to “bookings,” you will have the insight needed to adjust future campaigns for consistently higher conversion rates.
Need help? Contact your GOLF Business Solutions representative for ways to make the most of your next email campaign.
Leverage the Value of Distance-Control with a Free Wedge Fitting
It’s a tantalizing question that instructor Rob Noel posed to golfers in his database: “Do you really know how far your wedges carry?” Many players who care about scoring aren’t sure at all, and it weighs on their minds when they’re inside 130 yards trying to pull a club. Noel invites them to a “Free Fit Friday,” in the noon to 4 p.m. time slot, featuring TrackMan for accurate measurement of carry distances. Structure of the afternoon was based on 30-minute sessions for each participant, with the chance, in Rob’s words, to “turn yourself into a scoring machine!” Benefit to the teaching professional is profit off wedge sales as well as an intro for non-students to see how competent and dedicated this academy’s coaches and clubfitters really are.
Use Nameplates as Rewards and Recognition for Regulars
Golfers see their names on cart signs, bag tags and lockers, so why not on the range? Even if you all you use are plastic plates that with an erasable surface, players will still enjoy seeing those beautiful words—their own first and last name. The plates you order could even have pre-printed titles, like “Golfer of the Week” or “Fast-Improving Student” or “Top 20 Most Improved.”. You don’t have to have one of these plates ready for every student every time—instead use them as an incentive for people who don’t yet have one, as well as a reward and retention tool for lesson-takers who are in your book already.
Hand Out Impact Decals on the Range
In the GolfWorks online catalogue you’ll find iron impact decals in rolls of 200 for $30. That works out to 15 cents apiece, a very small price to pay for the chance to create a meaningful connection with a range user who isn’t your student but seems like a good candidate. Make up a small poster showing a half-dozen used decals with off-center hits, blurred dimple patterns and other indicators of sub-optimal impact, topping it with the headline: “What Do These Marks Mean?” On a select basis, invite golfers to take 3 or 4 decals with them when they pick up a basket of balls, then upon their return they can show you the imprinted decals. It will likely be the first time they’ve ever used impact decals or impact tape, which makes this a great conversation-starter potentially leading to lesson signups.
“My Golf Teacher Reached Out to Me!”
Apparently this was the excited thought that went through the minds of 10 students who received texts from New Jersey-based instructor Brian Dobbie. The question Dobbie sent to his students, none of whom were currently active in his book, was disarmingly simple—he asked: “How is your game?” The message went out to the 10 golfers simultaneously and results came back to Brian quickly. All 10 golfers responded and the outreach resulted in Dobbie booking three standard lessons plus one playing lesson. He puts this nice success down to “the importance of following up,” in all kinds of different ways—including a quick, simple text.
Take Lessons in a Skill besides Golf and Blog Your Progress
Instructors are often advised to take lessons in tennis, guitar, fly fishing or some other motor skill, in order to remind themselves what the motor learning process is like from the student’s side. But if you ever do take this advice, don’t miss the opportunity to bring your golf students inside the process of what you’re being taught, how you’re going about practicing and what kind of progress you’re making. It will increase their respect for you (especially if you practice faithfully!) and it will build a narrative quality into your messaging, as your progress continues.
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Go through checkout at a big retailer and the cashier is bound to ask, “Did you find everything you were looking for?” Apparently there is research telling Target, BestBuy, and the other big boxes that consumers would spend more money if store inventory were somehow different or if items were displayed differently—so they constantly ask us about it.
Public-facing businesses—and golf instruction is no exception—can learn something from watching chain stores dig for data about the customer experience. The extreme way of doing it involves the trained “secret shopper,” hired from a legitimate agency and posing as a customer. Online reviews have reduced the need for secret shoppers, but they’re still around, supplying objectivity and professional reporting.
A marketing specialist with expertise in golf shop retailing, Jackie Beck, got hired a few years back to do some secret shopping in the instruction category. Beck was given a list of 50 contacts—academies as well as solo teaching pros—and told to proceed as any curious golfer would. She studied the instructors’ websites, checked on prices, called or emailed to inquire about available services and in some cases attempted to book a lesson.
