Knowledge Library

Instructor Plus offers the teaching Pro expert consultation, proprietary management tools

Mar 11, 2020

What's good for the golf course is good for instructors, too.

The past decade has brought waves of sophisticated technology to help dedicated golf instructors diagnose swing flaws, communicate with students, design drills with biofeedback and generally bring a scientific process to the lesson tee. What instructors haven’t been offered—until now—is support to address the business challenges and missed opportunities that have long frustrated them.

The remedy to all that is Instructor Plus, a comprehensive and customizable technology platform and service for golf instructors. Inspired by GOLF Business Solutions’ Plus management and marketing service —currently being used by nearly 1,400 golf courses nationwide—Instructor Plus combines expert consultation and proprietary management tools. It’s all designed to help instructors improve and sustain their businesses in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

“We know that facilities that have high-quality teachers see more play and more spending from the golfers who engage with their instruction programs,” said Lorin Anderson, vice president of Instruction for GOLF Channel. “Instructor Plus creates continual opportunities to grow this engagement through professionally managed marketing while freeing up the instructor to spend more time on the lesson tee, where he or she is most valuable.”

There’s been enthusiastic response to Instructor Plus in its first year. The technology is one of many business-to-business platforms within the GOLF Business Solutions portfolio. Golf coaches and teachers have been embracing the package, made up of a dedicated marketing agent with a unique suite of technologies. It’s a unique opportunity for teaching professionals to access the expertise and tools they need to customize and boost their marketing, sales, social media and back-office functions. An obvious bonus benefit is having time freed up to concentrate more fully on their students.

The technology behind Instructor Plus is designed to benefit any instructional operation, from sole proprietors to multi-instructor, stand-alone facilities. Instructors can choose between a full-service option or a do-it-yourself Toolkit, which provides the instructor with a customized, mobile-friendly website, robust instruction-scheduling software, an email marketing tool and a coach-student communications app.

Reviews and Ratings: Why they work

Feb 27, 2020

Best practices for reputation management

Average golfers may be ill-equipped to know all the strategies operators incorporate to produce a great golf product, but they are all experts on whether or not they had a good experience at your facility. Here in the digital age, they put that expertise to use by writing online reviews.

It was six years ago in 2014 that online reviews took on such importance within GOLFNOW that a separate business unit, GOLF Advisor, was established in response. Mike Lowe, Vice President and General Manager of GOLF Advisor, has been involved from the beginning with golf’s leading source of course ratings and reviews. “We saw the potential for user-generated reviews and built a great foundation on GOLFNOW,” he recalls. “Within a year, GOLF Advisor had become the Internet’s leading source for golf course reviews.”

According to the industry research group ReviewTrackers, U.S. consumers see themselves in a dialogue with businesses they review. Seven out 10 surveyed customers said they expect to get a reply from brands they review. Approximately 52 percent of those surveyed say that when posting a review that’s positive they expect a reply within seven days. When posting a review that’s negative, a full 72 percent expect to see a posted reply in that same time span.

Those expectations aren’t generally met, however—63 percent of respondents say they have never heard back from a business after writing a review. Which means your golf course is probably ahead of the game if it responds promptly and appropriately to golfers’ reviews of your product and service.

GOLF Advisor’s rapid trajectory has brought it to a point where the platform now hosts 1 million-plus reviews covering more than 15,000 courses worldwide. The customer-supplied reviews have special value, given the profile data that virtually comes with every one. “You know that the golfer giving five stars on a particular course is 55 to 64 years old with a three handicap,” Lowe explains. “It’s also possible, at times, to have a name associated with a review. This gives anyone who looks at GOLF Advisor the best of both worlds—reviews from actual golfers whom their peers relate to.”

That attention to high-quality content has unquestionably paid off. “When we launched, we had no presence in the search engine rankings,” Lowe says. “Today, a major percentage of our traffic comes from search. We rank extremely well for destinations and also really well for golf courses. That strong SEO presence not only is great for getting new customers, but also, once that golfer finds us, they use us as one of their stops. They look to us for advice.”

Lowe says his team is blunt in explaining the importance of ratings and reviews to operators who may take a casual approach to them. “There is no cost to respond to reviews, change photos, feature the course’s strongest characteristics and so forth," he continued. “Operators can choose to engage or not to engage, but the ones who do get involved really benefit.”

