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Have you joined the Golf Alternative Revenue Movement?

Golf Datatech reported a measly .6% increase in rounds played in 2016. I write that with some sigh of relief - at least it wasn't a decrease. And some in the golf industry see this statistically flat report to be our new normal. Maybe. We don’t know the industry revenue numbers because of the unfortunate demise of PGA Performance Trak. We do know, however, that some course operators are finding alternative means to produce more and new revenue.

Golf facilities are installing golf simulators; upgrading their F&B and banquet capabilities to attract weddings, meetings, and events; building golf academies and upgrading their practice facilities, and installing things like FootGolf, or other machinations that sling or fling with the hopes of producing some bling. All of these have one thing in common – none of them puts people on the golf course swinging and hitting a golf ball.

We at Quick.golf are taking a self-appointed leadership position in the Golf Alternative Revenue Movement (GARM). Our goal is to help courses generate incremental revenue from golfers playing golf on the golf course. We recognize these two indisputable facts: Golf courses have capacity that goes unsold, almost daily; and, golfers don’t have time to play as much as they’d like. Write those in permanent ink.

The Quick.golf app enables golf course operators to easily offer golf in a pay-by-hole alternative format, on days and at times best suited to their operations. Golfers can choose to play as many holes as their time allows and only pay for what they play. Quick.golf won’t be measured in rounds by Golf Datatech, but it will be measured in dollars in the cash drawer.

Quick.golf is real golf, on real golf courses, played by real golfers paying real money. Who wants to join us in the Golf Alternative Revenue Movement? Go to www.quick.golf/joinus.

Contact Harvey Silverman at harvey@quick.golf, or 650.346-3566. He’ll be at the Golf Industry show meeting new members of GARM, and would like to meet you too. Email him – it will be worth your time and effort. 

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Quick.golf - A New Way to Play

 
16 09 25 Arnold Palmer
 
I wrote this blog just prior to learning of the passing of Arnold Palmer. We often bestow upon the greatest the regal moniker of "The King." None deserved it more than Arnie, who single-handedly popularized golf, elevating it from its staid country club status to an everyman sport for all. The best way to honor The King and his legacy, is to go out and play golf. Any golf - a full round on an 18-hole championship course, or a few holes at a Putt Putt. Just play. It's what the King wants from all of us.
 
16 07 13 QuickGolflogoBlack full 1064 x 238
I am thrilled to announce that we have achieved our first milestone at Quick.golf - we have capped our pilot program and met the goal of 25 facilities, located in seven states.
 
Wait, you haven't heard about Quick.golf? You mean you missed the articles published here, here, here, and here? Really, you must catch up on your industry news, don't you think? And while you are at it, check out www.quick.golf/joinus. It tells you what every public golf course needs to know about this web app service.
 
My partner Mike Dickoff, of Apparation LLC, and I are lucky to have found three smart and savvy golf course operators who are all investors in Quick.golf, as well as advisors and promoters. We have six management companies as clients, making a point that public courses of all shapes and sizes can benefit by deploying a system that easily enables golfers to pay by the hole, and by doing so generate incremental revenue by filling up empty space on the golf course.
 
Similarly, Quick.golf is lucky to have been recognized by some perceptive media and golf consultants as a very smart idea. People like John Strege of Golf Digest, Jim Dunlap of the Pellucid Perspective, and Jim Keegan of JJ Keegan+. We thank them, and know there will be more.
 
There is no denying that golf courses have capacity they do not fill and generally, cannot sell for other than ridiculously discounted rates (hellooo, GolfNow). And, there is also no denying that golfers do not have as much time to play as they'd like. The answer, the solution, is to think outside the box, outside the limited thinking that golf in 18-hole, or 9-hole increments is the only way to sell golf and make money. Quick.golf is here to provide an alternative for a business plan written decades ago. Quick.golf is here to shake the trees of tine-constrained golfers, and rattle the brains of golf course operators to find the progressive ones who live in the present and can see the future, rather than succumb to the tortuous thinking that is killing golf courses around the country.
 
Quick.golf does not offer full salvation from what ails golf courses. But it is a start - and a relatively risk-free one at that. The upfront cost is just $299, plus 30 minutes of set-up time and some simple staff training. Market it to your customers, and see who falls out of the trees. There are millions of golfers who will tell you right now - they would play more often if they had the time.
 
With Quick.golf available at their favorite course, they can play as time allows, and only pay for what they consume. We're helping to rebuild the golf business, a few holes at a time. We invite you to join us.
 
By the way, here is the icon you'll see when you bookmark our web app to your mobile device. It is the gateway for golfers to play the game a new way, one that opens the way to playing more golf.
 
