Ask a non-golfer what they think about golf. They’re likely to say, “It’s a boring game for old white guys.” Or something similar. For those of us who live in the industry, it’s easy to lose sight of how the general public portrays golf.
That’s the most significant opportunity for all golf facilities.
Branding is one of the most important aspects of any business. If you are an owner or manager of a golf course, branding is essential to your success. No matter if you are an established “stuffy” private club or super-fun 9-hole course.
This roadmap discusses the six basics of branding and why they are essential to any business person trying to improve their facility. You’ll learn why you need it and how to get started.
1- What is branding, and why is it essential for a golf course?
Branding is the process of creating a name, design, symbol, or other visual representation that identifies and differentiates a product from the rest. In addition to driving customer recognition and preference, branding creates an emotional connection with consumers. Branding is one of the most critical aspects of the golf experience.
If you are an owner or manager of a golf course, branding is essential to your success. In this post, we will talk about seven ways branding can help improve your bottom line. As you improve your bottom line, you can negotiate more significant contracts and become an influential person at your golf facility.
A golf course is unique in the way that it operates and delivers its product. Golf courses allow you to create your fun and excitement. Golf is an entertainment business. The first part of branding your facility is understanding that you are competing against entertainment dollars.
Your competition is:
- movie theatres
- water parks
- shopping malls
- other golf courses
Whether you are a private, public, resort, etc., your job is to maximize your perishable tee times, buckets of balls, and restaurant seats (if applicable).
Think about how you can draw people into golf. Golf is an expensive sport with high barriers to entry for a casual player. You may have a small market share in your area or town that you live in because of the amount of competition it has against other businesses and services that entertain its consumers.
Once you’ve done your branding correctly, you will possess the “guiding light” for all your business decisions.
2- The importance of branding in the golf industry
The importance of branding in the golf industry is not something that is often talked about. Many courses are mismanaged and don’t care about branding themselves. However, successful companies like Marriot understand branding and how to apply it to their properties. Branding is a big reason they become successful. They were also once a small business.
Brand equity, brand association, and customer loyalty have everything to do with how branding affects a golf business. Brand equity refers to the extent someone feels about a particular brand. Brand association is a process of making links between brands and certain situations or feelings. Customer loyalty is when consumers stay with one brand over all others because they believe it’s better than the others they tried for just one reason.
Branding is essential for improving and expanding businesses. It doesn’t stop just because you’re busy or having a good year. TaylorMade is primarily a marketing company. Their marketing drives the development of their products. Their mission:
To Create the Best Performing Golf Products in the World.
They continuously release new products because the innovation wheel never stops. If they make something better, they release it to the masses—marketing 101.
What’s your mission? Why should people golf at your facility instead of taking their kids to the waterpark?
As a PGA of Canada professional, I’ve had the luxury of playing many of our country’s courses. It’s obvious when a facility has an established brand and embeds it into its whole business. Visit these websites and social media accounts for examples:
- The Links at Brunello: A new golf course in a busy golf market. Their website checks all the marks, and their social media is where they tell their story. Golfers will have an excellent understanding of the facility by visiting their Instagram.
- Banff Springs: A corporate, clean, and professional marketing approach. Not much creativity, but it’s full of beautiful golf course photos.
- Goat Hill Golf Club: An unassuming, incredibly NOT pretentious place to play. Play in sandals, jeans, whatever you feel. They’ve also branded a “Mandatory Golf Friday.” They recently added a fireplace and seating area for people to come and sit for a drink after work. Watch golfers on their brand-new driving range, and have some laughs.
These are three dramatically different businesses. Their branding is not “flashy”; it’s consistent. Their social media is not a “sale flyer.” They are using it to cement their brand.
If you take a subjective look at your facility and establish your brand, you’ll feel much differently about marketing.
3- Three Benefits of Branding a Golf Course
While creating a comprehensive branding strategy is not easy, its benefits will make the process worthwhile. Here are 3 Benefits of Branding a Golf Course that may help you make that brand decision easier.
One- Branding Can Help Improve the Perception of Your Golf Course
Branding is often equated with visual elements such as graphics and logos –which are vital to establishing your image– but branding affects a customer’s perception more than anything else. Once you have an official brand, you will create a unified identity for your golf course, which results in increased consumer confidence. This is especially important in golf, where competition is fierce, and customer loyalty is low.
Two- Branding Can Enhance Customer Experience
Consumers can quickly identify a unified image from your brand strategy and associate it with the quality of your business and overall experience. You are helping them decide if your facility is where they want to spend their time and money. Often, branding campaigns concentrate on visuals because that’s what customers see first, but the overall experience that you create is a much better reflection of your brand.
Ex: If you’re a laid-back facility, it won’t hurt to post a photo of a golfer in jeans or playing barefoot. If you are a high-end private club, showcase your restaurant’s fancy offerings. If you’re somewhere in between, post some videos of your professional staff sharing tips.
Attract the right golfers, and you’ll have many more positive experiences.
Three- Branding Can Enhance Your Revenue Streams
Once you have created an effective brand strategy, it’s essential to stick with those principles when developing new products and services. If you have a consistent brand, your customers will recognize your products across multiple platforms, which helps strengthen the relationship between them and your business.
Branding is not one of those tasks that can be accomplished overnight. It is a long-term commitment to your customers and business, and it will pay off in the end.
