The Business of Golf

The Business of Golf

A young pro rang me last week looking for some advice as to how to grow his business. It got me thinking about how the role of the club teaching pro has so utterly changed over the last forty years. When I was growing up, the local pro, Watty Sullivan, was attached to the Grange Golf Club and was revered in teaching circles. He had a thriving membership and could draw on them for constant lessons.

“It was the ultimate cartel and he was the only show in our town where driving ranges and YouTube golf were non-existent" 

Fast forward to an age of multiple driving ranges, multiple memberships of golf clubs, (in the boom times!) and more information about the golf swing than a physicist could decipher. The golf business was booming and golf pros were happy to "pile em high" with a conveyer belt of customers all eager to really stretch themselves this year and take a couple of lessons to finally learn this golf game thing. The "thirty quid for thirty minutes" age was born and it has spawned itself into a Stephen King effigy. An even bigger monster has appeared in the shape of so-called "walk-in" lessons where fully qualified teaching professionals are offering group (if they can get them) lessons for ten euros a pop.
The silly season is upon us again with five lessons for 99 euros being a common Christmas advertisement. Unbelievable value, if as a teaching pro, you want to lose weight in 2019 as you will surely starve using this flawed business model. Far from being sustainable, setting the market price for a lesson at this figure has obliterated the teaching landscape. The thirty minute, one lesson fix might work (in terms of footfall) on a long summers night but in the winter months, the driving ranges are devoid of teaching pros. Lately, the scramble for indoor teaching facilities at golf clubs has reached epidemic proportions as club pros think this is the panacea for their ills but in the public's mind, the price is set and it will take a monumental effort to break their WIIFM (what's in it for me?) mindset.

Consider this, how many full time teaching professionals are there in Ireland? Do nothing else but... teach? Start counting, it won't take too long"

So, against this backdrop, I gave him (or maybe her?) the following advice. First up, some basic business rules, there are two types of business model for teaching golf, either sell commodities or brand.

  • In the COMMODITIES world, market forces set the price. It is vital that you understand this, the price didn't appear out of thin air, it was set over time. The vendor (golf pro) originally offered a price, the purchaser paid it and a contract was set. Another vendor offered a lower price and the purchaser took that. And so on and so forth until you have a price that is too low for the vendor to make a living. BUT now the price is set in the minds of the purchaser. And that is near impossible to break, and so it becomes a race to the bottom with the inevitable consequences that are witnessed daily.
  • In the "BRAND" world, you create a brand, a very simple theory. And it actually is very simple indeed but requires a lot of work in multiple areas outside of actually teaching golf and a timespan of at least a couple of years.  
  • Brand is best created for teaching golf by using the concept of compounding. A simple example is, if you did one tutorial every day (on anything, say golf biomechanics, photoshop, marketing, social media adverts, anything, even ten minutes, every day? If I met you in a years time you would have 365 times more opportunity to be better at teaching and letting the public know it! If you did everything in your business 1% better each day, compounded, you would have added in the region of 3,400% value to your business. Now you have something to advertise as a brand and not just a commodity. Some ideas to get you started!
  • 1
    Write down exactly what you think you will need to improve your business?  Remember, education is relatively free on the internet.
  • 2
    Pick a niche aspect of golf and become the expert on it
  • 3
    Become a polymath of all other aspects of golf. 
  • 4
    Become a marketing guru, zillions of free tutorials out there, "but I don't know anything about facebook adds?   Start here!
  • 5
    What facilities and equipment will you need to create your Brand?
  • 6
    Work out your USP (unique selling proposition or point). Every brand absolutely needs one.  
  • 7
    Finally, find a mentor, some member of your club with business experience that can help you, you will be amazed at how they will want to help you...if you ask! Find that genius business member in your club and trade lessons for their knowledge and help. They will be flattered, I know, I have done it twice and both are valuable sounding boards when I need help to steer the ship!
The trick to branding is to execute every single day, relentlessly, the goal being to reach the clear blue ocean while you watch the opposition navigate the shark infested commodity waters. 
Don't forget to send the elevator back down when you do finally manage to sail into my ocean!

Player Watch - Joost Luiten

was reading Joost's player blog a few weeks ago courtesy of the European Tour and it was striking how much he wanted to make the Ryder Cup team in Paris. In a world of private planes and mega endorsements at the top end, it was refreshing to feel his enthusiasm for something that is essentially a non-paying event!

