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Family Oriented Pivot: Research Exposes Underserved Private Golf Market

Case Study

Facility: 18-Hole championship golf course, indoor and outdoor pools, indoor and outdoor tennis, large fitness center, and multiple dining and catering venues.
Location: Northern New England
Ownership: Formerly developer owned. Membership group bought golf course and facilities out of bankruptcy.
Focus: Pivoting club operations for a locally underserved private golf market
About: This was a developer owned private facility that went through bankruptcy. It has world class amenities and a great golf course designed by a famous architect. The current membership group bought the golf course and facilities out of bankruptcy.

Challenges We Faced:

At the time our services were engaged, the challenge at this facility was that they were a hundred and twenty five members short of a break-even budget. Our task was to find those new members or or find the money to bring the club back to sustainability.

Solutions that We Deployed:

As with any growth marketing initiative, step 1 is to begin understanding your local market and what your target audience is looking for. This requires some hard work and creative solutions to get the data you need to make most informed decisions and establish a course that can be successful.

Local Competitive Analysis:

We began by conducting an extensive club membership competitive analysis. We evaluated every golf option within a 50 mile radius to determine all category offerings and price points. Secret shoppers worked hard to maintain anonymity in the effort, and the information we gained armed us with logical next steps for market positioning and our own membership programs.

Operational Changes:

Given the depth of our market research, we were able to identify that the “young professional family” segment of the market had been a significantly underserved private golf market segment.

We created massive amounts of programming within the operation oriented to the family – events like movie nights, family golf and swing classes, scuba diving, team tennis leagues, and family oriented menus in our dining areas. We also deployed child care services for all our members. These tactics helped us position our club as a family-friendly environment – a major shift from the private club prior.

Membership Offerings for an Underserved Private Golf Market:

Our market research along with our revitalized amenities and services enabled us to put together well informed and very competitive family membership offerings. We understood that this demographic in this particular geographic region had been underserved. We adjusted accordingly on all fronts. We were also very fortunate to be riding a revitalized economy with a general tailwind of growth and prosperity to boost our efforts.  

We created a comprehensive membership sales campaign, focused on the family, and with complete buy-in from our current members. Referral programs and educational seminars helped up convey the value of membership sales efforts. We were able to engage our membership in finding new friends and families to come enjoy the club.

Over the years we have compiled large amounts of data that verifies how important it is to develop membership sales programs where club members, with guidance from management, do much of the prospecting and selling. KPI calls this phenomenon the 85/50 membership sales program.

The Outcome:

We almost immediately sold the 125 memberships to bring the club back to solid footing. Over the next two years, we compiled a waiting list that rose to a high of 119 people. On the expense side, we were also able to dig into the details of the operating budget and purchasing arrangements to trim costs by over $100,000 annually.

The combination of these activities turned this club back into one the premier clubs in all of Northern New England.

Casey Bourque
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