Golf Course Marketing: How Technology Changes the Game

Posted by Alex Lavoie on February 15, 2018

Not sure what golf marketing should look like in the 21st century?

Don't worry, we're here to clear up any confusion you might have. Over the years we've learned a lot about golf marketing. So, let us share some of the insights we've gathered from our industry partners, customers, and our own experience as a golf management software provider.

It's not an easy task to market a golf course anymore. Non-digital costs are extremely high and only produce mediocre results. Online advertising space is becoming more and more expensive while organic search results are getting harder to show up on.

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The big aggregators take up a ton of golf marketing space these days too. Golf operators often feel forced to rely on barter sites as their primary marketing tool. These operators concede that investment in a self directed marketing strategy is a waste of time and money. 

We want to prove that golf operators don't have to feel trapped. In fact, we believe tons of opportunities exist if you use a little creative marketing, solid data analysis, and comprehensive club management software.


Start marketing your golf course to millennials

For the golf industry, millennials have been an elusive group. There are a few theories as to why: some operators say that younger audiences don't want to play the game and that golf is a dying sport, while others believe that millennials just don't like playing their golf course. Either way, a trend exists where most golf courses don't offer anything at their facilities with millennials specifically in mind. 

The reality is that millennials actually do enjoy playing the game now more than ever. So, golf courses need to consider the lifetime value of winning millennial customers since these young golfers will be playing for a long time.

It's seems like a simple concept, but many golf operators miss it: if you want millennials to play your golf course you need to cater your operation towards them. Here are a few concrete golf marketing ideas we've discovered that will help your golf course reach this young demographic.


Go mobile!

On average, millennials spend upwards of 5 hours per day using apps on their smart phones. Interestingly about 8% of those 5 hours is spent in the phone's browser and the rest goes to mobile app usage. This means that millennials who want to play golf will not be looking to book a round on your website. Instead, they'll search for tee times on apps they installed directly on their smart phones. 

Millennials are extremely comfortable on their cell phones and are willing to download apps if they genuinely believe it will enhance their experience. Automated curb side check-in is one mobile app feature that is sure to enhance the player experience. Imagine how much you can empower your golfers by giving them the ability to check themselves in from the parking lot instead of at the front desk. Millennials demonstrate a preference for automated processes and prefer to skip the line to check themselves in. Not only does curb side check-in make the experience of playing your course unique and interesting, it also cuts front line staff costs!

social media marketing for golf courses


Make tee time booking a social platform

Another powerful advantage of using a mobile app is the ability to implement a social booking platform. You can drive a lot more reservations by giving your players a social profile that includes handicap, preferred playing partners, and historical scores. A good mobile app should provide users with an ideal tee time and the golfer's preferred playing partners when creating a reservation. With mobile apps, it's so much easier to expedite the booking process and delight customers with an optimal reservation. 

The most incredible part about having your customers use a custom mobile application is that mobile apps give you so much control over your audience. Mobile apps create a very powerful marketing channel since they allow you to send push notifications for reminders, promotions, and course related updates. Now, you can get marketing real estate directly on the front of your customer's smart phone. This quality of ad space is coveted by marketers because it is known for encouraging a higher than average engagement rate.


Encourage a creative and fun culture

Has your golf course ever been accused of being too old school? Too often managers in the golf industry are resistant to making changes to golf course policy or updating menus and pro shop offerings. Unfortunately, to rejuvenate your golf course you need to try new things. Chances are millennials want fun events, menu items, golf products and apparel you might not even know about yet.

There are a few ways to update operations at your course and golf management technology can help. You can collect data through your POS and detect what items resonate well with your audience. You can segment your data base and nurture the younger players who frequent your course. Plus, you can even integrate your golf management system with customer loyalty software to make nurturing even easier. If you're looking for ideas, check out this list of 12 things millennials want at the golf course.


Sell uniqueness and experiences

At the core of your golf marketing plan, you need to understand that millennials want unique experiences. You don't want them to feel like they're merely playing at a copycat version of their parent's country club. Don't tell your younger audiences that your facility is just another place to play golf. The rewards are massive if you make your course a unique experience for newcomers. The best part is that they'll keep coming back to get that same awesome experience over and over again.


Modern golf management technology enhances your marketing at every level.

Golf managers who aren't stuck on a legacy system know this: modern golf management technology gives you the power to regain control over your customer base, capture crucial data, generate excellent reporting, and utilize the best golf marketing tools available. Best of all, cloud based systems update themselves automatically so you don't have to constantly keep buying new software. Instead, cloud based golf management systems are built up over time with your feedback in mind.


