Pricing during seasonal transitions

The time has passed for letting the calendar dictate pricing.

The seasons are changing, and you know what that means. For many golf courses, it means checking the calendar to see when their rates change. Which begs the question: Why?

“One of my main discussions with clients is smoothing their transitions coming into and out of seasons,” said Brian Skena, senior specialist for Plus by GolfNow. “It doesn’t make sense to abruptly change rates because the calendar says so. We would advise to change rates because demand says so.”

It’s a discussion that is often met with an incredulous look as operators say, “We have always changed our rates at certain points on the calendar. It’s the way we’ve always done it. Our customers expect it. Gosh, it’s published right here on our rate card we have posted in the pro shop.”

“Why have a physical rate card that shows your rate is “x” from this date to that date?” Skena said. “Golfers don’t need to know the price months from now. Let dynamic pricing come into play.” As evidence, he points to the foursome walking down fairwayhotel and airline industries, which have made massive profits with dynamic pricing while conditioning consumers to expect prices to reflect demand. “You don’t see airlines and hotels advertising that their rates rise and fall on certain dates. Demand determines what price you see.”

Brad Parker, General Manager at Patriot Point Links in Charleston, S.C, agrees. “We look at our rates each quarter – fall, winter, spring and summer – but we don’t completely rely on the calendar.

“There are contributing factors for our area that influence us changing rate on demand,” he said. “If the weather is ideal, if there’s an increase in tourism in the Charleston area – especially in the fall – and if the condition of our course is good, we adjust accordingly.”

Chris de Laat, Owner of Mayfield Golf Club in Caledon, Ontario, Canada, no longer uses a traditional seasonal calendar to make pricing decisions. “The catalyst for pricing changes is performance,” says de Laat. “Softer days need aggressive pricing and promotions, while busy days warrant higher prices.”

“The catalyst for pricing changes is performance.”

de Laat operates by a pricing matrix with a list of criteria that influence his decision-making, including: historical APR; seasonal temperatures; daylight hours; course conditions; competitor pricing, and more. “A motto that resonates for me states that ‘Time is a perishable item – unsold times equate to lost opportunities.’”

Also count Mike Dopslaff as a convert. Earlier this year, the GM and head PGA professional at San Carlos Golf Club in Ft. Myers, Fla., chose not to lower rates when his calendar flipped from March to April – and moving his course into the slower summer period.

“The condition of our course was still green and fluffy, and I decided this year that we would hold the seasonal rate,” he said. “We did 225 players. That’s a pretty good April 1st.”

Parker, de Laat and Dopslaff partner with GolfNow and its Plus service for rate guidance. Having this support mechanism, and GolfNow’s historical and market data, instills confidence in their decision-making and the timing of their pricing decisions.

Skena said with Plus’s full-service staff, they can be incredibly responsive with clients that are communicating regularly with them. “We can price really well off historical data,” he said. “And when courses are more proactive and willing to communicate with us, we can definitely extend their high seasons.”

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