In any other year, the Can-Am Days Festival held each year in Myrtle Beach, S.C., would have been a boon for golf courses all over the Grand Strand. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 100,000 Canadian visitors return for the festivities each year – and many with golf clubs in tow.
“This is a big opportunity week for us and we plan for it,” said Kevin Lawson, General Manager of Beachwood Golf Club in North Myrtle Beach, whose course welcomes the winter influx of snowbirds to South Carolina every year. “Normally, the extra business from our Canadian visitors throughout the season can represent up to 4,000 rounds and $250,000 in revenue.”
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has forced unexpected changes to everyone’s event calendar, planning for these “special demand” occasions – and there can be many during any given year for any golf course – can provide an untapped opportunity and, quite possibly, a tremendous boost to your bottom line with just a little extra effort.
“Many of our partner courses give special demand a lot of thought during the year,” said Brian Skena, Manager of Business Services for GOLFNOW Plus. “If we can get everybody to become a little more forward thinking about the potential dates on their calendars that could shift demand at their golf course – when they have the opportunity to promote, price and book accordingly – then nobody would be caught off guard and there wouldn’t be any missed opportunities.”
Skena says special-demand occasions run the gamut, from the nationally shared holidays like Father’s Day, Independence Day and Labor Day weekends to local festivals or events like Myrtle Beach’s Cam-Am Days – even small-town events like the Cherry Festival in Traverse City, Mich., Jazz Festival in Elkhart, Ind., and the Seafood Festival in Apalachicola, Fla.
If these are high-demand times, they should take care of themselves, right? Not necessarily, says Skena. “A course might sell a lot of rounds by doing nothing, but a revenue expert might say that you missed a huge opportunity by not planning and executing sooner to leverage the opportunity to its fullest,” he said.
Courses using the GOLFNOW Plus service have revenue specialists on hand to help them anticipate demand with strategic ideas that work, saving course staff valuable time and resources.
It may sound odd, but Skena says low-demand days can open doors, too, as long as you plan ahead.
“For example, a home game in a major college football city can create a ghost town on any given Saturday, with everyone seemingly at the game or watching it on TV,” he said. “But a creative local golf course operator could promote a special package that includes a round of golf, a tailgating brunch and game-watching party in the clubhouse with other club patrons.
“The key is to have a plan – don’t be reactive,” Skena said.
Recurring events let courses look at historical data to see how they performed previously during these periods, which could help drive future decisions. Just ask operators at courses from Atlanta to Savannah, Ga., who say they can make or break their year in the weeks surrounding the Masters.
Golf’s major championships also can be hugely impactful to courses surrounding the major-championship venue. A sound strategy helped the 36-hole Bayonet Black Horse golf complex in Seaside, Calif., leverage last year’s U.S. Open at nearby Pebble Beach Golf Links.
Pat Jones, the facility’s director of golf, worked far in advance of the U.S. Open with Charles Fralix III, his GOLFNOW rep, on business strategy. The idea was to make the Bayonet and Black Horse inventory as attractive yet high-yielding as possible on the GOLFNOW platform. Jones asked that all tee times for the two courses be sold in a package with cart, lunch, beverages and a souvenir logo hat included – there’s your attraction angle – easily justifying a basic $225-per-player fee.
All of the packages were set up to get prepaid by the booking golfer. Where the sheet remained in its normal matrix, a dynamic-pricing tool was turned on, to set the fees according to demand. On two separate days there were times that sold for a peak price of $275.
“All the public-access courses in this area know and prepare when there’s something big coming up on the calendar,” says Jones. “Whether it was us, or Poppy Hills or Carmel Valley Ranch or whichever facility, we all had strategies to maximize revenue.”
One key adjustment along the way involved prepayment. “At first, we weren’t requiring up-front payment, but we tested it and found that nobody minded. We heard that same thing talking to other courses, so we flipped the switch to prepayment,” says Jones.
The approach that emerged from Jones’s brainstorm sessions with Fralix proved successful, to say the least.