16 07 13 Quickgolfapplogo square
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A Boatload of Angst

Even the best companies find ways to make themselves look foolish. It's often times inadvertent, but usually reveals something the world does not know, or confirms long-held suspicions.
 
Such is the case with GolfNow, the company golf course owners and operators love to hate. First revealed by Jim Keegan here, a video surfaced of GolfNow revelling in the joys of selling trade times and making millions, many millions, of dollars. Further sleuthing by other concerned golf industry citizens unearthed the original rap video that GolfNow parodied, found here. It's about the love of cocaine, and projects a disturbing image of the GolfNow workplace culture.
 
It did not take long for the full video, of which the rap parody is at the end, to reach the light of day. Here it is on a private Vimeo channel (not mine), and the password is "golf." It is the full, 75-minute presentation of GolfNow's six-month business update.THIS JUST IN, 5:00pm Wednesday, July 13: The full length video has been taken down by Vimeo. Sorry if you missed it. However, the short rap parody video can still be viewed on Jim Keegan's site, linked above. To some extent, the cat is out of the hat, the horse is out of the barn, and certainly the (Trade) boat has left the dock. Notwithstanding, below are some key highlights.
 

At about the 8-minute mark, Will McIntosh shows the current numbers and talks about how May and June have been disappointing. 

Next is Jeff Foster discussing client participation numbers.

14:30 – An update on their G1 system and Billy Casper Golf, currently an EZLinks client.

16:00 – Why their "Worry free" is good for golf courses, even if they don't know it.

17:45 – A focus on selling trade times. Foster: The golf courses may not like the hot deals, but “we’ve earned them.” They endeavor to defend what they’ve earned. In fact, they have a team that works to ward of golf course complaints and defend how they sell the trade times. I think this indicates an unwillingness to work with most golf courses on floor prices. Trade round sales are up 9%, but from the previous segment, overall rounds are down. That’s very troubling for any course to reconcile. Their “keep it simple” mantra in no way reflects the desire to generate more rounds and revenue for courses, just more trade and trade sales for GolfNow.

32:30 – Ski Now. Look out, ski industry!

38:00 - GolfNow Rewards. More competition for golf course clients. 

45:50 – Notice the "Clap" sign on the left. Classic.

1:06:30 – EZLinks mention – Foster “does not see them as a threat at all.” In my mind, any executive who does not recognize a competitor in its space should be fired.

1:08:45 – I’m trying to figure out what this question means. But, the comments by McIntosh are important to listen to.

1:11 – GolfNow and the private club market - their new target. That's right, Hot Deals on memberships. 

1:12:30 – How are they so successful selling trade? Foster doesn't answer directly, but leads the audience to the audacious and obnoxious rap parody video. So, there is your answer.

Another commentary is that of NGCOA CEO Jay Karen, found here. Jay is rather new to this controversy, but has his experience rooted in the hospitality industry and witnessed the abuse by third party marketers heaped upon that industry, particularly hotels. As with Jim Keegan's post, this is worth the read as well. We need more bright minds illuminating these issues.

There are a couple of things most disturbing to me. The bottom line to the GolfNow presentation is that not once, not at all, did they speak of the health of golf course owners and operators. There is no discussion about the health of their clients. Their reps repeatedly use the most overused pitch in golf, "We'll help you drive rounds and revenue" but that is not present in their BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal). That GolfNow BHAG is to be "part of every round, everywhere." One can easily "read between the lines" of the parody video and surmise the corporate attitude to be, "We got ours, too bad for the rest of you." Jay Karen refers to this as a parasitic relationship completely void of symbiosis, and I heartily agree.

Second, and not quite as disturbing unless I am a NBC/Universal executive, is Jeff Foster's total dismissal of EZLinks/TeeOff as a competitor. It's been a while since I went to business school, but I vividly recall the admonition to budding business executives to know and track your competitors. Maybe Foster needs to study what happened to Ford, GM, and Chrysler in the '70s when they chose to ignore Honda, Datsun (Nissan), and Toyota. Or how brick and mortar retailers were late to the party and gave up their businesses to Amazon. Every round booked through TeeOff, Golf18 Network, or any other third party is a round that GolfNow is NOT a part of. Let's add to Foster's woes by pointing out that the original, full length video was loaded onto a public Vimeo channel - no secure login required. It makes me wonder how secure their course client data is.

Last is a concern. McIntosh states early on that the early season opening in the northern climes was good for GolfNow's business, but May was below May 2015, and June was not looking so hot either. Golf Datatech called May's rounds at "down 2.2%." Does McIntosh's report portend a similar fate for June rounds? We'll know in a couple of weeks, but if it follows this pattern, we're all in trouble.

