Changing the common perceptions about what golfers really need and want can help you develop a much more successful business.
Having often seen and read about lush, green and highly manicured courses around the world, golfers can easily be lured into thinking that their own playing needs can only be fulﬁlled by having similar pristine conditions at their home clubs. What is often overlooked, however, is that developing such standards is reliant on large budgets and intensive management regimes; which are not feasible for the average golf club. Aside from the ﬁnancial costs involved with this approach, intensive management can also have highly negative social and environmental consequences if appropriate precautions are not rigidly adhered to. In the current climate of declining membership subscriptions, no club wants bad publicity. A growing environmental awareness, coupled with increasingly stringent legislation and budget limitations, would also suggest that such intensive management approaches are unlikely to remain possible, sustainable or permissible in the future. It can also be questioned as to whether they are even necessary.
People play golf for the enjoyment, competition and challenge of the game, for the social interaction and for the love of being outdoors. The mark of a good golf course is, therefore, one that:
- caters for a desirable level of play throughout the year
- provides fair and consistent playing surfaces
- is testing for the low handicapper but equally enjoyable for the beginner
- sits inclusively within the local natural environment and adds to the landscape of the vicinity
- reﬂects good value for money in relation to what it costs to play compared to the conditions that are provided
- interacts positively and proactively with local communities of people
- functions as a sustainable business model for the course operators.
None of these parameters are, in fact, reliant on grass colour, complexity of bunkering or intricacy of tree-lining, for example.
The appearance of the course, its grass colour and playing characteristics will vary naturally throughout the seasons and with changing weather conditions and this is something that golfers have to be prepared for. In its truest form, golf is a natural game played off grass surfaces. Part of the challenge and enjoyment therefore stems from adapting to the conditions you are presented with on the day; of ‘playing the course as you ﬁnd it’.
What is important is consistency and fairness; the conditions on the practice putting green should be reﬂective of what will be encountered on the 18 greens of the course itself. The R&A asserts that true, ﬁrm, fast and dry playing conditions (as provided by healthy growing grass) are the most sustainable long term targets for clubs to achieve. Simultaneously, these conditions also provide for the fairest and truest test of golﬁng capabilities for the player. Striving to develop and maintain these conditions across your course will:
- develop resilient playing surfaces that can sustain frequent play
- favour and reward good shot making by providing consistency
- reduce environmental impact by lessening requirements for water and chemicals
- offer affordable golf for the player since management costs can be reduced
- set a good precedent among the local community for your club’s operation and commitment to sustainability.
Communicating this message clearly to your members and customers will ensure that you have their full support in moving the club forward in this direction. Some golfers think they know what they want but it may be up to you to challenge their beliefs and show why a sustainable approach is really best for their course and best for their game.