In a presentation that Beck later made to a gathering of coaches—some of whom were among the 50 she had secret-shopped—her report had the attendees studying their own websites on smartphones, real-time, as she went through actual examples of what she saw working and not working. In many cases there were broken links within websites, long scrolls to get to important content, missing information, weak photography and a general failure to “tell the customer what makes this teacher a great choice.”
Beck found a disconnect between golf shops and the lesson tee, especially for teachers who are independent contractors at public courses. The staff in those shops are trained to promote the golf operation but not the lesson business. Beck addressed this issue, asking: “Is the golf shop delivering messages to you, with accurate information about people who have called asking about instruction? If you suspect that’s not happening, have a few people you know and trust call in, inquiring about golf lessons.” Consider “hiring" a former junior golfer who went on to study marketing or management at college then returned home with a degree. Trade a 3-lesson series for an objective report on what the customer experience was like, in fine detail.
Beck understands that instructors have to address the operating details of their business in small doses. “Prioritize the things you want to check on, and take them one or two at a time,” she advises. Are golfers arriving on-property and getting confused about where to go? Are there messy or cluttered spaces they would find unpleasant. Is noise a problem at certain times and places? Are the restrooms clean? Are the range balls noticeably deteriorating?
Unlike a BestBuy or a CVS, golf facilities aren’t chains that all look alike. That gives the instructor a chance to liven up the surroundings and add a little sparkle, making return visits more enjoyable.
“Your teaching skill is the big draw, but a golfer’s overall experience will play a part in whether they want to come back,” says Jackie. “If it’s a $75 lesson and they feel the experience was worth $100 they will automatically come back.” It takes a long time to learn how to teach effectively, and yet being around for a long time can dull your eye and ear for what’s pleasant, interesting and appealing about the details of a visit.
One final point Beck makes is focused on programming, and the need to bring flexibility to it. “Some instructors will schedule a ‘Chips and Sips’ clinic for women and be overly concerned about whether chipping can be taught properly in this type of setting,” Beck observes. “I say, ‘Who cares?’ The women are happy. Some nights they’ll be fine with skipping the golf part altogether—let them!” If you have reservations, ask directly whether social-night only is of interest to the participants. “Ask and listen,” Beck repeats. “We have to get over the idea that we know better than the customer.”
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Golf instruction comes in a wider variety of formats than it used to. To expand their audience, teachers keep adding programs of different types. We’ve seen instruction tailored so that it’s more social, more technology-based, more focused on scoring, more geared toward women, or otherwise customized.
Lately a new line of thinking has come along to offset this programming trend. Special formats and event-based teaching are still being offered and continue to attract golfers. However, they’re getting pushed to the side and kept separate from the “main course” product, which is long-term coaching relationships that remodel golf swings and produce significant game improvement.
Research shows that rewiring a golfer to truly change motor patterns takes months or even years, plus steady practice to attain interim goals. The results are dramatically pleasing to the golfer, and the coach-student relationship that develops is a big source of job satisfaction for instructors. In good part the happy ending is due to the long and emotionally painful span of time in which the embarrassed golfer has dealt with a sense of futility about their play. A fair number of people commit to long-term coaching right at the point where they’re ready to quit the game.
Meanwhile, financial compensation to the teacher improves significantly when the lesson book is filled out far in advance with these every-week or every-other-week clients. Eventually this scenario leads to rate increases. Next time you hear of an instructor who raises rates, check to see if they have a growing stable of committed long-term students—you’ll find this is virtually always the case.
Because the long-term student is so valuable—and because he or she is always going to be a minority within of the instruction-minded population—the coach needs a “sales funnel” with a very wide feeder end. That coach also needs a “gateway” product, usually called a New Student Assessment or New Student Evaluation, that large numbers of players will undergo.
