Knowledge Library

ClubBuy is perhaps the most unique and versatile purchasing program for any business

Mar 31, 2021

Offered by GolfNow and Clubhouse Solutions, a division of the NBC Sports Group, not only can ClubBuy help golf facilities save money in different ways, from buying food to office supplies, but it’s got the perfect price tag: Free. No fees. No long-term commitments. No problems.

“That’s the nice thing about ClubBuy,” said Michael Manion, a national sales manager at ClubBuy. “There is no charge or contract. It is solely there to save your course some money to say ‘thanks’ for your business.”

Josh Paris, the general manager of Old Town Club in Winston-Salem, N.C., was first introduced to ClubBuy while working at a Ritz-Carlton property. “Coming from a large environment of a club with 1,000 members to a club with 400 or 500 members, we didn’t have the same buying power,” he said. “Watching the impact to the bottom line, seeing every dollar saved … it turned into a no-brainer.”

How it works

ClubBuy helps businesses stock up on products they already buy, as well as others they need, at significant cost savings. These savings come with access to the industry’s latest buying technology and preferred pricing on a wide variety of products and services. ClubBuy has grown exponentially since launching in 2015 when it offered buying power for food and agronomy purchases. Now, the service extends procurement for golf course equipment, communications technology, office supplies, financial services, and more.

Buoyed by a strong relationship with US Foods, ClubBuy currently boasts 1,200 active customers in its food buying program and another 1,600 using the food and non-food buying programs.

Nick Barrington, Certified Executive Chef at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, was one of the early adopters of ClubBuy. His famous non-profit club was already using US Foods, so why not pay less for the same product? Despite the fact that East Lake doesn’t serve dinner, it still features a robust $2.5 million food-and-beverage operation. Barrington is responsible for hundreds of cocktail parties and corporate events where creative and tasty appetizers and drinks are expected. ClubBuy keeps his twice-a-week orders coming hassle-free.

“It’s a fantastic program,” he said. “Like most chefs, I don’t want to do the paperwork side of the job. When you become an executive chef, there’s finance and budgeting involved. There are other programs out there, but I won’t back them. They are cumbersome. For rebates and check balances, you had to jump through hoops. The ClubBuy program simplified everything. It saw the bumps and potholes and removed them.” 

Barrington shows the ClubBuy reports to his bosses to demonstrate the savings. “That money saved goes back into the operation for a new pizza oven, new fryers,” he said. “It recently saved me $36,000 in basic food purchases. I can save that in my budget and invest it in my sous chef and pastry chef for more training.” 

Creative Solutions

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, forcing the closure of many clubhouse restaurants, the ClubBuy team worked tirelessly to find ways to help struggling clients, like partnering with Tyson Foods to develop a marketing plan for prepackaged goods. Hosting “Coffee Break” webinars introduced course operators to these products and other innovative alternatives to the traditional food-and-beverage operations that were being impacted by social distancing protocols. The ClubBuy team also used “optimization audits” as menus changed and clubs went to pick-up only or delivery meal options. These helped clubs during the transition to whatever model they chose, finding items that best suited each individual situation and maximized program savings.

Another new partnership called the “Produce Alliance” allows clubs that firmly believe in the “farm to table” movement to purchase fresh produce from a local supplier. The average savings through more than 100 produce suppliers is roughly 15 percent with no minimum requirements for spending, volume, etc.

“The biggest change brought on by the pandemic is the ‘Produce Alliance’,” Manion said. “Now we can offer a produce program that’s separate with more flexibility, a more diverse line of choices and more deliveries per week. It gives you a lot of options. It’s a big plus for us.”

ClubBuy Extra goes beyond the kitchen, focusing on other items clubs use every day. Additional savings can be found for purchases of office, janitorial and sanitation supplies and specialty products, such as Neutrafect, a disinfectant for golf carts developed by Synatek, and Entry Ice Melt, an environmentally friendly, sodium-free solution for sidewalks, driveways and parking lots.

Broad Purchasing Power

Need a parking lot or cart path repaved? New driving range balls? A redesigned scorecard? ClubBuy can help with those, too.

“We started out with food and, today, through this whole eight-year cycle, we have a full agronomy program with Synatek and so much more,” Manion said.

Lon Grundy, General Manager at the World Golf Village in Florida, said he leans on Melanie Roberts, part of ClubBuy’s Business Services team, whenever he needs to upgrade club amenities that require a bidding process. Roberts recently gathered information to purchase new desks and chairs for employees at both World Golf Village clubhouses. Grundy wanted to dispose of the bulky, outdated mahogany desks, replacing them with modern, moveable desks that allow standing or sitting. The tricky part was finding the style of desktop he wanted, a distressed wood meant to look like an old farmhouse. Roberts sent multiple samples in various price points that Grundy presented to ownership for final approval.

