Tee for Two (or More)

Golf’s a great sport. Lush green tees, fairways and greens inviting you to drive the ball, putt like a champ and, maybe, win some money. And, even if you spend all your time in the woods or sand, you’ve still stolen a few hours with your friends or family.

Of course, that’s the ideal. In reality, golf can be as much a divider as a uniter. One family member loves the game and the other doesn’t know how to play. The parent’s love to play, but don’t have time because the kids are too young to be on the course. And on and on.

At MCCS’ Awase Meadows Golf Course in Okinawa, Japan, our Master Teaching Professional, Sonny Gibbs, PGTAA is very much aware of this issue and has worked to develop free teaching programs designed to unite families and friends around the sport of golf and, in the end, increase revenue for his course.

Free Golf Lessons for Kids

Gibbs’ vision for Awase Meadows is to not only provide programming all his members can enjoy, but also build awareness about golf with people who may have never attempted the sport. To do this, Gibbs began offering juniors free golf lessons (once a month for one hour).

He realized parents interested in teaching their children to play were in a tough spot. It’s just too difficult (and uncomfortable) to bring them to the course and have them cause a traffic jam as other players pile up behind them waiting for their turn to hit. Inevitably, the kid’s instruction is rushed, the parent is stressed and, in the end, nobody has a good experience.

With this new program, parents drop their children off for quality, personal instruction in a comfortable setting and the parents get a chance to spend some time together and play nine holes while the kids are entertained.

And, if your golf course offers dining, what better way to end an evening of golf than to have a family dinner in the clubhouse. At Awase, Gibbs finds offering free junior lessons actually pays off in increased dining revenue and mid-week rounds.

Free Golf Lessons for Ladies

Spending time together as a couple is nice, but not if only one of you enjoys the activity. Gibbs realized his female patrons wanted more. They wanted to get out there on the golf course and spend time with their husbands or friends.

To help them, he began offering monthly, free, hour-long lessons for ladies. Offering these free lessons gives women the chance to get out and do something for themselves and begin learning a new activity they can share with their spouses or friends in a non-threatening environment.

Based on the success of the free lessons, Gibbs developed a ladies golf day. Now at Awase, every Thursday from 7:30-9:30 a.m. tee times are reserved for ladies and take priority over other players wanting to get on the course during that time.

One note of caution, this particular activity needs a lot of advertising, so make sure you remind your patrons of this special program every chance you get. Post the information in your clubhouse, at the counter, in the golf cart, and even the restrooms. Make sure you’re getting the word out that you are offering this program.

Sponsorship for this program is also a great idea. Find a local spa, salon, or clothing store that may wish to give your patrons gift bags with coupons inside, small lotions, or shampoo samples. This will help build relationships with other vendors and get your patrons talking about their nice gifts with other non-members. As an added touch, the menu in the clubhouse that day can be geared toward healthy selections. Spinach salads, low-fat food items, smaller portions, healthy drinks and other healthy items can be offered that day in the clubhouse to build patronage there as well. Again, make sure you advertise this in addition to advertising the program itself.

Weekly Skins Game

To maintain regular patronage from current customers and new golfers, Gibbs suggests offering a weekly Skins Game. At Awase, the Skins Game takes place each Friday at 3 pm. The game, an individual, stroke play, nine-hole event with no handicap, offers his customers a nice end to the workweek.

There is a small entry fee for the game which Gibbs uses to purchase prizes, trophies and other items. He also works to get sponsorship items for the players and offers discount coupons for food and drinks in the clubhouse to winners as an enticement to stick around after the tournament.

Other Free Stuff

Awase also offers a free handicap analysis, free golf cart rentals on your birthday, a tip of the month on their website or emailed daily to your email account, and Gibbs’ email and phone number for on-the-call pro golf advice whenever you need it.

Generally, we do not like to offer a lot of things for free, but keep in mind when you’re building a program, nominal or no-fee items are very helpful. After all, the more people who play your course, the more people who see what else you have to offer.

Kati Trammel is the advertising and public relations account executive for MCCS Marketing, Semper Fit Retail, Food and Beverage based in Okinawa, Japan. She can be reached at katitram@yahoo.com.