I recently had conversations with a few people in the golf industry about marketing and the success (or failures) golf courses are having. Golf course marketing can be tricky. This is especially true in a time when information is a so readily available and people are quick to share their negative experiences. It can be even more challenging when the pro is in charge of marketing.
The head pro is often in charge of everything. They book tee times and give lessons. They run golf outings and are in charge of the pro shop. They are responsible for revenue and losses and keeping track of everything along the way. How can they be expected to manage the marketing for their course and get more traffic? There is only so much time in the day. It's because they have limited time that golf courses rely on hope based marketing... taking out ads and hoping they get seen.
Current State of Golf Course Marketing
The way businesses market themselves has changed more in the past 5 years than it did in the previous 50. They used to be able to take out newspaper or magazine ads and not look back. Today it requires constantly providing information or content while developing relationships. How do you make it easy for people to connect with your golf course?
Golf courses seem to be behind when it comes to marketing. They're all fighting with each other for the same golfers. They take out ads in the local golf books or magazines and send out e-mail blasts. Some have attempted the use of Facebook and Twitter to reach their audience. In most cases this includes updating their Social Media pages when they have a special. Golf courses need to recognize it's about the golfers, not the their own venue.
Should Golf Courses Work Together?
Those who know me know I frequent wineries and vineyards. One thing that always amazes me is how these wineries work together to grow their businesses. They have directions to other wineries by the door on the way out. They develop a "trail" to help market all (or most) of the wineries in the area. What makes this great is it puts all the information in one place. People who want to visit wineries can get all the information from the "trail", a centralized point, and then branch out to the individual wineries. It gives all members more marketing power.
Why can't golf courses do this? Take a handful of golf courses in a local area and work together to help grow. Develop a community and support each other rather than compete by lowering prices and trying to market on your own. The best example I have seen is the Robert Trent Jones (RTJ) Golf Trail in Alabama. The RTJ Trail has 11 golf courses working together to promote golf in the region and each other.
The idea of businesses working together to help each other grow is nothing new but why don't we see more of it in the golf industry? Could local "trails" help golf courses save money and and grow together. As golf courses continue to close and private courses make this shift to public, should they consider partnering to reduce costs and generate more business?
Personally, I would love to see more golf courses working together to grow the game and stay in business. There is plenty of business to go around and if done properly all golf courses in an area can benefit.
What do you think?