Saddlebrook Resort in Tampa, Fla., can attest to that. “To say that GOLF Advisor reviews and ratings have helped the resort is quite an understatement,” said Pat Farrell, Director of Golf Sales. “Golf rounds and golf package growth are up substantially.”

GOLF Advisor sets itself apart from other consumer review platforms because only golf courses are reviewed, no other product or service categories. Also, the other general platforms only have one overall category, so, it's difficult to truly know how into golf the reviewer is. GOLF Advisor not only has the overall category, but six subcategories that let the golfer rate everything from conditions to friendliness. And golfer profiles show how many reviews they've written, as well as the option for handicap and age information. Golfers can filter reviews by which players and reviewers are most like them.

“Even the highest-rated courses receive negative reviews or comments from time to time, said Brandon Tucker, GOLF Advisor managing editor. “If what a review said rings true, an operator can comment on it using their official GOLF Advisor course account. It’s an efficient way to let the review-poster know that their issue is being addressed. It's also totally constructive to point out anything in a review that is a misunderstanding, or statements that are factually inaccurate.”

Thanking someone for complimentary remarks goes a long way toward cementing a loyal customer relationship. And when a golfer cites something that was lacking in his or her experience, acknowledging the issue directly, perhaps even offering a bounce-back round at a discount, is a proven way to restore a customer’s perception.

Tucker likes to remind operators—especially those concerned about negative review—that the overall average for courses is 3.9 stars out of five. “Most golfers are sharing great experiences,” he says. “And on those occasions where there may have been a bad review because of a course condition or a temporary situation at the facility, our algorithm heavily weighs reviews based on recency. A bad review in the distant past isn’t going to poison your rating forever.”

Reviews are valuable currency, and the more a course has, the better. “Print up business cards that ask golfers to visit GOLF Advisor and rate their round,” Lowe advises. “Have your cart and bag-drop staff pass the cards out. Train them to ask every customer about his or her round and ask for the review. Some operations have iPads available so employees can ask for the review right there with the customer.”

It helps to include a link to the course’s website in email and social communication, and to add a ratings widget to it. Courses can ask their GOLF Business Solutions rep for window decals and other signage. But face-to-face communication is also key. Pro shop staff, greeters and outside service staff should all be asking for feedback on the experience.

If you have a GOLF Business Solutions booking engine, you can have your rep turn on post-interaction emails to trigger a notification to golfers to write a review based on their last visit.

Finally, Lowe reminds all courses to put their best foot forward on GOLF Advisor by updating photos and content and to dedicate some time daily to engaging with reviewers. Two-way conversation is your opportunity to thank customers, acknowledge when you’ve made a mistake and show every potential customer the experience they can expect.

Want to learn more? Check out the latest articles on our knowledge base >>

Solutions for golfer acquisition

Feb 27, 2020

Here’s an unfortunate scenario when it comes to golfer acquisition: You welcome a first-time customer who pays his green fee in cash, plays his round and drives away, leaving only his name from the reservation. No other personal data was captured.

Professionals who specialize in golfer acquisition might give you credit for an acquired new golfer but ONLY if you’ve got a way of communicating with that person on a programmatic basis.

Take it from Nicole Roach, Senior Director, Consumer Marketing for GOLF Business Solutions, who makes it her mission to encourage golf course managers to always be thinking about adding to their “audience” of golfers who can be marketed to effectively. Solid golfer acquisition and retention strategies not only make good business sense, they also are critical to a truly successful operation.

In fact, someone who actually booked but didn’t play your course still counts, in her book. The golfer you’ve never heard of who books a round but then cancels should still be considered one more you’ve acquired, she believes. “You add that person’s data and now your audience is one golfer ahead,” Roach says. “Audience building is what it’s all about.”

It’s common knowledge that acquiring a new customer is way more costly than retaining one you’ve already got, so it’s worth being a little bit scientific about the newly acquired. Roach believes a course can benefit greatly by subdividing acquisition into multiple categories and tracking the progress of each.

“Someone can play your course once, play it multiple times, or join your loyalty program – those are all ways of including them in your acquisition data,” she says. “This qualifies as ‘acquisition’ if you can just get the person to provide a name and email address or get them to sign up for your SMS messages containing offers and other content.”