“Probably the most exhausting thing a manager taking on a capital improvement project faces is chasing down bids,” Grundy said. “It takes a lot of time and effort on the phone, on the internet, talking to people. We did the tabletop of the desk, the desk frame and the chairs all in one phone call to Melanie. She is worth her weight in gold.”

Josh Paris at Old Town Club believes the service-first attitude and relationships from ClubBuy are just as important as the numbers on a spreadsheet.

“We are in the business of relationships,” he said. “Everything can’t be transactional. The relationship with Mike, Rick (Coffey) and their team … they understand our business and it helps that they see it on a wider scale. They have the best practices that fit your club. They don’t try to change you. They see what fits. Not everything fits all organizations. They give you offerings.”


Female Leaders in Golf Raise Their Voices

Mar 09, 2021

 

As the world celebrates the social, cultural, economic and political contributions of all women this month, GolfNow also is recognizing some of the voices closer to home.

With the recent golf boom of 2020 comes the good news that participation is growing, particularly among select groups, such as new golfers, returning golfers, juniors and women. That diversity is packed with new opportunities for additional avenues for growth within the game, including women in positions of leadership.

GolfNow recently talked with several of its partners – an exemplary list of female golf course owners, head professionals, teachers and administrators – who shared stories about their relationship to golf and the roles and responsibilities they feel are necessary to lead and grow the game among women.

  • Elizabeth Clarkson, Head Professional, Chateau Elan Golf Club – Braselton, Ga.
  • Laura Reed, General Manager, Alsatian Golf Club – Castroville, Texas
  • Cheryl Heckman, Owner/Operator, Manor Golf Club – Sinking Spring, Pa.
  • Ashley Skidmore, Head Golf Professional, Hyatt Hill Country Golf Club – San Antonio, Texas
  • Sherry Dircks, Director of Operations, Programs & Outreach, First Tee – Central Florida
  • Julie Steinbauer Leventhal, Program Coordinator, First Tee – Central Florida
  • Ashley Keller, Director of Golf, Rhodes Ranch Golf Club – Las Vegas, Nev.
  • Kristie Fowler, Head Golf Professional, Tubac Golf Resort & Spa – Tubac, Ariz.
  • Laura Beuhring, PGA, General Manager, Sewailo Golf Club – Tucson, Ariz.

Family is a common theme among these women when it comes to their introductions to golf. Ashley Skidmore started playing golf only because she had to wait through her brother’s golf practice in order to get a ride home from school.

“I tried it out and decided that I really liked the game and I picked it up fairly quickly,” she said. “Over that next summer, I was introduced to the First Tee of Greater Austin and fell in love with the game.”

“My dad bought me a set of Tiger Woods golf clubs as a kid and I loved the way they looked,” said Ashley Keller. “He put me in a summer clinic when I was 11 and that’s when it began.”

Although her mother was a four-time college All American and professional tennis player, as a teenager, Julie Steinbauer Leventhal chose golf instead. “My dad was involved in the PGA tournament at Doral and runs the Junior Orange Bowl golf tournament, so I was always around golf,” she said. “I decided I wanted to play golf to rebel against my mom.”

It was more of a “if you build it, they will come”-type of situation for Kristie Fowler. Her father actually built a golf course in Grand Junction, Colo., and started a junior golf program. “He built a community, taught me how to play and gave me the passion to follow in his footsteps,” Fowler said.

It might have been family that provided the “why” and the inspiration for these women to succeed at whatever they decided to do in life, but there were other influencers, as well.

LPGA Hall-of-Famer and fellow Berks County, Pa., native Betsy King provided plenty of inspiration both on and off the golf course for Cheryl Heckman. “She has accomplished so much in golf but also gives back to her community by supporting and hosting the Betsy King LPGA Classic for which I volunteered,” Heckman said. “She also was very involved in her own charity, Golf Fore Africa, which has raised millions of dollars to support children and families in Africa.”

Fowler looks up to people who find something positive in challenging situations while mentioning another Hall-of-Famer, Annika Sorenstam, as her inspiration. “I never saw her get down and she was always happy with what she had, and always was striving to do her best 100 percent of the time,” she said.

“I find inspiration in almost any professional athlete,” said Elizabeth Clarkson. “I love watching the Olympics because you know how hard each of those athletes have worked to get where they are, and it always makes me want to work harder toward all my goals in life.”

