The easiest Advertisment you probably aren’t doing

Full transparency…I don’t have a membership to Pinehurst, yet I love the place so much, I advertise for them everyday when I’m driving.  When I’m parked, it’s made for some great, unexpected conversation about one of my favorite destinations.

Why doesn’t your pro shop have these when you (intuitively) know 25-40% of your members will proudly display these…and to boot, pay for them(!)?

Food for thought #17

Great clubs understand, every junior member is a future full member.  

Having little conversations in the pro shop, bringing them a Shirley Temple or better: calling a special drink by their name, and basically, treating them like their parents goes a long way to ensuring they stay for a lifetime.

Name, not number – every time

My next-door neighbor’s daughter works at one of the better club’s in town as the restaurant manger.  Her attention to detail as it relates to the member experience is unmatched in the club world.

Knowing her Father well, she was taught from a young age the importance of remembering names.  It is something this blog focuses on continually, because frankly, many people weren’t taught the magic of it.

I asked Sarah how she trains employees to remember names, even when they are new:

  1. “It’s unacceptable to address or even ask for a member’s number”.  They aren’t numbers, they are people.  She believes it is imperative to remember names quickly because of the inherent competitive advantage it places the club ahead of the other restaurants members pass on the way to the club.  A simple technique for a new employee is, “Hello, my name is _______________ and I know I have served you before… I am trying hard to remember everyone at the club.  Could you give me your name once again and I’ll be right back with your drink order”.  This is 1,000 times better than, “what can I get you to drink…great, what’s that number again”.
  2. “Have pictures of members in your computer data base.   Another simple solution.  What about pictures after the Saturday or Sunday morning games of the members in the 19th hole…with tagged pictures on Facebook?  I would actually have staff look at these to cement the member names in their minds.
  3. Always have a senior employee present.  I have actually seen Sarah point out members many times to new hires as they are walking in.  “That’s Mr. and Mrs. So and So, she usually gets Tea with two lemons, he likes Diet Coke”.  Having a seasoned employee around to point out and teach new hires who and what (the member likes) is valuable.
  4. Strike up simple, but genuine conversations.  “How was your round today Mr. Smith, it was certainly a beautiful day for golf?  
  5. Use the members name several times throughout their time in the dining room.  Repetition takes effort, not skill.  This the quickest way to remember names quickly.




A perfect example of how to beat the chains

My club, Holston Hills CC in Knoxville, TN just hired a new Executive Chef.  With a newly remodeled kitchen and dining facility still in progress, the roll-out of the new menu has been limited — and for good reason, when  94% of Country Club restaurants lose money on Food & Beverage.  It’s not the (collective) club Restaurant’s fault when only 300-500 potential customers are all the club can serve despite great service and a high-quality product.

Last night my family decided to go to the club for their once-per-week (Friday) dinner.  The menu is limited…and I love it.  Two appetizers – $5.  A feature drink.  Three main courses & two dessert items.  And these selections change every week – another fantastic idea.  Simple.

I would like to convey a few things about my experience that you could use or keep in mind at your club:

  • When we arrived, we didn’t have to park 1/2 a mile away like we do on a busy Friday night at Outback.
  • Reservations were a snap.  No pager to carry around.  No one butchering my last name when our table was ready.  No bustling waiting area where everyone is texting annoying bird noises, watching (loud) videos, or talking on their phones like no one else exists.
  • When we arrived, they had nice table cards with the club logo and our names – great touch.
  • Of course, no chain in town can match the advantage of knowing who my family is when we walk in.  We were greeted by Eric and Curtis, by name.  It matters.
  • Service was prompt and attentive, not smothering, throughout the entire meal.
  • When our restaurant Manager, Jamie came by to say hello, he took the time to introduce himself to my son and shook his hand (he’s twelve years old).  This meant a lot to me.  Do you think this would ever happen at PF Changs or Red Lobster?
  • Because the kitchen isn’t pushing out meals every three minutes, our meal didn’t sit in the service window/area for six minutes.  It came out hot off the grill.
  • About mid-way through out meal, Chef Patrick came out to say hello and asked how our meal was.  This was genuine by the way, not forced.  My Father, who used to own and manage restaurants for years used to make a point of doing this – and he always had a big following of customers that yelp or tripadvisor couldn’t beat off with a stick.
  • At the club, it’s nice (sorry, I’m getting old) to have presentable folks take care of you.  Pressed clothing.  Friendly.  No nose rings, lip piercings, eye-brow piercings, tattoos, gum-chewing, or having to ask several times what they said because of a  tongue-piercing (this actually happened over a business lunch at a nice restaurant in downtown Knoxville a week earlier).
  • The music was soothing, no pumped up Lady GaGa, Bruno Mars, or Justin Bieber that we had to yell over.
  • My view?  Looking out over a 1927 Donald Ross masterpiece beats a parking lot view any day.
  • Finally,we didn’t feel rushed to leave because the Restaurant needed to turn our table over another 5-6 times.