It helps to know certain patterns underlying your course’s play. So, if you recorded 25,000 rounds last year, was there an 80-20 rule in which 2,000 golfers played 10 times each and the other 5,000 rounds were played by a couple thousand folks playing a few rounds each? Roach points out that when you acquire Golfer A and Golfer B, one may have been totally worth the effort, the other less so.

“One way to look at it is to ask whether a given round could have been booked at a higher rate than what you actually got,” she says. “You make that happen by increasing the part of your audience that is relatively less cost-sensitive.” It’s valuable to know your total “uniques,” she says, i.e., the number of different people who teed it up at your course.

To determine a comfortable cost-per-acquisition (CPA), Roach suggests looking at your gross margin (per round) across a full year of operation and using that as a benchmark. “If your margin per round is $8, spending $8 in marketing and other outreach efforts to acquire a golfer is very sensible,” she says. Obviously, you’re not devoting all your profits to this one purpose, just using the margin metric to create an acquisition rule of thumb.

If you’ve plugged along and amassed a fairly large and relatively active pool of golfers who are engaged with your course, you don’t want to slide backward. No database goes a year without drop-offs, but the GOLF Business Solutions viewpoint is that losses should be minimal. “It should always be under 5 percent, and with our client courses we shoot for under 1 percent,” she says.

How does a golfer you’ve acquired become one that you’ve lost? That’s always the little mystery that needs solving. It starts with defining the period where the losses occurred and looking closely for whether any notable changes were made. “‘What did we do differently’ is the question you want to ask,” says Roach. That could include emailing golfers too often, emailing them too seldom, changing your message, discontinuing specials, or some other shift.

“That’s where email is particularly helpful,” Roach says. “It gives you the most response data. You can count your opens and click-throughs and usually find what you need to reverse a negative trend fairly quickly.” Of course, there are trends in your database and trends in play—two different (though perhaps parallel) performance areas. On the play side, loss consists of the “defector” whom you’ll program into the software as a somewhat regular customer—with a per-year minimum number of rounds—who stops showing up. “You can set that for 30-, 60-, and 90-day flags to be sent up,” says Roach. “You’re talking about a player who’s gone dormant that the course wants to reactivate more than re-acquire—and there are incentives you’ll use to make that happen.”

Caring for the database that holds and shows your acquired golfers is like caring for the turf on your fairways and greens. Frequent and consistent checkups are the way to go. “We suggest that courses look at their databases on a monthly basis, at least—really the more frequently the better,” Roach says. “That lets you see your trends and gives you a way to aggregate enough results to make good conclusions, plus sufficient time to plan your next initiatives.”

Golfers have lots of choice, so the very fact that you’ve built a large following of players who are engaged to a certain degree and could become more so is a tribute to the quality and consistency of what you bring to market. And some of them you’ll please to such a degree that they’ll find you downright captivating. 

Want to learn more? Check out the latest articles on our knowledge base >>

Keeping stats on your teaching business is the key to success

Feb 10, 2020

Any veteran teacher will have a general feel for when things are going well, but the one way to be sure is by the numbers. Here are your key indicators.

We don’t truly know if we’re succeeding unless we can mark our progress using metrics—and stay on track by checking our numbers over time. That’s a fact of business life that only recently has gained major importance in golf instruction.

So, when a golf coach is asked how things are going, and they say, “My business is great,” they’re not providing much of an answer. The natural follow-up question would concern year-to-date gross revenue. What’s that number? Next question after that: How am I trending compared to my 2020 goals? And it’s always good to ask the simple question: How many lessons did I teach last month?

It’s natural to conclude that business is good because you can make the mortgage payment or because you felt like you were on the go all day. But imagine if you could use goal-setting, long-term strategy and ongoing measurement to boost your business 15 percent—or 25 or even 50 percent. Wouldn’t you want to give that a try?

If you agree with the premise, next step is selecting the stats and metrics to load onto your spreadsheet. Here’s a partial list:

  • Total lessons taught
  • Type of lesson taught
  • Total revenue
  • Revenue by category
  • Total fittings
  • Average order value
  • Close percentage
  • Renewal percentage
  • Number of referrals
  • Range revenue per student
  • Rounds played by students
  • Food and beverage sales to students

In choosing what numbers to track, you’ll want to consider what your club or facility cares most about. Which metrics will help you illustrate the monetary value you bring to the table? What coaching-related activity most drives the overall success of the club? What’s most important to the facility’s bottom line? And, obviously, what’s most important to your own bottom line?

