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The Good, Bad and the Ugly of Golf Course Ownership

John bought his first golf course at the age of 23. Ever since, he’s been involved with owning and operating golf facilities of all kinds around the country. In this podcast episode, he discusses the great things about club ownership as well as the downside that comes with it.

Either way, in his 5th decade in the business, John’s always got interesting things to say and value to bring.

Listen to the podcast now:


Club Ownership: The Good

On the good side, John takes tremendous pride in the positive feedback he gets from his work. Of course verbal testimonials and “thank you’s” are great, but simply becoming a repeat customer at John’s facilities is probably the best vote of confidence anyone can give.

Golf courses are typically one of the primary centerpieces of any community. They provide jobs, recreation, green space and a genuine source of pride in many ways. Property values are affected by a golf course’s reputation.

John explains that the rewards of ownership can be immeasurable. And as the owner, you get to do it your way…which is great by him as well.

The Bad and the Ugly

Of course when you’re the one in charge, you’re the first one in line when things go bad.

All the upside that a community sees with a thriving golf course can be quickly reversed when the club is struggling. Real estate values plummet, people lose their jobs, conditions and course reputation declines, and lots of people get grumpy.

John explains, “When golfers don’t like the value they’re getting for their money, they’re usually not afraid to let you know about it”.

It can be extremely stressful when golf courses are underperforming because golf clubs are not like ordinary businesses. When a restaurant fails, sure it affects ownership, staff and vendors. But when a golf course fails, the effects are far more wide reaching.

The stakes are extremely high. As an owner, you’re either the beloved hero or the hated goat. Certainly not for the faint of heart.

3 Keys to Company Culture and Empowerment

In the end, John discusses customer service and the value of company culture. He feels that it’s simply not possible to grow and thrive as a business without a positive working environment. Here are the 3 keys he emphasizes at every one of his properties:

  1. Hire Well – Do your homework and hire people who are nice. Nice people get along well with the team and will more likely sign up to learn and grow in the job. It’s that simple. Anyone can be trained to do the tasks required, but not everyone is nice to others. If you make a hiring mistake, fire quickly. The team comes first…even before customers and definitely before the interests of ownership.
  2. Fix Problems Fast – Don’t let anyone get away unhappy. They’re not likely to come back, and they’ll probably tell their friends about their lousy experience. If a customer is upset, the team needs to address the issue fairly, yet aggressively to ensure that the customer knows that the club cares about them.
  3. Empowerment – The only true way to fix problems fast is to empower staff to make decisions and execute. Hire well, train well, then let them do their thing. When mistakes are made, it’s important to learn. It’s also important to let your team know that you have their back and they won’t be punished for honest mistakes.


Casey Bourque
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