Calling all Golf Courses – Time to Think Outside the Tee Box

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Hey everyone – Welcome to Fall-back” season!

I bet many of your are thinking about your upcoming Turkey Day celebrations and Black Friday. But how many of you are thinking about your club’s marketing strategy for 2015?  Not many I expect.

I imagine with the dark damp days of December on their way, you’re happy not worrying about how Golf Now and other discounters took profits out of your pockets in 2014.   You probably think it was just the “cost of doing business”; and it was, if your business was about giving away your customers to another business.

Forgive me if that sounds glib – I don’t mean to insult you.  But have you really looked at other options on how to attract and retain the loyalty of golfers at your course?  Maybe now’s the perfect time to start….

I want you to take some time this winter to “think outside the box” when it comes to giving golfers what they want – affordable golf, when they want it and how they want it.

Sounds difficult, but it really isn’t.  There are some very innovative thinkers in this business who are breaking golf’s “must play 18 holes” paradigms and giving golfers different and more affordable ways to “consume” golf, how and when it is convenient for them.

Ed Kageyama, PGA General Manager of Ka’anapali Resort on Maui is one club executive who’s made it his mission to continually look for new ways to offer local and visiting golfers playing options that suit their budgets, their schedules and their lifestyles, without compromising the club’s bottom line.  Here are just 3 of them…

While on vacation with family or friends, time is precious and often the biggest factor in deciding to play, or not to play, golf. If your significant other doesn’t play, it’s pretty difficult to say, “Hey honey, I’m off to play golf!  Find something to amuse yourself and I’ll see you in about 5 or 6 hours.”

Okay, it’s not so difficult to say, but it’s pretty difficult to live with the consequences.  So a few years ago Ka’anapali Resort management created a program which allows guests to  play 18 holes of golf over 7 days. You can break up those holes any way you like – 3 one day, 4 the next…whatever suits your schedule.

When planning their next family vacation, where do you think those golfers will want to go?

In 2009, Ka’anapali began a program whereby local and visiting golfers could walk and play holes 1 to 6 on either the Kai or Royal Course anytime after 4 PM.  For only $79/month golfers could theoretically play 180 holes of golf.

You do the math…180 holes is 10 rounds of golf.  At $79/month you’re looking at less than $8 a round, or only 44 cents per hole!

Need less to say, FIT CLUB is very popular with locals who love to drop by the course after work.  In fact, it is such a great deal that the club is seeing golfers who left the game coming back because it’s more than affordable and easy to fit into their schedules.

golf fit club

And for tourists, it’s a wonderful way to work off those Mai Tais while they play the game they love in paradise.  Sweet!

Now here’s a program that more clubs should do to maximize rounds played at their clubs.  At most golf clubs, there are off-season or off-peak times where the course isn’t being played as much as managers and owners would like.  One might think that the obvious thing to do to bring in players would be to lower green fees during those times, right?  Wrong!

Once again Ed Kageyama took a more innovative approach to solving the problem.  Rather than discount tee times, Ka’anapali partnered with other resort businesses to offer a “PLUS” to a round of golf played during non-peak times.

For example, from 10 AM – noon during slower months, the resort offers guests an option of a “PLUS” if they play golf within those hours during the day, such as:

  • A $25 gift card for Roy’s Ka’anapali restaurant
  • A massage appointment at the Hyatt Regency Maui or Westin Maui Resort and Spa
  • Two for one Luau tickets at Royal Lahaina

Everybody wins with GOLF PLUS.  Golfers enjoy faster rounds during quieter hours; spouses enjoy the extra perks; partner businesses get new customers and the club isn’t losing money by discounting green fees.   The results…Rounds at Ka’anapali increased by 25 percent!


Although the National Golf Foundation anticipated a rise in rounds played during 2014, most months this year continued to decline according to the PGA PerformanceTrak.  The economy has recovered; the US dollar is higher than its been in a very long time and yet golf is still depressed.

If ever there was a time for golf clubs to think outside the tee box, it is now.

Take a lesson from Ka’anapali and look at what other clubs are doing to increase revenues.

Leverage digital marketing and social media to increase engagement with golfers who are “socially-devoted”.  It’s not enough to have a Facebook Page and Twitter account.  You need to know the best ways to exploit their powers to expand your pockets.

Whatever you do, don’t waste your winter!  Keep looking for innovative ways to give golfers (and future prospect golfers) what they want so they don’t go looking for it somewhere else.

I’m passionate about this game and its future, which is why I’ve made golf a big part of my marketing and social media consulting business.  If you need help to kick start 2015, let’s start the conversation!


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  1. Nice posting! This is really interesting. And even though I am not a golfer, I got some ideas from this post too. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. Great post! Though some are loath to admit it cost/time constitutes the biggest barrier to golf and the continued lack of acceptance of anything other than an 18 hole round is often frustrating for time/cash strapped golfers. It’s good to see there are those who are beginning to get it.

  3. Hey Patricia,

    Great to hear from you! I totally agree that more clubs need to pay attention to what is important to players.

    Most still only care about what’s important to themselves.

    All the best to you in 2013!


  4. Gayle,

    I agree. Golf needs to think outside of the box and make the golf course a fun place to come to. Keep up the great work!


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