Golf is quickly becoming a sport for the privileged few. I play much less than I used to, mostly because the prices to play have continued to go up, when the value has gone down. Now that we’re working closely with the PGA of Canada to help golf professionals improve their marketing and branding its become apparent that many clubs continue to neglect the lifeblood of their business – new members… most specifically, junior golfers.
Let’s face it – the game is expensive, time-consuming, and difficult to learn. It has thousands of rules to learn if you ever want to compete in tournaments, and can take 4+ hours to play. For a teenager who’s attention span is less than 5 minutes nowadays (thank our smartphones for that), getting them to commit to a sport that takes this long is a difficult task. But with that said, some golf courses understand the need to nurture juniors, but those are too far between. Here’s how golf courses can make a difference in the future of the game by catering to the younger generation:
- Build / Setup Junior Length Courses
We’ve came across a bunch of golf courses that have either built a ‘Rec 9’, or a short course, or even added junior tees near the 150 markers of the normal golf course. Of course building a separate course isn’t the cards for everyone, but adding junior tees is. Today, we’re seeing new golf course developments often ignoring the beginner segment, and just focused on either real estate or championship golf (for the declining population of people interested in this offer). I don’t get this.They are simply setting themselves up for failure. For new developments, taking into account the beginner golfers will have a huge influence on the livelihood of the club… and the game. Adding junior tees will hardly ruin the golf course experience for your more seasoned golfer, will not slow the pace of play, and offers juniors a unique experience on the ‘real course’.
- Encourage Juniors To Actually Play
If you want to teach your kid to play the game, you shouldn’t have to fork out full-rates to do it… or even pay for half a cart seat for them just to ride along and see what the game is all about. We’ve come across a few golf courses that offer a ‘Kid’s Play Free’ with a paying adult after 3pm on weekends, or junior rates below the $20 marker, and this is what all clubs should offer. I have found in my research that many golf clubs don’t want juniors on their course for one reason or another. This is one of those situations where we feel golf courses need some branding lessons. If you position your golf course as one that doesn’t want juniors playing there, where will you be in 20 years, when all those junior golfers are now adults? Do you think they’ll have your back, when you never had theirs? The negative brand equity golf courses are generating because of ignorance is head-shake worthy. In short, encourage juniors to play – offer them opportunities to learn the game on and off the course, charge low rates, or nothing at all when with their parents.
- Junior/Student Membership Rates
Juniors and Students both need discounted membership offerings. If you don’t offer these, you’re alienating a big part of your potential revenue stream down the line. Memberships should also be flexible and cater to the needs of juniors. Some juniors may only need afternoon memberships, which could be offered at a discount to full-time membership. Student memberships are still often out of the price range for full-time students. Even individuals freshly out of school would still benefit from reduced rates before hitting the adult category. All in all the question becomes this: how many members are courses alienating by pricing their memberships too high.
- Offer Junior Leagues & Lessons
We’ve found in our research that those courses who spend the time to build up their junior lesson programs often benefit from spin-off memberships and league enrolment in the long run. Junior lessons are often the gateway to new members joining the game and your club. We suggest all golf courses cater to the beginner with low-priced group lesson packages for juniors. In addition, by catering to the junior golfers, there’s positive brand equity you often build with the community, which can provide a solid ROI for your golf course and club.
- Junior Friendly Courses
One of the most unique ways we’ve seen of golf courses catering to juniors, was a golf course in Stony Plain, Alberta, Canada, that setup a junior tournament with extra large holes – 1 foot in diameter. Not only was this well received by the junior golfers, but adults wanted to give their shot at this simple variation on the game. Thinking outside the box, can often lead to new opportunities for golf courses, and this is something we hope more courses will do to help build and sustain the game.