These women also have found additional inspiration from the grit, determination and talent of their favorite female golfers, which comprise a leaderboard of greats both past and present. Some of the many names mentioned include Annika Sorenstam, Lexi Thompson, Betsy King, Nancy Lopez, Peggy Kirk Bell, Jessica and Nellie Korda, Paula Creamer and the great Babe Zaharias. Sherry Dircks also mentioned what could be the next generation of superstars – all the kids learning and growing through the First Tee.

“I have been with the First Tee for over 20 years and to be able to watch our participants use the game of golf to achieve their wildest dreams and goals is my greatest inspiration,” Dircks said.

When it comes to bucket-list courses, there’s not as much variety with this group. The Old Course at St. Andrews and Augusta National Golf Club are at the top of most everyone’s list. “Augusta National, of course,” said Keller. “Because who doesn’t want to play there!”

All that inspiration helped these ladies navigate their own paths to leadership in a male-dominated sport, which seemed perilous at times, according to several.

“It’s hard,” said Laura Reed. “Men don’t usually like women in leadership roles, but if you treat people with respect and you share common interests, it’s easy!”

Similarly, Laura Beuhring tries to keep the human element top of mind. “I care about my team members and the guests that come to the course,” she said. “Ours is one of the friendliest and most-welcoming teams I’ve ever worked with.”

Several women talked about how breaking down barriers of misperception was key to earning respect in the workplace. Skidmore said females can immediately be viewed differently. “You are looked at as though you are not competent, weak and emotional, and I strive to make all these assumptions false,” she said. “My leadership philosophy is to create genuine professional relationships and treat everyone with respect, and not ask anyone to do a task that I would not do myself. We are united as one team, regardless of gender.”

“Sometimes I feel that people think they can push me around because I am a female,” Keller said, “but I stand my ground and show that I deserve the same amount of respect as a male would get.”

Others also see through an optimistic lens. Heckman says her leadership approach is symbolic to her feelings about the game, “with honesty, integrity, a competitive spirit, play it as it lies and take your breaks but always yearn to improve your outcome.

“Golf, in itself, is a bridge that can connect us to all genders, ages and ethnicities,” Heckman said.

Fowler said she gravitated toward people who let her do her thing and created programs that not only were successful for her, but also for her customers and the business overall. “I learned a long time ago to be firm, fair and consistent, while also trying to have fun and encouraging my staff, members and customers to do the same,” she said.

And what would leaders be without some sound advice?  We asked this group of women what their best piece of advice would be for young females trying to make it in golf. A common theme was to believe in yourself, learn from others and don’t be afraid to speak up.

Fowler suggests tapping into a female network to hear success stories that will help provide motivation.

Reed agrees and sums up her advice for female golf course operators. “It helps if you understand the game and know the difficulties with golf. Also, tee sheet management is the most important. Make sure your customer thinks he/she is the only person playing. Make sure pace of play is acceptable and listen to all suggestions, good or bad! And lastly, employ a good and loyal staff that reflects your goals.


Michigan’s Shanty Creek Resorts bounces back

Dec 07, 2020

Forecasting budgets for 2021 is no exact science, given the uncertainty surrounding the economy and the coronavirus pandemic, but Mike Mooney, Director of Golf & Club at Shanty Creek Resort in Bellaire, Mich., can’t help but feel optimistic about the future.

Mooney and his staff have learned a lot during the ups and downs of the pandemic in 2020, which entailed a state-mandated closure from March through April followed by a boom of business from June through October. Long-term, the bumpy ride may have been worth it.

“I am forecasting an 8 percent increase in rounds in 2021,” Mooney said. “We will get the rounds back in early May and June that we lost due to the pandemic and hope to hang on to the rest of the rounds captured during a busy summer and fall. We are feeling more optimistic. There will be a vaccine. People will be ready to be get out (and travel). I’ve talked to others in the area, and they feel the same way, too.”

Considering the dread Mooney felt during the early days of the pandemic when he was forced to close the resort, including its golf courses, business in 2020 turned out pretty well. Shanty Creek was able to reopen all four courses, although its pools remained closed and restaurants operated with limitations to account for safety. “All the courses pretty much finished on what were their budgeted rounds for the season. A couple were up significantly, up to 10 percent from 2019,” he said.

Despite a closure early on, mask requirements and a limit to how many people could be in the pro shop at one time, merchandise sales for Shanty Creek ended up five percent above 2019. All of this was achieved while the hotel and courses were limiting occupancy and capacity to 75 percent.

Mooney said the region benefited from low COVID-19 case counts for much of the year. With the international borders closed, Canadians were missed, but the resort’s traditional drive-in market still attracted people from lower Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and the Chicago area.

“The pandemic did teach us some things,” Mooney said. “We learned about our guests and where they are coming from, and what they want to do when they’re here.” He said they were cautious with their tee sheets, being careful not to handle too big of a load but still handling a lot.