Out of the pool of players who come through the gateway—and their total could be 100 or more over a season—perhaps 20 to 40 percent will enter long-term programs. They’ll buy lessons in 10-packs, 20-packs and 30-packs, and they will make the journey from frustrated and par-deprived to become mid-80s or even single-digit players. Their investment in the coach-student collaboration is key to the golf instructor’s business plan and yearly income. Both parties win.
How does this model impact programming and your menu of instruction options? It starts by putting the New Student Assessment front and center, where it can do its job of filling up the wide end of your sales funnel. Lots of options and details about formats and special events will confuse your best prospects, i.e, the people who legitimately want to improve. They scroll through academy websites, see all the diversity and intricacy and get overwhelmed. In many cases these golfers have spent a long time postponing the decision to try and end their frustration. They need simplicity and a clear path to improvement.
Instructors have long used programming to let people know they are up on the latest developments in the field, from TrackMan diagnostics to AimPoint green-reading to the use of a communications “locker” for sharing video, notes and practice plans. There’s logic to this, but again it’s a possible source of confusion and even intimidation. There are students who in general are impressed by technology, but there are others who shy away from it. Telling people about your certifications and the tech tools in your teaching bay is well and good, but you can do it in descriptive copy that’s distinct from your programming information. Don’t let it detract from the messaging that encourages new students to come meet you and get assessed.
The other extreme is clinic programming that’s fun, social, relaxed and looks inviting on the club calendar. Nothing wrong with this, either. Just don’t let it cloud the message about long-term coaching and how to get started on it.
On your website you can do all this through clear communication that keeps the gateway product, a New Student Assessment or whatever you use, separate from your tech talk and from the fun, “intro” events you offer. In email marketing you can offer the specials and one-offs selectively, and let people know they are “events” that don’t come up on the schedule regularly. In social media messaging you can carry along the same approach.
Being versatile is a good thing and having lots of ways to meet golfers is valuable. Getting the best return on your investment in training, tech and marketing is always about having a filled-out lesson scheduler that stretches weeks or even months into the future, booked up with thrilled students who rave about you.
Create a gateway product, build a sales funnel to feed it, and tailor your menu of services so that you and your best customers achieve meaningful rewards over the long haul.
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The value of technology in the workplace depends on the ability of staff members to use it.
The GOLF Business Solutions tool for tee-time inventory and revenue management, GOLFNOW Central (GNC) has been developed with ease-of-use as a high priority. That’s evident to anyone who watches a course operator log into GNC and smoothly navigate its array of business functions. As for operators still learning how GNC works, you could listen to the Partner Support team at GOLF headquarters field their myriad tech questions and readily sense the value of that support.
But for the busy operator who prefers a more hands-on learning approach, GOLFNOW wanted to take support a step further in order to help users of the platform leverage it more efficiently and confidently. That’s why the “WalkMe” project was undertaken. Launching in phases through summer and fall, WalkMe is a built-in program of step-by-step instructions on how to accomplish all tasks within GOLFNOW Central's function tabs.
Log in to GOLFNOW Central currently and you’ll find a WalkMe upgrade in five function modules:
- How to: Check Holiday Inventory
- How to: Update Live Inventory
- How to: Load Live Tee Times
- How to: Set up Dashboard Reporting
- How to: Access Performance Reports
More will be added on a rolling basis during the fourth quarter, and similar modules will be implemented for GOLF Business Solutions’ G1 management platform.
Overseeing the project is Chris Alvarez, Manager of Business Services Support for GOLF Business Solutions. Alvarez touts the visual design of the WalkMe tool, which features a “Need Help?” tab in the lower-right corner of every page, plus embedded modules that are active depending on which tab you are utilizing in GNC. During the walk-through, boxes framed in red – easy to identify but compact enough to avoid blocking other content – help indicate where an action is needed. He expects WalkMe to give operators an extra level of assurance that they can quickly perform the tasks and adjustments that lead to improved bookings and margins.
“With how-to information of any kind, a lot of the value lies in when you need or want to access it,” says Alvarez. “This is relevant with WalkMe for GNC in a couple of ways. Just as you hit a key point in the performance of a task, the instructions pertinent to that task become available to click open and read. The other timing factor is about work you might want to do in the evenings, when other forms of support may not be available. WalkMe is a big help in that regard.”