All of these points are worth a 15-20% premium.

How you Market this is up to you:

  • A view looking out of the window of your club split-screened with a parking lot at Applebees?
  • Pictures of members that everyone knows enjoying the food (other members will ask how their experience was)?
  • A picture of the table cards with members names?
  • Pictures of the food being cooked on an open fire in the Kitchen or plated?
  • A few pictures of the staff members everyone loves welcoming members to come?
  • Maybe a comment or two from actual members that night raving about their experience?

These are ideas the chains simply can’t do, and won’t do.

Bon apetit’.



Still confused about club’s ignoring Birthdays?

Every birthday I get inundated with offers from restaurants I don’t pay $600 per month to be a member of…but nothing from my club?

Since few people eat alone on their birthdays, what is the real harm in giving your member a free lunch on his birthday?  What if it becomes a tradition…for twenty years?  

“I would love to meet you at such and such restaurant, but I enjoy going to the club on my birthday”.

A $6-7 (your cost) meal to make a person feel special…why, you could even take a picture of the member eating and share it on Facebook where 500 other people will see it.

Quit thinking of ideas like “free birthday lunch” as a drain.  It’s marketing.  It’s member retention.  It’s a nice thing to do.  And really, when 12 other offers are jamming your members mail box, but they hear nothing from the club — that’s pure laziness.

Happy Birthday!

Your Facebook page still sucks

Do you ever look at your Facebook page and wonder why the content you post doesn’t get many views or likes?

If you look closely at what does get the most likes/views, you’ll see a common thread:  It’s people.

Facebook is and should be viewed as the FREE Digital Billboard for your club.  The difference in it and an actual billboard on the road is, you have to drive the traffic.

But how?

Step one:  Get your likes up.  If 2x your current membership or less is currently following your page, you’re doing it wrong.  You should have a minimum of 4x your membership.

But how could I get that many people to like us?

Do you host weddings?  Have a club representative take pictures along with the professionals.  Every bride will want every picture imaginable on their magical day.

Do you host outside events?  Tell everyone to like your page while doing announcements, have a random drawing for someone out of the group to win pro shop credit, a dinner…something of value.  You’ll have all of the participants names already so pick one, make sure they ‘liked’ you…the club wins.  Now you have an additional 70-100 people you didn’t have seeing your content.

Step two:  Post better content.  Don’t post a food special alone (a picture or flyer). Post a special of Sally eating the club sandwich with the 9 hole ladies.  Food + members + a group within the club = more attention.

Posting pictures of the 6th hole is great…better:  tag people that are playing the 6th hole on a beautiful sunny day.

Posting pictures of your pros is great.  Asking people to participate in the wine and dine is even better…but take it up a notch by showing pictures of people participating in the wine and dine.

Short videos, especially on instruction, by your golf professionals are very, very popular.

What about a quick video of your chef preparing a simple dish?

All pretty easy to do.

Step three:  Post more often.  If your Facebook strategy is ‘when we think about it’, it’s no wonder your likes and view are low.  Y0u should post something every day.  If the person in charge of your page can’t or doesn’t, find someone else that will and understands the importance of this medium.  Remember:  This is a billboard for the club and it costs nothing but time.

Step four:  Interact with the people that post.  The quicker and kinder the responses the better.

Step five:  Every now and again have a contest that only Facebook followers can win.  Free lunch.  Pro shop credit.  “Re-post this to have a chance to win…”.  Be creative, this will drive traffic to the club.


There is a reason why your Junior Club championship has terrible participation

I was born in 1972.  My generation was the first to receive participation trophies.  My first year of little league baseball, we won two games – and I got a trophy!  Did I keep it on my dresser?  Yes, right beside the first place one the very next year.

There is a place for participation trophies, despite my badge-of-honor-adult-disdain for them.

The club championship should be the PREMIER event at your club.  It should be a celebration, not an afterthought.  I’ve heard in ‘olden’ times stories of many, many club members coming out to watch.  That isn’t the case today at many clubs as the stories of low participation are more the norm.