“We feel like it was a good year, and we managed it very well,” Mooney said. “As a golf pro looking at the big picture, we saw a lot of people that were either golfers who haven’t played in a while or people new coming into the sport. They got out and played, and now our challenge in the industry is to keep these people engaged and get them to play more golf.”

Technology also helped Shanty Creek throughout 2020. Mooney said social media and e-mail communications allowed the resort to stay in touch with customers as rules and protocols changed. Online booking through GolfNow helped the resort target golfers for more return play after their original visit. Mooney even believes that some COVID-19 protocols might stick around permanently – notably the ball retrieval system connected to the flags and the removal of bunker rakes. “They speed up play,” he said.


Golf Course Operator survey reveals impact of COVID-19

Nov 09, 2020

The year 2020 has been a roller coaster for golf facilities around the country.

After a strong start, the low point came in March and April when many facilities were forced by local and state mandates to close anywhere from six to eight weeks during the early stages of the pandemic. At that point, no one could foresee the incredible ascent the industry would experience through the summer and into fall as courses reopened and participation boomed because golf was considered one of the very few safe and accepted recreational opportunities for social distancing. This wild ride leaves many wondering what the future holds. Will golf’s momentum continue well into 2021, even after a COVID-19 vaccine? Which of the new COVID-19 protocols could become permanent industry practices?

The 2020 Golf Operation Impact survey by GolfNow might help owners and operators better understand the pandemic’s long-term impact on the game. More than 300 owners and managers, mostly from public and semiprivate clubs, responded to the anonymous survey, representing 45 states, six Canadian provinces and several international properties, as well.

The 2021 outlook is generally positive based on the survey results, despite some stumbling blocks in certain segments. Two-thirds of the respondents are “very optimistic” that golf will be able to capitalize on the surge of interest and newcomers to the game. Roughly 51 percent of respondents agree, at least somewhat, that the pandemic is a new “silver lining” for the game of golf, and 46 percent of respondents disagreed with the statement that the new interest in golf will be “short-lived.”

“We remain positive for the future and we have learned a lot in 2020,” reads a comment from one survey participant. “The golf industry will have a great year in 2021. I am convinced with the generation of 25/35 (year-olds) who have just discovered golf. Our industry will do well.”

That cheery outlook is being fueled by the more than 81 percent of facilities that reported rounds increased year to date (through September), including 36 percent where revenue was up more than 25 percent during the peak summer season. More golfers meant big summer revenue gains in many categories compared to last year – green fees (77%), cart fees (70%), pro shop (36%), on-course F&B (34%), instruction/lessons (26%) and clubhouse F&B (22%).

Not every part of the business is thriving, however. Unfortunately, for those with wedding/events businesses, 74 percent have virtually seen their bookings vanish. The group/outing business was down 86 percent at all facilities. Resort courses, which rely on traveling golfers staying in hotels, aren’t feeling a sunny 2021 forecast: 31% are not at all optimistic.

More than half of the respondents (54%) spent the spring and summer without their second-biggest asset – the clubhouse. Roughly 69 percent had reduced F&B operations. 75 percent of courses began to offer grab-and-go choices to boost sales, with one operator noting that building a new snack “shack” at the turn was an innovative way to solve the problem.

“Keeps people from going inside,” the anonymous comment read. “They like it and cannot miss it (drive right past it). Keeps pace of play moving also. No bar open and beer sales are up 20% this year. Partly due to more players, but mostly due to making it easy for people to grab it before they start and at the turn.”

How to distribute carts while keeping riders safe has been a polarizing issue from the onset. 71 percent of facilities went to single-rider carts, a trend worth keeping an eye on. Players with their own carts have loved what amounts to a bump in pace-of-play, but the practice puts a strain on facilities that only have a limited supply available. The extra cart traffic is hard on the turf, as well.

With an eye toward the future, more facilities may begin utilizing technology more than ever before. Pre-COVID, only 4 percent of facilities said technology investment was important. That number nearly tripled to 11 percent. Almost half (47%) now believe technology is a priority, up from 27 percent pre-pandemic.

Some facilities went to prepaid tee times to promote “contactless” check-in, with 31 percent saying it will become a standardized feature moving forward. 54 percent are still undecided.

Although in-person check-in (96%) and in-person credit card payments (89%) remain standard procedures, online (85%) and mobile (81%) tee time bookings are outpacing in-person bookings (74%). 

“The ability to book online was great. So glad we invested in GolfNow late last season” wrote one operator. “… we were ahead of a lot of other courses that didn’t have that ability.”

To view a summary of the survey results CLICK HERE.