"Quickly I could feel something in my left wrist. It felt stiff and a little painful when I was warming up. I remember thinking it was just the cold weather and the change in temperature – that it was probably nothing. Unfortunately it wasn’t nothing."  

This was the moment for Joost, that an offseason of hard work to make the Ryder Cup team went up in smoke. He had reckoned on needing to win twice in the season to make the team and had achieved the first part with an early win (4th event) at the Oman Open in February. 

My goal was The Ryder Cup. 
Sadly, I never made it to September."

Months of pain in his left wrist, injections, and the inevitable surgery left him with plenty of time on his hands to ponder the future. But thankfully, it has been a successful comeback with a tied 11th place last week at the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama, his first tournament back since surgery. We wish Joost all the best in the future and maybe one to watch in the coming months?

Swing Myths 
Using the ground to power your swing?

Swing Myths this week brings you the latest buzzword doing the rounds "using the ground" to power your swing. As an avid fan of ground force mechanics and something that I teach every day, it needs to be pointed out that "one size fits all" doesn't exist in golf. Pictured is LPGA superstar, Lexi Thompson. Would I teach this impact position? No. Do I have any clients that are capable of reproducing this position? No. The reality is that good teachers should cater to the traits of the pupil they are teaching. In my humble opinion, 99.9% of amateur golfers need good stability at impact.
When golfers see swing positions like Lexi here, they need to realize that she works out daily in a gym and has a team of coaches to perfect her swing and finally, this is a snapshot in time. It doesn't actually exist in real time and it is a futile exercise trying to recreate this position. It belongs to Lexi and it is the combination of rotational and lateral movements through the three planes of movement, (sagittal, frontal and transverse) at the warp speed of the brains thought processes. Best piece of advice you will get today, admire the swings of your favorite pros but work with your coach on what you can physically do with your swing!

"Reverse every natural instinct and do the opposite of what you are inclined to do, and you will probably come very close to having a perfect golf swing"...Ben Hogan

Around the World

  • Kramer Hickok - some more "meat on the bones"  from the Web.Com Tour graduate that I introduced to you a few weeks ago, a winner waiting to happen!
  • The top 10 shots  - over the years at the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
  • Top 5 shots - from last weeks PGA Tour stop as BDC wins again!

An hour to spare?
Podcast Corner!

I am a big fan of Podcasts, I like to listen to them in the background while working on all things digital! There are some terrific ones around (if you know where to look) and I will try to guide you towards some of my favorites! This week it's Cameron Champ, the new kid on the block, who has taken the PGA Tour by storm, winning on his second start to the new season. Skip forward to the 26th minute for his interview! It's brought to you by the ever-excellent Alex Myers of Golf Digest fame and presenter of "The Grind" each week!

"Feeling that I'm just as good as these guys was a big motivator for me..." Cameron Champ.

Quotes of the week 

“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”  Justin Rose who is rumored to be changing equipment from TaylorMade to Honma. 

“I really want to win a tournament so she can see me win. So she can be proud of her dad.” Sergio Garcia delivers for his daughter in spades as a stellar performance at the Ryder Cup is followed with a win at the Valderrama Masters.

Once they know there's no need for you any more, they throw you away. That's kind of what it feels like to me.” Mark Hensby not feeling the love these days after returning from a suspension.

Last Word

T​he last word this week goes to The European Tour who has been killing it lately with their marketing department. They have just released their second in the series, Chase the Ace! Let me set the scene for you. The idea is to give a tour pro 500 shots to try and make a hole in one. This seemed like a good idea and a nice day out for us all to enjoy. It turned out to be something quite different. Most would say mesmerizing, as we watch the train wreck that is displayed in both videos. It is quite enthralling to see two pros go through the wringer as they attempt to make a hole in one, and boy do they both come close but eventually (drum roll, spoiler)... no cigar!

Take a bow Brandon Stone and Edoardo Molinari!.

"The odds of making a hole in one on the European Tour are calculated at 2,500 to 1"

Click on the images above for five minutes of madness!

Thank you for reading, enjoy your golf this weekend, and I will talk to you all next Tuesday!


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