The golf course is the key element of the business and in order to operate it successfully, there needs to be a clear focus on achieving and maintaining a target level of financial income.
Golfers - your customers - pay to play golf at your facility through various transactions, such as an annual membership subscription, an individual green fee or a corporate scheme. Building a strong customer base is a balance between attracting new golfers and retaining existing players. Fundamentally, you need to continually offer a product that golfers want, when they want it, at a price which they are prepared to pay.
The first step in this financial planning process is to determine your target market, along with its associated price point. For example, are you aiming to present a fun and affordable 9 hole golf course on a pay per play basis or, conversely, are you offering a championship length 18 hole course with luxury clubhouse and dining amenities in a higher-tier subscription membership model? Regardless of your target market segment, in an increasingly competitive market where golfers are expecting more for their money, course operators need to look closely at what makes their facility better value, and more attractive to play at, than other similar venues.
Having accurately determined your target audience, it is then also important to understand your customer mix, i.e. what percentage of your annual income will come from visitor green fees, member green fees, members guest green fees, and corporate golf days, for example.
Once you have developed a good understanding of the product you will be offering and the customer segment this is targeted at, attention can be turned towards planning how you can best meet the expectations of your customers with the resources that you have available to you. Your product is your golf course and in order for this to continually attract customers – to generate income – there are two issues to consider:
- the value for money which your course presents
- the year-round availability of the course for play.
In terms of providing a golf experience that represents good value for money, the condition of your course should be reflected in the price that it costs to play. The higher the price point, the higher the level of surface preparation that the customer will expect. Conversely, for lower budget facilities, a more affordable price will translate into primary emphasis being placed on greens preparation while less attention is paid to the out of play areas; a good decision to make in this instance is to let these areas grow naturally while encouraging indigenous vegetation. This presents both a financially efficient decision and also benefits the area environmentally.
Regardless of where your facility falls on a price scale – and accepting that there will inherently be some variation in surface quality according to available budgets – The R&A believes that there are some aims which all courses should strive for. Namely, this is to achieve true, firm, dry and healthy turf. These conditions will offer the fairest and most enjoyable golf whilst allowing income to be maximised from regular play. This leads to the second component of the issue; the year round availability of the course for play. In order to maximise income, the golf course needs to be available to customers for as much of the year as possible. If the course is closed for any reason – be that disease outbreak, maintenance work or flooding – you are effectively losing income. In this regard, there is a strong business case for working to develop healthy and resilient playing surfaces that can support a high frequency of play, thereby maximising potential revenue.
Developing and maintaining optimum income levels is primarily based on offering a good value for money product for as much of the year as possible.