There's a lot of talk about how the game is shrinking and that the masses no longer want to spend 4 hours (or longer) on a golf course and yet there are still those like me that savor every moment on the course. Why? Because it's a game of mastery that is impossible to master. It's time alone, with a group of friends or business associates. It's a walk in the outdoors.
So what's wrong with the game? We have long been connected through our clients to the golf business and industry experts will tell you point blank, too many courses were built in the late 90's and early 2000's. The closing of some golf courses is a good thing, some will whisper. After all, they say, the game is coming back to "center", the way it was.
And still, there is a lot that private golf clubs can do to help themselves get ahead of the pack. In today's marketplace, the old tactics that used to work for clubs are just not going to cut anymore. So what can you do? I've compiled a list of five essential things that private clubs need to do to stay relevant:
1. Get visual
Golf is a visually appealing game. Do you want to get golfers excited about your club? Show him or her pictures or video of beautiful of your course! This is a sport that's all about "being there" and video, photos, beautiful imagery can transport a viewer to a course like nothing else. And yet, so many golf course websites are overrun by text with outdated images. Let the amazing pictures of your club, course, and facilities tell the story.
Not sure where to start? Follow other clubs on Facebook and Instagram and see what they are doing. Don't forget to showcase more than just your course, show off your event spaces, tournaments, club culture and more!
Don't underestimate the power of drone video for your club. A beautiful flyover video can really help non-members gain an understanding of what makes your club unique. Check out this one from Hazeltine National Golf Club it has over 36,000 views!
2. Update your online presence
With the downturn in the economy, many golf facilities and private clubs suffered and some have not been able to come back. If you're still in the game, it's time to go on the offensive and spend some money making your website work for you. Focus on incorporating all those images and video so that visitors can see what they are missing out on.
Today, websites are so much more than digital brochures. The most successful websites work hard to help answer questions, reduce barriers and engage with visitors. If your website is just a few pages that leave prospects with more questions than answers, then you are missing out on a huge opportunity to educate and gain the trust of your target audience.
3. Grow your email database and work it
If you don't have a robust email database, it's time to start growing it. If you offer online tee times, you're probably gathering lots of email addresses, so way to go! While online tee times are an easy way to capture emails, there are other options.
If your club offers a membership (private or public), create a call-to-action and offer your rates in exchange for an email address. Hazeltine National Golf Club, host site of the 2016 Ryder Cup, has been doing this kind of golf marketing for the past several years with tons of success.
After you start collecting names and emails, make sure that you aren't spamming your list, instead, send them helpful emails that educate and create relationships. Rather than pushing another special or night on the patio with your local band, maybe you can use email to connect them with valuable resources, inform them about club news that may affect them or give them a golf tip each week. Connect them to the game and they'll connect with you!
4. Leverage social media
I've long said that clubs and courses should post multiple pictures of their facility every day with attention-grabbing captions. "The first tee is open and waiting for you!" With a shot of the first tee, or maybe the approach with a shot of the first green.
Perhaps it's an image of the toughest water carry on the course with the line, "guess how many balls this pond has collected?" Regardless of the post, put your images, videos, tips and more on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and even Snapchat.
Remember, golf is a visual game and your job is to make people want to be there.
5. Tell your best stories
It seems there's an opportunity to begin a new narrative in private golf club marketing. A storyline that communicates what makes golf a wonderful game for all ages; the game of a lifetime.
Share the stories of your patrons and people who enjoy the game. Share the story of the person who plays more rounds than anyone else at your club. Or perhaps it's the story of the person whose golf shoes are older than most of the other members.
Whatever the angle, inspire prospective golfers with stories of the game. Not just another deal or sale in the golf shop, instead focus on one of the other things that makes golf the greatest game created. Focus on the people.