Norm Woods, the affable proprietor of GolfScene Magazine, a junior tour and e-newsletter of the same name in Southwestern Ontario, and I got shooting the breeze over the Christmas holidays and he mentioned an American article he’d just read.
Woods was kind enough to forward me a copy of that story, which basically said that private clubs in the United States would be hurt the most by the staggering economy as even the affluent in our society drop their memberships in favour of high end public golf.
That article made a compelling argument, even if it contradicted other opinions that it would be the high end courses that would hurt due to public players moving to more affordable venues.
Maybe, it will be a trade-off for the high end courses, losing those who can’t afford their green fees on one hand and gaining the spillover from private clubs on the other. Some people believe that nine-hole and executive courses will flourish as golfers seek to spend less time and money in tough economic times.
There is no shortage of opinions on what will happen when the Canadian golf season gets underway. The impact of the economic downturn, at least in this country, didn’t really start to bite hard until the ’08 season was winding down, so there is no way to truly predict the mood of golfers until this bitter winter ends.
Sure, we can use the experience gained from past recessions, but how much have times changed from previous downturns and this one seems much more severe than any in recent memory.
We can take a good, long look at what’s happening in the U.S., where the economy has been hurting much longer than it has here, and that’s a good indicator of what’s to come this spring.
The best indicator of what’s to come, however, is not far from your doorstep and there’s no need to wait until the snow melts before getting a good read.
Sitting behind your desk reading what’s happening in the United States or other parts of Canada makes sense, but it’s your own community and client base that will decide your fate in 2009. The time is now to get aggressive, rather than waiting until spring for golfers to start walking through the door – or not.
While national jobless numbers may paint a bleak picture, things may be better or worse in your community. Hopefully, you’re keeping an eye on the local media and keeping up to date on layoffs and other key factors that may affect your traditional clients/members, either blue collar or white collar.
Have you considered the demographics of the communities in which you operate and establishing programs that might attract seniors, women, young people, minorities or any other group that comprises a good portion of the population?
If you have a good read on those demographics, have you spoken with organizations in which these demographic groups are involved and sought input into how they might become involved with your facility?
Anybody who has been in the business for a long time will have golfers that they know well, so why not invite these loyal customers out for a winter lunch and offer them a free round to not only show your appreciation for their patronage, but also to pick their minds on what consumers will expect in ’09?
Once you’ve decided on new initiatives, specials, pricing, programs etc., communicate your message through what is hopefully a strong database well before this season gets underway and keep communicating in order to keep you in their minds.
Everybody in the industry has a stake in what is to come this season and while the opinions may vary on the subject, the answers for your purposes – private, public, muni, executive or nine-hole – are just outside the door with your clients and community.
That makes the expert on the subject not the person who is writing the opinion. The expert is actually the one who is reading it.