Data is the number one golf marketing tool

When golf courses aren't benefiting from the power of data analysis, they miss out on the ability track how customers interact with their business. Modern technology now lets you track touch points across every single part of your operation. These touch points provide important insights that can directly inform business decisions. If you collect data from your CRM, online bookings, pro shop POS, restaurant POS, mobile app, email marketing, customer loyalty software and accounting software you'll know:

  • Who is booking when
  • Who likes playing with who
  • Brand preferences
  • Product category preferences
  • Spending habits
  • Who is most loyal
  • Who is slipping away
  • Deeper segmentation of your customers

Knowing absolutely everything about your entire customer base is so important for honing your marketing plans, choosing marketing channels, and iterating your strategy. If you know your customer intimately you can craft the perfect message and deliver it at the perfect time. Ultimately, you'll drive more reservations and purchases at the pro shop and restaurant because your messaging stuck and was meaningful.


Integrate your operation with the best software on the market

If you work in a cloud based system you can take advantage of its open API or Application Program Interface. Cloud based systems with open API's are capable of integrating with a vast number of cloud based software companies. Systems like this can integrate with some of the best software available, including awesome marketing tools like Mailchimp, Lightspeed E-commerce, and Dynamic Revenue Services.


Get golf management software that's built with marketing in mind

Modern cloud based golf marketing software is tailored for the daily marketing needs of golf operators. Tee sheet software is now able to broadcast promotions and messages directly to your Facebook audience. Since social media is all about being consistent, use your tee sheet software to ensure all promotions and messages make it to your Facebook page.

In the old days, promotions and discounts were only offered through print ads and flyers. These aren't necessarily bad channels. With modern golf management software however, print ads can easily be enhanced with memorable promotion codes for redemption when booking online. Now, you can promote your website and mobile app while also tracking the success of any print ad you publish.

Best of all, modern cloud based club management software permits promotion of green fee deals online with ease and efficiency. Now, golf operators enjoy a greater degree of control when deciding when and where to discount tee times. Deal promotion is especially effective when a user friendly booking widget exists directly on the front page of your golf course's website.


Golf course promotion ideas


Get your golf course ranking highest on Google search.

With so much advertising space being taken up by tee time aggregators it has become very difficult for golf courses to rank on local searches. If you're not satisfied with your search rankings, you can take a few actions when trying to rank better online:

  • Make sure your website is well designed
  • Have a social media presence
  • Publish content on social media and your website regularly
  • Register your golf course on Google maps
  • Encourage online reviews of your facility

It's okay if you still aren't sure how to get your course ranking better on Google. To help, we broke down search engine optimization or SEO in this handy post: 6 Golf Marketing Strategies for Better Results on Google Search. 


Marketing tee times with an aggregator

By now you're probably wondering, "what about online tee time distributors? Are they still important?" There's a lot of negative perceptions in the industry right now, many operators feel mistreated by these massive companies. We hold that tee time aggregation isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, we believe that working with an aggregator that respects your local audience and allows you retain control over your customer base can be an absolutely crucial marketing channel for your golf course.

It's all about give and take, a prospective tee time aggregator should adhere to a mutual exchange model. This simply means that every tee time you give up gets you something in return. What's so appealing about tee time aggregators is that they get your golf course in front of a large audience. However, golf managers need to realize that the right audience is searching for tee times locally. There's a major disconnect here. A lot of big distributors don't focus on local areas unlike some of the smaller tee time distributors. Online tee time marketing works best when you choose an aggregator that focusses on local markets and tour operators. 

What's becoming more important in the golf industry now are self directed marketing plans. It's time to stop relying solely on tee time aggregators to do all the marketing for you. At the end of the day, the big guys are only focused on pushing their brand and selling deeply discounted tee times that cannibalize green fee revenue. 


Where to start when it comes to marketing your golf course

We've unpacked a lot of technology in this article. There's no doubt that there are lots of opportunities to take your golf marketing strategy to the next level. You may feel a little overwhelmed and maybe you're asking yourself whether it's feasible to implement any of this.

The good news is that for the most part, implementing these golf marketing plans is not that difficult. Modern golf management software helps with automating so much of your marketing efforts. Hopefully that's relieving since we know golf managers don't have a lot of extra time to run marketing campaigns. That's why boosting marketing efficiency with automation is the best way to ensure you are maximizing reach.

Start by taking an audit of all the marketing activities you currently engage in. To know where you're at, ask yourself these questions:

  • What marketing activities are generating ROI?
  • Are there better ways of determining ROI?
  • What are the most time consuming marketing activities?
  • What channels have the best and worst reach?
  • Has the golf club taken any meaningful action to reach millennials?
  • Do we know our most and least loyal customers?
  • How do we reward or re-engage them?


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When you come up with good answers for these questions you'll be able to determine what your marketing needs are. Make an effort to regularly audit your golf marketing strategy and then commit to iterating. Whether you choose to adopt new technology or update course standards, get a clear idea of the audience you're trying to reach. It takes time to find that perfect marketing mix but when you do you'll be more effective at reaching your audience than ever before.


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