Managing by measuring is always a three-phase exercise—historical, current and future business. Start simple: How many lessons do I have scheduled in the next month? Next three months? Next 6 months? Next 12 months? Going out a full year may seem like overkill, but once you set up that data point you’ll want to continue monitoring it.

Your lessons-scheduled may be your most important indicator of success. The more lessons you have scheduled, the more you’re going to teach. The more you teach, the more people get better. The more people get better, the more they buy, and the more they tell their friends about your services.

When you’re the busiest game in town you can also charge more for your services. Funny how charging more should reduce the number of students you have but often has the opposite effect—there’s a real perception out there that more expensive coaching means better coaching.

A high volume of lessons on the books is important for your business but it’s even more important for your students’ improvement. So often there is a long span of time between lessons with a student only to have them come back looking the same as they did before their previous lesson. Movement patterns take time in ingrain. The more time you have with your students the more likely they are to get better.

Meanwhile, all that time spent with students will strengthen the relationship and deepen the trust. That additional trust will open up more opportunities for clubfitting and therefore merchandise sales as well as golf trips and other potential revenue streams. Again, none if this is as important as your students playing better golf. The additional time spent with them will take you beyond just being a pro they come to for tips. It will allow you to become their golf advisor, their friend and—most important—their trusted coach.

Want more tips of the trade? Checkout more instructor articles on our knowledge base

Your time between lessons needs time-management discipline

Feb 10, 2020

The between-lesson period is valuable to instructors and tends to be under-utilized, even wasted. Here’s how to make it a business asset.

For coaches who are back-to-back with lessons all day, deploying between-lesson time effectively isn’t an issue. But most teachers have a fair amount of down time. This time should be managed wisely, if you wish to become as effective and financially successful as possible. Poor use of in-between time tends to be particularly common with instructors who are building a book of business and starting to become quite busy.

As for those full-book coaches mentioned above, they actually need to create schedule breaks. Blocking a half hour of time on your schedule in the morning and a half hour during the afternoon (as well as a lunch break) allows you to recharge. Even coaches who appear to have endless energy run into challenges if they try and grind through the day without breaks.

If nothing else, they’ll tend to fall into a pattern of always running late—a prime source of customer complaints. And while they seem to have unlimited energy it’s an open question whether the last student of the day got their best effort. Making time in your book to regroup leads to consistent performance. Your customers will appreciate it.

Extra time has to be used effectively. It’s the key to being able to finish the day and truly leave things at work—instead of going home to a pile of business-maintenance chores. Vow to yourself that you’ll accomplish as many business tasks as possible during scheduled breaks. In-between time should first be used for outbound calls and emails to students who currently aren’t scheduled. Call them and see how things are going, with your goal being to book their next session. Using this valuable time to call people who have left you a message to book another lesson is a misuse of time. Nothing addresses this issue like a good online booking service—set one up, if you haven’t already.

Again, some of it is recharge time. After you’ve reviewed key takeaways with your students, delivered their homework and booked their next lessons, you need to get away by finding a quiet place on property where you won’t get sucked into conversations that aren’t productive.

Also, don’t waste your unbooked time by simply going long in your lessons and eating up your break time. The longer lessons go, the more likely teachers are to give students too much information. And a confused student does not make for a successful student. Don’t try to wrap up your lessons by “ending on a good one,” as you may be there all day. Yes, there are times when you need to give someone an extra few minutes, it just can’t be standard procedure. Students appreciate starting on time and ending on time. A coach who is constantly behind schedule creates frustrated students.

So, study your habits. Seek the opportunities for productivity and organization that you may have been missing. Do this well enough and you may find time to actually practice your game a bit between lessons! Want to learn more tips of the trade? Check out more instructor articles on our knowledge base

NBC Sports Group and MPower MSL Announce Strategic Partnership to Connect More Golfers Around the World to the Game

Jan 22, 2020

Australia’s Leading Online Golf Destination, iSeekGolf.Com, to be Operated by NBC Sports’ GOLFNOW within the World’s Largest Tee Time Marketplace


ORLANDO, Fla. (Jan. 22, 2020) – NBC Sports Group and MPower MSL (ASX:MPW)(MSL), operator of the tee time booking platform iSeekGolf, today announced a long-term, strategic partnership to enhance the online tee time booking experience for golfers everywhere.


