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November 2019

Getting Into the Holiday Spirit

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Eat, drink & be merry — and how about a little golf, too

By David Gould

This is the time of year to think about ways in which the holiday season can and should overlap with your golf operation. The motivation for doing so could be add-on revenue, member appreciation, community outreach, a charitable event or just a feel-good opportunity to celebrate with those around you.

At a public facility in Lopatcong, New Jersey, called The Architects Golf Club, they get a real jump on the season by hosting a Thanksgiving Day dinner with a full-field golf tournament preceding it. The idea is based on the traditional Thanksgiving dinner served in the facility’s manorial clubhouse. Since people need something to do in the early part of the day besides watching high school football, an 8 a.m. shotgun tournament was added, priced at $49 per player. Turnout is weather-dependent, but in the Northeast it’s surprising how often fine weather comes along for Turkey Day.

The great thing about holiday planning for golf courses and clubs is the “accordion” factor – you can go all-out with black-tie, 10-course dinners on New Year’s or simply do a special merchandise event in the golf shop for December. You can go it alone or you can connect with others in the golf community to organize a bigger event. In Myrtle Beach, where golf operators team up to do all sorts of things, they use their combined resources to promote golf plus holiday fun in the region. On the myrtlebeachgolf.com website there’s a push every year to sell golf packages as Christmas gifts, with detailed plans for how to ring in your visit. No opportunity is missed to tout Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland, an iconic Grand Strand show of lights, music and other Yuletide enjoyment.

Part of finding holiday opportunities for your golf business is tracking the changeable consumer habits around shopping and celebrating. The line of thought at Williamsburg (Virginia) Golf Club is that Black Friday mall-crawling – though eagerly awaited by many – isn’t something its members are keen on. Instead they and their guests are invited for an 8:30 a.m. breakfast, a 10 a.m. shotgun tournament and a sale in the golf shop offering the greatest merchandise discounts of the year.

If there’s concern about staffing and customer turnout for a holiday activity that’s scheduled deep into December, you can always create a Christmas-theme event and host it prior to the holiday season – that’s often the only practical way to run a Toys-for-Tots charity outing, since collecting the funds and then purchasing and distributing gifts requires a few weeks to execute.

Some of these events start off modestly and then grow to become juggernauts. An event that’s been hosted in recent years by 36-hole Bonita Bay Naples (Florida) the Christmas Golf Tournament and Dinner put on by the Everglades Golf Course Superintendents Association, has a 176-player field and a full day and evening of golf, dining, awards receptions, raffles, speeches and the works. The beneficiaries of the event are many, starting with the Children’s Home Society of Florida and extending to a families-in-need food program, support for the disabled and several other causes.

The advantages of scale also were apparent last year when Reynolds Lake Oconee (Georgia) staged an epic holiday sale, spread out across one of its expansive golf shops and into an adjacent conference room, just after Thanksgiving. Consolidating older merchandise from its six golf shops, the community’s combined golf staffs managed crowd control and worked in teams to run the registers, work the gift-wrap stations and restock product on the sale tables. Freshly baked cookies and hot chocolate accompanied by Christmas music got shoppers in the mood – many of them having waited in line 30 minutes before the sale began on opening day. More than 1,000 shoppers completed transactions. From a revenue standpoint, the sale was a grand success, logging no less than $59,000 in sales over a three-day period.

If your resources are considerably more limited, a merchandising dive into the holiday season can be small-scale but still creative. Just check the bulk golf ball wholesaling websites and you’ll find endless seasonal logos including Santa Claus, snowmen, Hanukkah dreidels, menorahs and probably the Three Wise Men looking for one more to make a foursome.

And while you probably don’t associate the golf instruction facet of your operation with holiday time, there is a proven connection between the arrival of the New Year and lessons, range plans, clinics and the like. Golfers who are improvement-oriented or generally frustrated act a lot like those folks looking to “get back to the gym” – they adopt a this-is-my-year mindset and are extremely open to suggestion when it comes to teaching and training. All the big academies market New-Year, new-you lesson and practice packages – no reason not to try it yourself.

David Gould is a Massachusetts-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to Golf Business.

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