Golf Marketing University

Do You REALLY Understand Your Competition?

Ask most golf club pros, employees, members or owners who their club is in competition with and most likely, the first name out of their mouth will be the name of the nearest golf club down the road. They might even follow that up with the names of a few more golf clubs locally that are taking business away from them. Most likely followed shortly by a grumble about how they’ve seen a drop in green fee prices, ridiculous discounts on food and drink and isn’t this terrible cycle of discounting killing golf.

And to a certain extent, they’re right. Discounting is killing certain golf clubs…generally poorly run ones, but that’s another discussion for another day.

The Competition Paradox

Where they’re completely wrong though, is in thinking that their competition is another golf club. In actual fact, they’re almost 100% wrong. Here we have a paradox. So how does that work? Have you ever been along a high street or to an out-of-town shopping mall and noticed a row of busy restaurants? Instinctively you’d think that it’s completely insane to open a restaurant where there are already lots of others. Wouldn’t you all be constantly competing for the same customers?

In reality though, if all the restaurants are different from one another (which they almost always are), the whole area becomes a magnet for hungry shoppers. Feel like a pizza? Drop into the Pizza restaurant. Maybe you’d prefer a burger? Zip into the burger joint. In fact, if you think about it…if you’re in the mood for some spicy chicken, you’re heading to Nando’s even if there are ten other restaurants in the immediate area. For anyone running one of those places, they’ve effectively got a monopoly – that’s ZERO competition!

So let’s bring this back to golf… if you can be demonstrably different from those clubs you currently think of as “competitors”, well then you’ll be well on your way to having a monopoly all of your own. How good would that be?

But what about non-golf competition?

Have you observed the behaviour of the average under 30 year old? I’ll bet if you watch them for 5 minutes, you’ll see them on their smartphone, sending an SMS, checking their email or using an app. If you believe you’re in competition with another golf club for this customer, you’d better widen your thinking. Let me list some of your competitors for this customer’s finite time and money:

– TV/Netflix/Amazon Prime – box sets or movies on demand
– A meal out with friends
– Cinema
– Bowling alley
– Bars
– Shopping with partner or with friends
– Gym/other sports

I could add more to this list but you get the picture. Depressing isn’t it? It shouldn’t be. It should be massively exciting. According to Investopedia, adults today spend more than twice as much on recreation (as a proportion of net household income) than they did 40 years ago and that number is rising. Why? Because consumers value TIME (because they have less of it) and they’ll pay a premium to maximise their enjoyment.

What can you learn from TopGolf?

In a way, the golf market has just exploded into a whole new space. Want an example? TopGolf. Is that golf as we know it? No. Are TopGolf’s customers the kind of people who want to play in a Saturday morning competition at the golf club? Of course not. In all probability, they’re not golfers at all. They’re “Funsters”. Wow. So this is a whole new generation of consumers who associate golf with…FUN! That’s a novelty. And what a change. Surely it can’t be too big a step to get that novice golfer into a short series of fun lessons?

Why not find a way of creating the link between golf and fun at your club. It’s not as tough as you might think. There are loads of things that you could do, you just have to get a bit CREATIVE. Check out the EGCOA Future of Golf website to see just a few succesful examples. All you need to do is go for it. What have you got to lose? One thing’s for sure…it’s got to be easier than trying to poach existing golfers from other clubs in your local area! Aim for “BIG GOLF”. More for all, means MORE FOR YOU!

Aim for “BIG GOLF”. More for all, means MORE FOR YOU!Click To Tweet

Why shouldn’t we all work together to increase the size of the golf market. More golfers of all standards, shapes and sizes has got to be a good thing, hasn’t it? We know from bitter experience that old-school club golfers aren’t typically as free-spending as we’d like them to be. That might even be a massive understatement at your club.

I call it BIG GOLF. If we as a sport get more non-golfers into the game, even if we individually only retain the same proportion of pie, a bigger pie means there’s more in it for everyone. And if you add to that some careful differentiation, well you’ll be in a bigger market all by yourself. And that means MONEY IN THE BANK 🙂

So when you’re next passing your local golf ‘competitor’ and you see a full car park…you should be smiling because a growing golf market is good news for all.

Elliot Hamilton

Elliot Hamilton

Elliot doesn't just talk the talk...As Co-Founder of GMU, Elliot isn't just a marketing guru, he's also a 9 year Chief Executive of Hunley Hotel & Golf Club in North Yorkshire. So he really knows how to deliver game-changing marketing and golf operations in the real-world.

From directing strategy to delivering small (but devastatingly effective) campaigns, he's learnt the hard way how to maximize the return on every penny of marketing spend & grow a bottom line.

And with that 'skin in the game' experience, that makes him pretty qualified to share high quality knowledge of a fast-changing marketing environment - no marketing diploma can match that!

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