The partnership will boost innovation and product development for the benefit of golf courses and golfers throughout Australia. NBC Sports' GOLFNOW will assume operations of as an extension of its current tee time distribution platform, connecting iSeekGolf’s golf club partners with more than 3.5 million registered GOLFNOW users who can book a tee time at a selection of over 400 partner courses in Australia and nearly 10,000 around the world.


MSL customers can continue to advertise and sell their available tee times on GOLFNOW/iSeekGolf, while golfers will enjoy the ease and convenience of searching and booking tee times on one platform.


“Providing solutions for more than 9,000 golf courses around the world, GOLFNOW’s tee time distribution marketplace, as well as its best-in-class technology and services, position us as an industry leader at the intersection of golf and technology,” said Brian Smith, general manager, GOLFNOW & Emerging Businesses. “This partnership with MSL further solidifies our commitment to invest in golf in Australia and will benefit from the distribution and marketing reach of GOLFNOW and the brand recognition that iSeekGolf already has built among golfers across the country.”


“MSL is pleased to partner with NBC Sports, one of the world’s leaders in digital business driving innovation into sport with its technology. Our technology platform has centralised golf membership and handicapping in 11 countries and helps run some of the world’s most iconic sports, leisure and hospitality organisations, including 60 percent of the English Premier League,” said Craig Kinross, MSL’s Director of Strategy. “Our partnership with NBC Sports’ GOLFNOW to operate iSeekGolf will provide great benefits to Australian golf clubs and golfers into the future by providing access to our industry-focused, market-leading technologies.”


GOLFNOW, which launched in Australia in 2017, is part of the NBC Sports portfolio of golf-lifestyle businesses tailored to the needs of passionate golfers. The portfolio also includes GOLF Am Tour, the world’s largest amateur golf tour with events held across Australia, China, New Zealand, and North America; and GOLFPASS, a digital membership program that connects golfers with hundreds of perks and benefits related to the things they love to do most, like playing golf, improving their game, watching great videos, shopping and traveling. GOLFPASS launched in Australia in October 2019, following earlier introductions in North America (February) and the U.K. & Ireland (July). MPower MSL is a global provider of hosted SaaS and on-site solutions to clients in the sport, leisure and hospitality sectors with 1,200-plus customers in more than 25 countries.




NBC Sports Group’s GOLF division delivers multimedia golf content, technology, and services. Anchored by GOLF Channel – co-founded by Arnold Palmer in 1995 – GOLF content is available to nearly 500 million viewers in nine languages across more than 70 countries around the world. GOLF features more live coverage of the sport than all other U.S. networks combined, including global tournament action from the PGA TOUR, LPGA Tour, European Tour, NCAA, THE PLAYERS, The Open, Olympics, Presidents Cup, and Ryder Cup, as well as high-quality news, instruction, and original programming. Delivering unmatched coverage from the world of golf via GOLF Digital, fans can access 24/7 live streaming through the NBC Sports App, as well as complimentary coverage via PGA TOUR LIVE on NBC Sports Gold. In addition to these all-encompassing media platforms, NBC Sports connects the world to golf through a wide array of technology and lifestyle services, including GOLFNOW, the world’s largest online tee time booking platform; GOLF Business Solutions, solving business needs through leading technology, marketing, and services; GOLFPASS, an all-in-one digital membership delivering comprehensive benefits tailored to the modern golfer’s lifestyle; Revolution GOLF, the world’s largest direct-to-consumer digital platform in golf, offering best-in-class video instruction and game improvement products; GOLF Advisor, the ultimate digital destination for the traveling golfer, featuring the largest number of user-generated golf course ratings and reviews in the industry; GOLF Academy, a North American network of instructional facilities; and GOLF Am Tour, the world’s largest amateur golf tour. GOLF’s global reach originates from its world headquarters in Orlando, Fla., and extends to its international office in Belfast, Northern Ireland; regional offices across North America, Europe and Australia; and also includes collaborations with Sky Sports, and serving as the Official Media Partner of St Andrews Links.


About MSL Solutions Limited

MPower MSL (ASX:MPW) is transforming the sports, leisure, and hospitality sectors globally. Some of the world’s iconic sports and entertainment companies and PGAs rely on MSL every day. We create the systems that connect every department of a business from point of sale and club membership to marketing, financials, and the workforce to deliver real-time visibility on staff levels, customer engagement, profits, and revenue. It’s these pieces that work together that turn ordinary moments into extraordinary memories.

