The Golf Consultants Association held its second road show of the year, sponsored by Ransomes Jacobsen, and this gave golf club owners and managers, gathered at Northwick Park, an opportunity to review and compare their business experiences over the year to date.
In setting the scene Tony Scott, of Sports Marketing Surveys, said that in the UK over the last three years participation levels have actually increased but many golfers are playing fewer rounds than before. A very wet May coupled with the Football World Cup in June/July were the cause for the decline in 2006 with the record beating rainfall in the months of June and July this year being blamed for the further decline in the first seven months of 2007, since when anecdotal evidence suggests that the market has improved.
This has inevitably had an impact upon equipment sales in the first half year with the sales value down 2% over the first half of 2006. In fact it was the decline in the sales of golf clubs that depressed the market because sales of both balls and shoes showed an increase.
Other topics covered by Sports Marketing Surveys included an analysis of ‘core’ and ‘avid’ golfers; a breakdown of golfers by club membership, and the annual changes in the numbers of golf range users. www.sportsmarketingsurveys.com
The event, which was limited to 50 delegates, heard Rupert Price from Ransomes Jacobsen review business from the perspective of a major turfcare equipment manufacturer. He said that machinery sales are flat, year on year, but commented that his company had noted investment shifting to hand mowers and groomers, which he took to indicate evidence of a drive to improve presentation, maintain quality and underpin price, whether that be members’ subscriptions or green fees.
Gordon Miller from Sunningdale Corporate Finance Ltd said that thanks to Northern Rock and the American sub-prime market jitters the climate for raising finance is difficult, but should improve next year. He advised operators that “cash is king”. Finances and stock levels need to be controlled and profit margins reviewed. When taking forward bookings consider asking for a significant deposit and have a cancellation policy in place especially for visiting societies.
John Weir from Crown Golf concurred with this and said that Crown has its focus on securing forward business with deposits. It reduces the risk of weather related cancellations. Crown has systems in place which monitor the playing profiles of its members. The average rounds played by Crown members are 32 per year. Crown is able to identify members whose visits are significantly below the norm in order to encourage them to play more often and thus be more likely to renew their memberships for another year.
Ian Bulleid, from Impetus Golf & Leisure, urged any golf operator who might be thinking about contracting out the club’s food and beverage operation to reconsider the idea at once. There is no need for F&B to be a complex operation; all too often it is the operators themselves who make it so. Keeping F&B in house avoids sharing margins with a third party and retains control of the offer. If any owner really wants to outsource F&B it is important to ensure that there is a proper contract between all the parties and that this includes in detail the procedure for what happens in the event that the contract is terminated.
Norman Jackson spoke about indoor golf centres. After taking some time to become accepted, there are now approximately 120 indoor golf simulator centres in the UK and the number is growing every week. Some are highly successful commercial ventures – often combined with bar and restaurant – but there are also many in the homes of private individuals. Some indoor centres have made cross marketing arrangements with conventional golf courses. Costs of simulators vary according to specification with the range being from £15k – £40k.
There will be one more Golf Consultants Association road show before the end of the year. The venue has been set at Woodbury Park Golf Club near Exeter on 27th November
“The GCA has set out to create a platform where proprietors can get together with other industry specialists to network and share thoughts, ideas and problems,” said Ian Bulleid, the Association chairman. “The feedback from our two roadshows has been overwhelmingly positive because the format condenses presentations into half a day, showcases different golf facilities and provides plenty of time for discussion. We will be increasing the number next year and looking to visit all parts of the UK.”
Golf Consultants’ Association www.golfconsultants.org.uk