Where does all of this begin?  I would submit in the early years, when golf only has one trophy or medal (for the 15-17 year old phenom who takes $100 weekly lessons…and the other six days, applies what he/she learned).

I was playing in an invitational tournament in my hometown a few weeks ago and looked on the wall of the kids activity room.  My head Pro won the 9-11 division in 1979, as did one of my best friends, Walt Chapman, in the 15-17 division.  To hear our Pro tell it, his dad Mr. Dibble had a vibrant junior program in the late 70’s-early 80’s.  I can’t recall a club having this many divisions – ever!  Females too?  Unheard of.

Why can’t your club copy this?

“We don’t have enough to participate, especially with young girls”.


Why can’t this be a major focal point going forward?

Why can’t you hire a young (or old) gregarious Professional that is a pied piper for young people?  One that is fun, kneels down at times to speak, understands their lingo, and won’t give up even when the child wants to?


Junior Golf (still an afterthought?)

I’ll never forget my first trip to Greenville CC in Greenville, South Carolina.  It was early spring, temperature in the low 50’s, a little wind, definitely sweater weather.  After lunch, I went to hit balls and looked over to the right…and saw a good 35+ kids practicing in the short game area.  I said (surprised), “what’s going on”?  My friend (and member) said, “it’s like this all the time, we have a young PGA Pro that is largely dedicated to the Junior program”.  I watched in amazement as several other professionals assistants  — again, read several– went through chipping and pitching drills on a day many kids I thought would be playing video games.

Here is their scorecard:


Separate card.  A great message on the bottom.  A dedicated staff.  If you look closely at the scorecard, notice how the distances are very age appropriate.

Anyone want to take bets that in twenty years they won’t be cutting initiation fees, charging separately for 3 year old beat up range balls, and begging for their members to recruit for a month’s worth of dues?

Kids love to take lessons.  They love to play with other kids in a fun environment.  If given the chance, many would fall in love with the game.  A great PGA Professional that can attract and maintain a strong junior program could be another reason why the parent joins and then later starts playing too.  Can you imagine being able to say that you had the strongest junior program in town – and being able to back it up?


Restaurants are more than just selling food

Clubs needing new members continue to focus on the wrong area(s).  Yes, you need a strong calendar of events.  Yes, you need a decent restaurant.  And yes, it would help to have a strong lady and/or junior program (actually you should strive to have the best in your town since no one touts it)…but don’t fall in love with posting pictures of your $14 lunch items with avocado over your main income line item:  dues (golf).

When it comes to food, by in large, members would much rather have quality over cheap. They pass cheap about 15 times on the way to the club, but there is realistically only so many times a member will pay $22+ for a beer and a sandwich plus service charge for lunch vs. the chain around the corner.

I get margins.  I get that the restaurant is usually a huge financial loser and you need to maximize each time your member visits, but the vast majority will not support what they feel is gouging.  And therein lies the mistake, focusing on margins and not the real source of income.

The country club business is all about dues, not hamburgers with locally sourced angus meat.  Camaraderie, not fish tacos with mango salsa.

You want everyone gathering after their round in the 19th hole or Grill(e) room, not going there separate ways.  Members quit clubs, not their friends.  When you foster an environment of camaraderie and unity, you retain members that otherwise might not have stayed.  You also grow membership, because these happy members tell their other friends in town where they should be members.  This is where your restaurant can accentuate the entire member experience.

Ask yourself a few important questions:

  • Do you have a loss leader?  Convenience stores sell soft drinks for .69.  Big chain retail stores routinely sell household staples at or near cost because they understand people will buy other things while shopping for the one thing.  Would you sell more blackened catfish sandwiches if tea/soft drinks were .99 instead of $2.25…because a member smelled or saw one pass by?
  • Does your restaurant/19th hole look like the coolest/cosiest place in town or old and dated?
  • Does your staff expertly remember names?  Remember the 1980’s show Cheers?
  • Do you have a few signature items on your menu that are affordable when compared with the Applebee’s and Outbacks of the world?
  • Does your staff regularly wow members as evidenced by the number of times they tell the General Manger?  If not, why?
  • Do you have weekly specials that change each week?  What about seasonal items?  Are they well promoted on Twitter, Facebook, and email blasts?
  • Does your GM or Head Pro routinely eat with members?  This is a huge opportunity to casually gain important information about what members like and dislike about their entire club experience.