To discover more about MSL please visit



-NBC Sports Group-

NBC Sports Group Media Contacts:


Suzanne Pelizzari

Executive General Manager, Sales, Marketing & Partnerships

MPower MSL


Dan Higgins

Communications Editor

GOLF Channel


More proven marketing tips for dedicated instructors

Jan 10, 2020

In our November 2019 issue, we offered a batch of innovative marketing ideas that coaches could implement quickly. Kick off 2020 with these additional tips:

Create programs and opportunities for late-shift professionals:

Executive chefs at fine-dining restaurants are well-paid. So are hospital radiologists and other non-9-to-5 professionals. These are prime candidates for your weekday coaching business—people who need a distraction from their responsibilities and a new challenge that's fun and engaging. Could you create a "Golf Clinic for Clinicians" from the nearby hospital, custom-designed to fit their schedules? How about creating a series of clinics for chefs and wait staffers at the top five restaurants in your market? One way to kick-start an outreach to medical professionals who work late hours is to link your event to their hospital's annual golf tournament fundraiser. If you are the golf coach who becomes well known to these networks, word will get around, and your business will enjoy an excellent pool of clients who follow a different schedule than the rest of the world.

Stage a putting expo and show all the putting-performance help now available:

All under one roof (although there's no actual roof) you can gather your staff of instructors, a putter-fitting expert, perhaps a rep from a manufacturer known for its putter line, putting practice-aids, an AimPoint teacher and all sorts of other resources from this putting-intense era for a putting expo. Acclaimed teacher Nicole Weller called her event at The Landings Club in coastal Georgia a "Putting Fair." Weller's members received coaching in distance control, putt reading, and alignment/aim, along with all the other bells and whistles gathered on her practice green. The direct result was increased exposure by members to the club's golf professionals, nine putters sold at the fair plus interest in spin-off lessons, extra practice sessions, and clinics to advance ideas that were discovered during the fair.

Connect your golf instruction offerings to the yoga community:

It's highly impressive to see how intently golf coaches have studied bio-kinesiology and other aspects of the fitness-golf connection. Question: Do any of the 1,000 or so regular yoga students in your area know that flexibility and golf success go together? Do the yoga instructors? Think about this: Whatever value the local yoga teachers feel they are delivering to their students, you could give them one more arrow for their quiver—they are helping their clients develop the type of flexibility, balance and conditioning that a good golf swing thrives on. Any yoga student who has remotely considered trying golf is, at the very minimum, going to get a little thrill at knowing they've got a significant advantage over the non-yoga beginner—and that's an incentive for them to come to the tee. How about a Get Golf Ready just for active yoga students? Or a demo at the yoga class showing how well a limber and yoga-trained body can make good golf swings? Self-improvement is the umbrella concept for the yoga student and golf student alike—make that connection in your local market and see what happens.

Market to league golfers (who can arrive early):

It's a familiar summertime sight in public golf—league golfers hustling to the tee because they have so little time to get from their place of business to the course. But some league players aren't in that time crunch and can arrive long before teammates. This means there is quite likely some form of coaching and pre-round prep that could fit into this time slot. Try surveying the league database to see who wants to show up early for putting, chipping, or perhaps some bunker help. The sessions would be relatively short and would often use a group format, so the out-of-pocket for these customers can be on the low side. Meanwhile, they become candidates for your full programs, and an advertisement for your skills if they start winning more than their fair share of matches. Use Your Email Signature to Drive Traffic to Your Offers, Events, and Ancillary Products: Every email you send to an active client or prospect can have multiple "actionable" links/buttons. Do you conduct New Student Assessments? And do you have a dedicated booking page on your website for NSA's? Embed a link to that page in a message that says: "Click here for an in-person assessment of your golf skills" or words to that effect. If you market a swing aid or practice app that golfers can learn about online, create a hyperlink button for that. Every email you send can and probably should have this calls-to-action, which are easy to create—there are even online tools for customizing them to your preference.

Got a marketing tip? Send it to, and we'll be glad to share it—with proper credit to you—in an upcoming issue.

Where teaching meets club fitting, decisions to make

Jan 10, 2020

The old ideal was for every teacher to learn club fitting and take care of their students' gear needs. It turns out there's a range of fitting solutions.

