It's a natural assumption that golf courses in or near big cities should attract new customers by adopting strategies that increase awareness. This way, they can take advantage of a denser geographic area.
However, the real question is - can something comparable happen in rural or urban regions? Yes, it can. Perhaps it's because of a willingness by residents of those regions to travel farther for golf on highways that aren't jammed and offer lush scenery. Regardless, increased exposure to golfers online has brought new players to Stillwaters Golf in Dadeville, Alabama - a new GOLF Business Solutions course partner on the Platform.
"New eyes are seeing us on their screens and new people coming in the door," says Witherington. "It has to be because of the Platform because we haven't changed anything else. Within a couple weeks after we got on the Platform, I realized that we had already booked more than 50 rounds that I know we wouldn't have had otherwise."
The Tradition Course at Stillwaters Golf is part of a resurgent golf and lake community with zoning for 1,200 residences in the area. When it opened in 1996, it featured 36 holes of golf. However, Stillwaters' business plan went through changes, and one of the two championship courses eventually shut down. Located in a triangle formed by the three cities of Birmingham, Montgomery, and Columbus, Stillwaters is indeed a long drive for golfers who reside in any of those population centers.
“You have to make the trip to find us,” says Witherington. “So, once you’re here it’s on us to make the experience special enough that you’ll come back and you will also tell you friends about us.” Withering says he must adapt to limited funds for marketing and advertising. “My customers have to be a big part of my marketing,” he says, referring to word-of-mouth recommendations, “but I do need more exposure and reach, which we now have.”
Witherington is a natural who "can talk them into staying for lunch, even staying for live music that night," once he gets them on-property. His course's reliance on word-of-mouth has given him a nuanced understanding of it. "One of the reasons people go to new places and try new things is because they're motivated to tell their friends what a great choice they made," he asserts. "It's one of their pleasures in life, along with the actual experience. So, when we treat them right, we're giving them an opportunity they want which is to sound smart – and in the process they make us look good."
In Witherington's first full year in 2016, rounds played at the course increased from 8,000 to 12,800. Memberships rose from 72 to 287. "We made golf a profit center here," he says. "We want to build on that." He had a previous, albeit brief, experience with GOLFNOW many years ago.
"It was a long enough time ago that I was getting all my bookings off a fax machine," he says. "It was cumbersome, but I was sure that in the meantime the system had been modernized." While that is undoubtedly true, the Platform at Stillwater isn't like the Platform at a lot of other places, thanks to the paper tee sheet still in use at the course.
Witherington and his GOLF Business Solutions' account representative Scott Huskins, worked together to create a more customized approach for Stillwaters.
"Scott set it the tee sheet so that I get an email beep with every reservation that comes through GOLFNOW and into our Platform. He even helped me program my phone, so everything could come through me."
Stillwaters story inspires us to note that whether you're in the city, the country or someplace in between, you still need a way to get people's attention and keep them coming back.
To learn more about how the GOLF Business Solutions Platform can help you attract more golfers, CLICK HERE.