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Are You on The Slippery Slope to Failure?

Most golf courses fail and most management companies fail to rescue distressed golf courses because they lean on traditional golf course management models and practices that place them directly atop the dreaded, slippery slope to financial instability and ultimately, closure or land-repurposement.

At Paradigm Golf Group, an incentive-based golf course management and ownership company, we have identified the key reasons why most golf courses fail and we’ve developed the Paradigm Playbook which refocuses resources and techniques away from traditional, unsuccessful efforts that serve merely to prolong the inevitable.

We recognize, of course, that some courses suffer closure due to factors completely outside their control like a poorly structured deal, unsustainable water costs, inclement weather, and location.  These are usually failures in the due-diligence processes, or structural issues, not improper management.  But far too often, a management company will focus on these as the ultimate cause of their inability to turn a club around, using them as excuses, rather than changing their management styles to meet the needs of an ever-changing golf environment.

The Dreaded Slippery Slope Management, Myths, Marketing and Morons

Let’s look at the Dreaded Slippery Slope and identify opportunities to hop off the downward slide and start climbing back into the light of success.  Not every PGA professional, golf course manager or ownership group can or will adopt these successful and proven techniques, but that’s what we’re here for. We’ll be happy to step in and help and we only get paid if you succeed.

Management

Probably the biggest reason most golf course management companies fail to bail out the bilge of a sinking ship is an inability to change their management tools and techniques, focusing on old practices, policies and procedures rather than on the most important piece of their business...THE GOLFER!

Most golf courses manage the way they do because that’s the way it has always been done.  Rain-check policies, cart return time policies, strict enforcement of 5-some policies even when there’s nobody on the course, dress code enforcement based on a tradition many new golfers don’t respect and find pointless.

A failure to understand that the golfer is the life-blood of any daily fee golf course and needs to be treated as such only leads to the slow death of declining revenues.  So, most managers will manage their budgets by cutting expenses rather than looking for ways to grow their revenues.  Rather than hire new, friendly, outgoing staff and incentivizing them to do great work and boost the bottom line, they cut staff in order of seniority and are left with the cranky old guy who’s working for free golf and would rather have fewer players because it makes his job easier.

The slippery slope will grab hold of that course and it’s only a matter of time...At Paradigm, we understand that the golfer and the green fee are the key to our success, not traditions, and policies that stifle an upbeat, friendly atmosphere. The golfer has changed. The way a golfer gets their information has changed dramatically. The other entertainment options for golf, while on pause for COVID will return and we will all fight for their entertainment dollar.

So, hire friendly people.  You can’t train friendly. Look, your staff doesn’t need to know a nine-iron from a lawn mower, so long as they know how to create a fun, upbeat environment that puts the customer in the lime-light makes them want to come back.  Incentivize your staff by offering them commissions and other opportunities to make more than their hourly wage by doing things that help you reach your revenue goals like selling player cards.  This makes for happy employees and happy golfers.

What do happy golfers do?  They tell someone else about their experience.  They talk about the cool contest they won, or the music on the carts, or the really fun experience they had. And how do they tell their friends?  Social media, text, email. How are you communicating with your golfers (we’ll talk more in the marketing section)

What we do at Paradigm is create an upbeat, friendly atmosphere. We are not too concerned about rate-integrity and dress codes. We understand and respect the game and its heritage, but we will not let that get in the way of achieving success for ourselves and for our clients who bring us on as management partners.  We’ve seen the result of an inability or an unwillingness to accept that you’re on the slippery slope.  We can give you traction and we will build our agreement based on your success.

Marketing

We asked our resident PGA Professional and all-around great guy, Jason Davis, how much the PGA Program taught about marketing. His response--”Almost none.” 

“How about sales?’ We asked.  He just laughed. “We learned about merchandising, managing a cart fleet, creating a budget and catering to members more than anything else.”

That’s not to say that those things are not important.  But you need your managers to manage your image and your message. Your digital footprint goes way beyond email blasts and blah-blah Facebook Posts.  

And you need your management team as well as your front-line staff to be your best salespeople.  Train them, incentivize them, and let them help you grow your business.

We’re not afraid to give away our secrets here, because we know that most managers don’t have the skill set or the desire to do these things. It’s not their fault. It’s hard to build a golf course brand and a true following of dedicated customers. That’s what we’re here for:

10 Simple Sales and marketing Techniques Drawn From the Paradigm Playbook to Get You Off the Slippery Slope:

  1. The upbeat and welcoming atmosphere may begin on the phone. We answer the phone with an upbeat message and ask the caller’s name…”It’s another beautiful day at (golf course)  Who do I have the pleasure of speaking with?”
  2. Your upbeat and welcoming atmosphere will likely begin on your website.   Create an engaging site with content that entertains and engages.  Websites should sell your products and services. In today’s world, often the currency that leads to cash, is a player’s attention.  Keep them engaged.
  3. Your goal is to create fun.
  4. Use old reviews to re-acquire lost customers.  One old customer who is wowed by their experience and your commitment, will lead to many more.
  5. Create relationships via social media and via face-to-face interactions.
  6. Adapt your messaging away from the traditional avenues and target your audience with messages they want to hear.
  7. Build a brand your players can associate with and relate to.  Build a culture customers want to be a part of.
  8. Create an “Operational Influencer.”  Who is the face of your operation?
  9. Pricing - most operators believe that dynamic pricing is having three or four set rates throughout the day. Not so!  Incorporate real, dynamic pricing.
  10. Stop trying to price your course on what YOU think it’s worth and price it on what the MARKET says it’s worth. Check your ego.

Myths

Young people aren’t into golf!  Not true.  They’re just not into golf the way you present it to them. Meet them where they are and you’ll find success. Everyone can have a profitable operation if they are willing to shift the vibe to drive the bottom line!

We have dozens of ways to help drive younger player participation.  We go so far as to produce our own music videos and YouTube Channels!

Morons

Don’t build or agree to manage a course where the environmental challenges cannot be overcome!  Some courses just cannot be saved, check your ego and take ‘em off of life support.

Stop designing golf courses that are so hard that 95% of the playing public cannot play them.  Build your course so that a good player can shoot a great score and a beginner can play without losing two-dozen golf balls.  They’ll both have great stories to tell!

Cutting staff and services is not a good way to meet budget. Find tools and techniques for maximizing the profit-centers you have. Decreasing maintenance and staff only leads to poor conditions and crappy customer experience.

There you have it.  The dreaded Slippery Slope and how to avoid it.  Paradigm Golf Group, has provided the traction to stop the slide and turn million-dollar-losers into successful, profitable and upbeat clubs.  Palm Beach National in Florida, which is definitely not the nicest course in Florida, is now ranked #4 in the nation as a favorite place to play by GolfAdvisor!

If you’ve been to Palm Beach National, you know the reason for the ranking is not because the golf course is among the top four in the country.  The reason for the rating is the golfers’ amazing experience generated by following the Paradigm Playbook.

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