When the first fitting carts appeared on lesson tees 30 years ago, the companies that provided them preached that club fitting was the province of the teaching professional. Instructors were told that the club purchase should be a transaction between a teacher and his or her student, based on the precision-fitting methodology. From that point forward, it's been up to instructors to decide whether to embrace this idea fully or find other ways to address the equipment needs of their students.

There's quite a variance among top instructors as to how much or how little club fitting they do. On the enthusiastic end of that spectrum is Cathy MacPherson, a noted professional based in Middleton, Mass. These days she's got two methods of handling the equipment needs of her students—fit them herself or use the services of Club Champion, as 400-plus of her fellow professionals also do.

MacPherson has kept hands-on club fitting in her repertoire even as she's benefitted from the Club Champion arrangement that began two years ago. Over that time, she's had dozens of students go through a Club Champion fitting and purchase clubs. She considers the program a win-win. "Their business model is impressive, and we've had a great flow of communication," says MacPherson. "I've gotten to know their fitters, and we talk about how to do what's best for each golfer. That's been a key element to success."

At the larger academies, a job description of a specialist in golf gear has emerged. An example is the Mike Bender Golf Academy in Lake Mary, Fla., where Matt Wilkes is one such expert—although Wilkes does teach his roster of students along with running junior clinics and coaching groups of women players.

Despite how advanced his golf-equipment skills have become, Wilkes still sees the world through the eyes of a teacher. No matter how inappropriate a client's clubs maybe, Wilkes will still "point them to instruction" if their baseline ability to make a swing that advances the ball is below a certain level. And yes, his nationally known colleagues Cheryl Anderson and Mike Bender do assign to Wilkes the step-by-step of a club fitting session needed by one of their students, albeit with substantial consultation based on their swing diagnosis.

There will always be full-time instructors—and you may be one of them—who have a talent for fitting clubs, enjoy doing it, and connect teaching with fitting in an organic way. One such coach is Bill Abrams, director of instruction at Golf Solutions Academy in Crete, Ill. For Abrams, there are multiple reasons to keep the gear aspect of golf performance under his aegis. Generally speaking, it enhances continuity in the teacher-student relationship, he argues quite convincingly.

"We give students whatever we can to help them improve, whether that's swing technique, a fitness regimen, better course management—and those things tie back to equipment," says Abrams. "A student can build their core and their upper body, and at that point, the clubs may need another look. With the juniors, especially the boys of a certain age, I might switch them through two or three shafts a year."

The cost of shaft changes of this type is no significant factor, either. Abrams sources UST shafts at a discount, he uses PGA Trade-in services liberally, and he's "built a library of fitting shafts over the years that gives me a lot of options." Shaft couplings that allow instant switch-out, no epoxy needed, also facilitate Bill's approach. Even set configuration can be affected by what gets taught. As strategic thinking improves, a golfer may decide they need a couple of new hybrids that offer a better chance to play from optimal positions.

Meanwhile, the fitting has an artistic side, in which the golfer sees and feels results that are naturally pleasing to the eye. "The trajectory of the shot, the curve, the full flight, the hang time—all those things matter to golfers," Abrams says. The gear side of Bill's annual revenue comes to between 15 and 20 percent, he says. And that's not counting the loyalty factor among lesson-takers that his skill and ingenuity as a fitter help build.

If you've set a goal to run your teaching business more effectively in 2020, CLICK HERE to learn about Instructor Plus, a new service that's helping coaches solve business problems and succeed as never before.

Techniques for successful on-course coaching

Jan 10, 2020

The playing lesson has been around a long time, but new and more effective ways of conducting these on-course sessions are emerging.

Golf is the only sport that isn't routinely taught on its "field of play." That's why you can Google the phrase "can't take my driving range swing to the course" and find pages of articles addressing the problem. Of course, 90-shooters who moan about this usually fail to track how many lousy shots they produce in a range session, but they're still right that ball-hitting on-course can seem dramatically different from hitting on-range.

In general, the emphasis on coaching "situationally" is growing. Leading lights such as Lynn Marriott and Pia Nilsson are gradually leaving the range behind, shifting their focus to on-course work as a standard procedure with every student.