This, plus the obnoxious GolfNow presentation, leaves us who care and work hard to help golf courses succeed with a boatload of angst.

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Shazaam! The taqueria has better customer service than the golf course

How does my local taqueria outshine golf courses? 
Better. Customer. Service.
 
And how does this happen? An owner's commitment to customer service, and point-of-sale technology that makes it easy to fulfill that commitment.
 
That's right. The little taqueria - it maybe has 20 seats but also has the best quesadillas in town - did something no golf course I frequent has ever done. It recognized me and anticipated what I like!
 
I frequent a little taqueria a few blocks away because they have killer quesadillas. I always order extra sour cream and quacamole, and a bag of their outstanding homemade chips. Most importantly, the owner recognizes and greets me when I walk in the door.
 
Last night got a bit late for preparing our own dinner, and we had to watch the Golden State Warriors cap their incredible season with their 73rd win. Go Dubs! So I called the taqueria to place an order. As usual, they asked for my phone number and gave me 15 minutes for a pick up time.
 
In the car I realized I had not ordered the extra sour cream, quacamole, and chips. And, it was not the owner behind the counter when I arrived - it was someone new. No worries - he knew who I was! And when I started to explain I had not ordered everything I wanted - shazaam! Everything I always order was already in the bag. Their new point-of-sale system had my "likes" in the system and what I wanted was anticipated and filled.
 
As I drove home, I started to cry. This is exactly what golf courses should be doing! I've never - NEVER - been recognized at a course I've played before. I started fantasizing about walking into a golf shop, being greeted by name, and asked, "Mr. Silverman, the last time you played you bought a sleeve of Pro V1s - we have a special this week - would you like another?" Or, "Mr. Silverman, we have a special today on the club sandwich you ordered last time you were here."

How does this happen at a taqueria and not a golf course? The taqueria owner has made a commitment to customer service - both in how he trains his employees, and in choosing a retail PoS system that enables him to fulfill his customer service goals. And there's the catch - the golf PoS systems, by and large, do not make easy this simple customer service desire, so even if the course owner/operator chooses to be just as good as the local taqueria, he can't given the crippling inadequacies of his PoS.
 
And so, I cried.
 
 
 
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The Unequivocal Qualities of Claiming To Be The Best

Let me state first that I am not a supporter of Donald Trump. However, as a marketer, I am intrigued by his grandiose claims and statements that resonate with a marketing quality from which we all can learn.

When I was in high school, my friends and I would either bus (pre-driver’s license) or drive to downtown Minneapolis on Saturday for lunch and a movie. Our restaurant of choice was a little place on Hennepin Avenue called The Best Steak House. For five bucks we could get a T-bone steak, with salad, baked potato, and a Coke. We’d order at the counter and watch as the Albanian owner bludgeoned the steaks with a five-pound mallet, making them easier to cut with dull steak knives that could barely cut butter, and modestly chewable. Why didn’t he sharpen the knives? “I no want no one stabbing me,” Albanian Al would answer. “Why don’t you get better meat?” was met with the icy stare of Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi.

15 12 30 soup nazi

No, this was not the “best” steakhouse. However, it was the best we could afford, and we thought we ate like kings.

Mr. Trump is never shy about touting himself as “the best”, be it as a business person, golf course owner, or presidential candidate. He laces claims and promises with superlative adjectives like “huge”, “super”, “greatest”, “richest”, “best”, “really smart”, and likely more to come during this election cycle. Both scary and fascinating is that Trump’s bombastic rhetoric has vaulted him to the top of the Republican polls.

Why? Because he has claimed the high ground with his self-descriptive accolades. Anyone else spouting to be better, greater, or smarter while in the position of running from behind looks childish (Jeb!). Trump - the brand and all it represents, is brilliant marketing.

Golf courses are generally shy in their marketing efforts to espouse their qualities. Taglines like “A better place to play” is meek, weak, and ineffective compared to the bolder and more decisive “The better place to play.” It’s the difference between being indefinite or unambiguous. On most golf course websites and collateral, one has to look hard to find why one course stands out over another. If you look at enough of them, it becomes blindingly obvious that (1) golf courses don’t know what sets them apart from others, (2) they know but are too bashful to tell us, or (3) they know and don’t know how to tell us.

All of this points to one overwhelming conclusion – just like in war and politics, commanding the high ground reaps huge rewards. It is the best place to be. You’ll get super results. It’s the greatest thing you can do for your business. You’ll look really smart doing it.

Now go – tell the world you are the best. If you can’t, hire someone who can. You will like the results. 

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