4- How to create a memorable brand identity for your golf course
A golf course’s management or leadership team needs to create a memorable brand identity for its golf course to distinguish itself from all other courses in the area. There are many steps to take to do this, including naming the system, selecting a logo, writing down a mission statement for the course, and choosing colours associated with your brand. Emphasizing the customer experience will also contribute towards your bottom line and provide an advantage over competitors.
When creating a memorable brand, start with what makes you unique;
- The course conditions
- The course layout/design
- The customer experience
- The golf course community
Once you have that, look at what is essential to your customer and how they will benefit from these factors. No matter how big or small you are, take a step back and think about your brand. Are you creating a unique customer experience that stands out from the rest? By incorporating these things into your brand, golf course management will find themselves with happy customers and more revenue at the end of the season.
Creating a memorable golf brand is not easy, but you can do it. Golf course owners and managers need to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses to develop a brand that resonates with the target audience. By spending the time to put together a strong branding strategy, you will find yourself with happy golfers who enjoy your course time and time again.
5- Branding improves your bottom line
Make more money for your facility, and you’ll hold the keys to your future. Once you’re known as the person that led to the profit increases, the job market will open up. This will allow you to negotiate for better salaries or positions.
One of the best ways to improve customer retention is through branding. Many golfers will spread the word about how great a particular golf experience was once they’d enjoyed their visit. If you have branded your business correctly, you’ll attract the right customers. If you attract the right customers, you’ll foster better experiences.
- Branding increases traffic to your golf course
- Branding improves customer retention
- Branding increases loyalty among customers and prospects
- Branding helps streamline your marketing efforts for a more practical approach
The golf professional who has been able to brand their golf course effectively will be worth talking to because they understand how effective branding the facility can be. Branding establishes their expertise.
6- What are common branding mistakes for golf courses?
Failing to establish a brand strategy
Failing to establish a brand strategy can be detrimental to the business. The goal of any brand strategy is simple—to develop recognition and a distinct identity that separates you from your competition. Golfers make buying decisions based on brand, so your golf course needs to have one too.
If your golf course lacks a brand strategy, try approaching it this way:
- Write down four or five phrases that apply to your business.
- Brainstorm some words that describe your golf course.
- Combine the phrases with those words in different combinations to create a few taglines, and then choose one term that best represents your golf course.
No established or prominent brand
Having an established brand is essential to the success of any golf course. Establishing a brand will attract more; and better customers. Customers that are more likely to have a good experience will spend more money, they’ll want to come back, and they’ll share their experience.
Golf facilities without brands lack the direction needed to help their business grow.
Failing to understand branding
Some people think that branding is a logo, website and business card. Although they are all part of the brand, your “brand” is the overall experience that you create. How do golfers feel when they leave? Are they likely to come back because it was an unbelievable experience?
An unbelievable experience can happen at a municipal public course, just as it can happen at a high-end seaside resort course. Put your facility on a pedestal and see what you come up with as a brand.
Fragmented and independent departments
A facility with a defined brand is likely more successful. When all departments are on board with the brand, their department heads have a clear focus. They make better decisions, require less guidance, and run a more efficient team.
For example, if the customer experience is top of the list, your superintendent will understand the course needs to communicate with their customers when significant renovations are coming. This will help golfers have a better experience, save the pro shop staff from angry visitors, and keep your brand intact.
Bonus Tip: After you communicate this news to your community, offer a discounted rate. This will attract customers that wouldn’t likely pay the full rate. Then you can collect their emails, sell meals, balls, tees, etc. Remember to keep your eye on the big picture—early retirement for you.
Confusing marketing and branding
When a brand-driven person leads the marketing, the business can experience exceptional growth. Ideally, your website, on-course signage, even your restaurant tablecloths will all fit into the brand. It doesn’t mean they all match; it means that they are all working in concert to maximize your customer (target-market) experience.
I once worked for a General Manager (GM) whose goal was long-term growth. His focus was putting juniors at the center of his brand. Within three years, he offered spring clinics at the local Boys & Girls Club and had grown the junior membership to over 150 kids in a town of 14,000 people!
Your brand can be anything at all. You have to establish one and have buy-in from the whole leadership team. It’s not about being perfect. It’s about doing.
Attempting to appeal to everyone
In marketing, there’s a saying; When you try to reach everyone, you end up reaching no one. You can’t appeal to everyone. It is impossible. Your brand needs to stand for something great, and the way you get there is by attracting people who resonate with your brand. If you aren’t sure what your brand stands for, ask your target audience (customers) what they think of when they hear “XYZ Golf Course.” You might be surprised at what they say.
If you’re a public municipal golf course, your restaurant should offer reasonably-priced meal choices. It should sell Gatorade and chips in the pro shop.
If you’re a high-end resort course, simplify your green fee rates for travellers. Offer a green fee and a twilight green fee. That’s it! Give your visitors more freedom to choose their times and maximize their vacation time. It’s about them, not you.
Golf courses have a lot of competition. A golf course needs branding; without it, the road ahead is rocky. Branding is the whole experience from when your guests first arrive at your facility to how you feel when they leave.
As an owner or manager of a golf course, you must understand that branding should extend past logos and websites into every aspect of customer experience. If marketing and promoting have never been your strengths, you’ll want to hire someone who understands branding. If you are open to new ideas and want to attract the right golfers, use branding.
Brand management is a never-ending job. Your brand will change over time. As you continue building your business, remember that the most important thing you can do is listen. Listen to what your customers have to say about your facility. If they tell you something isn’t working, you’d better listen. Remember to keep your mind on the big picture and never forget why you started on this path in the first place: better positions, more income, and, eventually, early retirement.
To continue this conversation, reach out any time.