Pinehurst Learning Center students get whatever customized form of on-course work will help them the most. "We may have them hit a drive, hit an approach shot, then U-turn back to the tee to try those two shots again, with a different thought and different strategy," says academy director Eric Alpenfels. "We might go to various trouble areas and drop several balls at a time." And if a player "gets hot," just continuing on, in the zone and encouraged by their instructor, might be the best coaching they ever received.

At Monarch Beach Resort in the California town of Dana Point, award-winning teacher Glenn Deck will sometimes begin a playing lesson with 20 minutes on the range. The idea is to get a baseline for where the golfer and their mechanics are at that particular moment, before heading out. After the range phase is over, Glenn's rule of "no mechanics on the course" takes effect.

"The idea is to find optimal ways to teach the student how to play the game," Deck says. "Which side of the tee box do they start from? Do they know how to calculate yardage so it accounts for all factors? Do they know where they can miss and where not to miss? Are they trying to hit their career shot every time? Can they control distance on high-lofted clubs? There's a whole separate assessment to go through," he says, "The price they pay for that amount of time is considerable ($600 for 3.5 hours, including the range time), but the level of detail we get into is deep. It covers a whole lot of ground."

Colorado-based Dan Sniffen has learned the value of on-course instruction as a retention tool. If a 10-lesson series has gone well but is approaching its endpoint with no on-course work having occurred, heading out to the fairways is a great tool for refocusing the student and restating the value of long-term coaching.

"Going on the course is a good refresher for the relationship, and it can bring the student back to that sense they had at the beginning of wanting to really accomplish something," Sniffen believes. He will use the playing lesson to produce a simplified Strokes Gained worksheet, showing where the player can genuinely lower their score and what sort of practice and coaching is appropriate going forward to do so. "That approach generally leads to a renewal," says Dan.

Are you getting some static from the golf shop about playing lessons? Veteran coach Bill Davis has always handled that issue by repeating what George Fazio told him: Growing the game means teaching most effectively, so that golfers play better—which means you need to take them on the course. The result is they will play more often and spend more money at the facility.

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15 questions for instructors: a look back at 2019

Dec 16, 2019

One-year ends, another begins—before 2020 gets going, take this quick quiz and set your sights on greater success.

The end of the calendar year is when businesses reflect on what went well or perhaps not-so-well over the previous 12 months.

The questions below have been used by successful teaching professionals to look back at business performance over the prior year and forward to a better way of doing things—and perhaps more rewarding results. It’s worth your while to print out these questions, which are grouped by category, and keep the page handy. As time allows, fill in the answers by checking your business records and your personal recollection.

Teaching quality: Any lessons you whiffed on this year? Any students you weren’t able to help?

Player success: Are your students getting better? How many shot career low rounds this year?

Percent of book filled: Is your volume building? Level with prior year? Falling off?

Total lessons taught: It’s a simple indicator but many fail to keep tabs on this metric.

Total revenue: Did it hit the goal you set at the beginning of the year (If you didn’t set a revenue goal for last year, it’s strongly advised that you do so for the coming year.)?

Total expenses: Are you still purchasing big-ticket technology? Do you have a strong sense of when “enough tech is enough”? How much do you project to spend next year?

Renewal rate: How many of your students are buying another lesson pack when they run low on the current one (Note: 40 percent is a good benchmark.)?

Sales skills: What is your average order value (AOV)? AOV = dollars-per-booking.

Marketing: What is your ROI on each of the marketing campaigns you tried in 2019?

Business development: Are you turning prospects and meetings—even casual or chance meetings—into actual bookings?

Referrals: How many did you have? Do you have a structured referral program in place, including rewards for those who bring you new business?

Programming: Is it time to move toward more group lessons and fewer individual?

Pricing: How do you stand compared to your competition? More expensive is okay, if you deliver a better product.

Facility improvements: What upgrades are needed to keep things fresh, modern and confidence-inspiring?

Managerial skills: Are you building a team? How much turnover did you have this year?

Rank yourself in each category. Assess your skills, successes, failures and areas where you can improve. A scale of one to 10 should do fine, but be sure that you look honestly at each area. Hopefully you’re using some metrics to define your success. It’s much easier to have an unbiased assessment of your performance with some hard data to guide you.

What categories need the most improvement? What metrics would you track in 2020 to get an accurate view of your performance? Make an appointment in your schedule book to start this process. Your natural curiosity about how things work and where to find greater success will help you along. The result of a thorough self-review will be a solid plan to improve yourself and derive more value and wealth from your business.