Thursday, September 4, 2014

Your Golf Club Hasn't An Effing Clue

You want to know what really hacks golfers off?

Crap service... and that's just for starters. I apologise for the use of bad language in this blog, but I've had it up to here! Clubs need to get their act, their attitude and their priorities straight. You're running a business, in difficult times, so make sure that you know that every person who walks through that door is a customer.

Here are three guaranteed ways to annoy golfers and damage your reputation:

1. Bad Service
I phoned a club the other day and got through to the golf shop. The girl at the other end sounded like she was suffering withdrawal symptoms... I don't know what from, but it sounded like life. She couldn't have been less helpful or enthusiastic if she tried. I got no information from her and she didn't offer to get someone else to call me back. I couldn't even get a name of who I should be contacting the next time I phoned. She hung up on me.

That kind of shit loses a club business. I was updating information on the course for Hooked, not booking a green fee, but if I had been I'd have joyfully taken my money elsewhere. These 'customer-facing' people need to be given a good whipping... and clubs need to look at their employment policies seriously if they're hiring people who are so uninterested in their job that their attitude turns customers away.

Look, I know there are Pros out there who are quirky and/or aloof – and I know most of them never envisaged a career selling Mars bars to rubbish amateur golfers – but for those employees who work in the shop or in the office, learn to appreciate that your employment is based on the success of the club... and the more happy visitors you get, the more likely you are to keep that job. 

Marks out of 10
1/10 (she at least picked up the phone on the second ring... maybe she thought life was calling.)

Perfect greens at The Island Golf Club.

2. Course Condition
And then there's course condition... we all know that a course can get pummelled by the weather, be damaged by vandals and must undergo regular maintenance, but you - as the club - have to manage your customers' expectations accordingly.

Hollow-tining and temporary greens are necessary 'evils' but when they affect the course and, more importantly, a visitor's enjoyment of your course, you have to give visitors the information they need to make informed decisions.

This bullshit of not telling the visitor about hollow-tining, temporary greens or even damaged greens until they're handing over their green fee is disgraceful. 

If your course is being hollow-tined, if surfaces are covered in sand, if bunkers are out of play or greens are bumpy, visiting golfers have a right to know WHEN THEY BOOK. If they book over the phone and the club doesn't inform the customer that there is an issue with the course then that club representative needs to be given a good whipping. DO NOT wait until the customer arrives and then say 'Oh, sorry, the course was hollow-tined yesterday so the greens will be a bit bumpy.' WAY TOO LATE. Even offering a few quid off the green fee is not going to keep that visitor from being pissed off with you. They came to your course with the full expectation of playing 18 holes in perfect condition, so they will remember the experience, believe me.

I realise that golf clubs are desperate for green fees and they think that taking a booking when they know maintenance is due to be carried out won't really matter... but it does. It matters a lot. I also know that turning away a green fee is very hard to do, but you actually do yourself a favour... assuming you handle it right. Here's a for instance:

Visitor (on the phone): Hi, I'd like to book a four ball for next Tuesday, around 10 o'clock. Do you have availability?

Pro Shop: Yes, we do, but our greens are being hollow-tined at the moment so they won't be in their usual pristine condition. The green fees for a four ball are €25 each, but because of the maintenance we'll charge the four of you €70. Alternatively, wait a couple of weeks until the greens are back to normal and I'll fit you in for a special price of €80. How does that sound?

Visitor: OK, thanks for letting me know. I think we'll wait a week or so.

Pro Shop: OK, no problem. If you give me your name and number, or an email, I'll be in touch. 

Does this make sense to people? Are the benefits of this approach clear? You create a positive impression, you give your prospective customer a choice - i.e. you empower them by giving them information AND a choice, and you get their contact details. 

Let's be honest - that customer may not be interested when you call. They may never visit your club because the timing didn't pan out... but isn't that a lot better than having them turn up, pay €100 (or €70) and then leave thoroughly hacked off with the club, bad-mouthing you to every golfer they meet. That word-of-mouth is far more costly than the €100/€70 you made.

Marks out of 10 
4/10 (assumes the visitor will take some satisfaction from playing your course)  

3. Green Fees
In the last couple of years I've heard of several instances when golfers have turned up and not been offered the best green fee rate of the day. For example, during an Open competition, when green fees are often heavily reduced, someone who has booked a regular green fee is then not offered the Open competition rate. Regardless of what has been agreed with that visitor in advance, you, as the club, give them the best value you can. 

It's the same premise as above. In return for making a few extra quid you have, potentially, made one visiting golfer very unhappy. Alternatively, treat them well and have them say only positive things about you. As Yogi Berra said - 'it ain't rocket surgery.'

Marks out of 10 
5/10 (it depends on who's taking the green fee on the day (hopefully not the girl above) and whether they have the necessary permission to change rates on the spot.)

Now, don't get me started on slow play.


  1. Spot on. You should look to have this published in a golf mag article or letter to ensure more people get the message.

  2. I'd also like to hear your thoughts on how to combat slow play cause that's what's killing the game. It's hard for someone with a young family to justify playing when it takes so long!