KPI Golf’s John Brown Shares Survival Advice for Underperforming Golf Clubs

KPI Golf’s Casey Bourque and John Brown discuss the golf marketplace and how underperforming golf clubs can compete. The truth is that golf participation is down and common sentiment is that there are still more golf courses that need to come off the market to bring supply & demand equilibrium.


John Brown: Golf Club Turnaround Specialist

John Brown is one of only several hundred Class A PGA Members (out of 29,000) to have achieve the status of Master PGA Professional – the highest possible educational designation within the organization.

He shares insights from over 40 years as a golf industry leader and golf course operator. John has served in all major golf club management positions including head golf professional, director of golf, general manager, and regional general manager for several major golf management companies including Troon Golf.

Successful Golf Management Entrepreneur

In January of 2011, John opened Brown Golf Management with his two sons, John and Todd. Over the course of just 6 years, Brown Golf became one of the world’s top 20 management companies. At it’s peak, the group owned and managed nearly 30 golf facilities up and down the east coast.

In 2017, John decided to retire and sell his shares of the company to his two sons. However, after just 18 months of retirement, he decided that he loved his work too much and wanted to start anew. In partnership with Casey Bourque and 1 other partner (current anonymous), the company was born.

KPI’s mission is to help underperforming golf clubs operate sustainably and profitably, where otherwise they may fail.

Value Oriented Clubs Disproportionately Victimized

John emphasizes during our chat that price compression is forcing clubs at the value end of the spectrum (less expensive, less extravagant clubs) to continue to lower prices and reduce revenue. Strong market forces are pushing these kinds of clubs disproportionately out of business.

Only the most savvy and efficient clubs are going to survive.

In recent years, we’ve been experiencing a tremendous growth economy. Despite this economic tailwind, many value oriented clubs are not doing well. KPI Golf believes that these clubs need to act quickly to right the ship, grab market share, and prepare for the next market correction.

Additionally, we’re experiencing a one-time golf participation bubble (even though overall participation is declining nevertheless). Senior golfers comprised of the baby boomer generation are retiring and playing more golf than any other group. They are the backbone of the golf industry at present – BUT, most clubs don’t have a strategy to replace them when they age out of the system.

Specific Strategies for Underperforming Golf Clubs

John makes several fascinating suggestions for quick wins and operational improvements that will help underperforming golf clubs win.

  1. Profitable Food and Beverage – John feels strongly that a “break even” food and beverage operation is not good enough. Smart operators need to hire very carefully, deploy strong inventory tracking measures, and tap into the captive audience to drive positive cash flow out of this department.
  2. Strict Procurement and Buying Requirements – It’s easy to just continue doing business with vendors who “treat you well” or with whom you’ve always done business. The problem is that they’re likely not the most competitive option for your club. Although it’s often hard, and usually met with resistance from staff, bidding out all major purchases and acquiring multiple offers on all major purchases brings huge upside on the expense side of the ledger.
  3. Referral-Based Marketing and Sales – John alludes to a KPI Golf’s proprietary 85/50 Marketing Plan. It involves deploying every existing club member to consistently become the best sales tool possible for your club. He outlines how this program has literally saved the life of several clubs John has turned around in the past.
  4. Free Golf Lessons – KPI Golf believes strongly that golf lessons are the ultimate gateway drug for newcomers to the game, as well as a critical tool for retaining senior golfers longer. We believe that free golf lesson programs deployed for the purpose of marketing the club and bringing in new players is absolutely where clubs need to focus their attention.
Casey Bourque
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