To encourage use of the technology, the GNC welcome page has a bouncing click-box installed on its lower right corner. Operators can get started there and receive an orientation showing where the how-to information is embedded and what it looks like as you access it.
“Walk Me interacts with the user intelligently, providing a variety of examples on how to execute each step of a task,” explains Alvarez. He recommends starting with the Update Live Inventory function and next, because of the time of year, the Check Holiday Inventory task, where WalkMe assistance is particularly intuitive—using WalkMe to fill in knowledge gaps on such a core part of the GNC suite will accelerate the process of making it second-nature to use the platform generally.
Naturally, a golf course staff using the GNC platform will have people with different learning styles. That’s another reason why the WalkMe tool adds value. In the process of training 20-plus colleagues internally at GOLF Business Solutions in the use of GNC, Alvarez has noticed that comprehensive front-end tutoring has its limitations. “We’ve tried all methods here,” he says, “and the greatest success seems to come when the new user can jump in and learn by doing. They get a certain number of reps and then the light bulb comes on. WalkMe caters to that approach.”
Going forward, WalkMe will be able to provide shout-outs to new features as they’re released. Look for best practices of inventory management to be featured in ensuing WalkMe upgrades, along with recommendations about effective strategies that emerge directly from GNC users.
Advancing to a high skill level in the use of GOLFNOW Central is a proven competitive edge. “We’ve noticed over time,” says Alvarez, "that operators who engage with GNC the most tend to see the greatest ROI benefit from their GOLF Business Solutions partnership.” It’s another example of the fact that business technology is valuable, but mastery of it is valuable in the extreme.
The time has passed for letting the calendar dictate pricing. The times they are a changin’ … on the calendar, that is, as summer turns to fall. This is a common refrain this time of year and for many golf courses, it means checking the calendar to see when they are supposed to change. But is this really the best strategy?
“One of the main discussions we have with our golf course partners is smoothing their transitions coming into and out of seasons,” said Brian Skena, manager, Plus by GOLF Business Solutions. “It doesn’t make sense to abruptly change rates just because the calendar says so. Rather, we would advise to change rates because demand says so.”
It’s a discussion often met with an incredulous look as operators say, “We have always changed our rates at certain points on the calendar. It’s the way we’ve always done it. Our customers expect it. Gosh, it’s published right here on our rate card we have posted in the pro shop.”
“Why have a physical rate card that shows your rate is “x” from this date to that date?” Skena said. “Golfers don’t need to know the price months from now. Let dynamic pricing come into play.” As evidence, he points to the hotel and airline industries, which have made massive profits with dynamic pricing while conditioning consumers to expect prices to reflect demand. “You don’t see airlines and hotels advertising that their rates rise and fall on certain dates. Demand determines what price you see.”
Chris de Laat, Owner of Mayfield Golf Club in Caledon, Ontario, Canada, no longer uses a traditional seasonal calendar to make pricing decisions. “The catalyst for pricing changes is performance,” says de Laat. “Softer days need aggressive pricing and promotions, while busy days warrant higher prices.” de Laat operates by a pricing matrix with a list of criteria that influence his decision-making, including: historical APR; seasonal temperatures; daylight hours; course conditions; competitor pricing, and more. “A motto that resonates for me states that ‘Time is a perishable item – unsold times equate to lost opportunities."
More operators around the country agree. They look at rates during seasonal transitions, but don’t completely rely on the calendar. The consensus is there are a host of other contributing factors unique to individual markets that should influence changing rate on demand, such as weather, course conditions, tourism, etc.
Many of these operators partner with GOLF Business Solutions and its Plus service for rate guidance. Having this support mechanism, and historical and market data it can offer, instills confidence in their decision-making and the timing of their pricing decisions.
Skena said with Plus’ full-service staff, they can be incredibly responsive with clients that are communicating regularly with them. “We can price really well off historical data,” he said. “And when courses are more proactive and willing to communicate with us, we can definitely extend their high seasons.”
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