Club facility quality varies by venue type

This month Simon Wordsworth, chief executive of 59Club, examines the quality of facilities offered by golf clubs based on the type of operation.

Simon WordsworthRegular readers may recall that last month we looked at the sales process comparison and performance by type of venue. We will now look at how those venues – resort, members’ clubs, and pay-and-play (PaP) venues – stack up against each other in terms of the quality and conditions of their facilities. This is not a relative judgment on each venue’s capital expenditure, more a comment on facets of the golfer’s experience for which they can be justly compared such as cleanliness and so on.

We also have the same figures for the ‘traditional’ three 59Club categories: Podium, a score based on the three best-performing venues when dealing with a particular criterion; 59Club venues, clubs which are part of the 59Club benchmarking system; and the golf industry – based on clubs tested by 59Club, but which are not part of the benchmarking system.

Mystery-Shopper-Graphs-FebruaryThe overriding comment has to be how disappointing is the performance of PaP venues in certain areas. Not only do they fare badly when compared to resort and member clubs, but also alongside the general industry figure. And remember, here we are talking about general cleanliness and tidiness – areas which should be a high priority whether you’re the Ritz Carlton or Rick’s All-Day, Full-English Diner.

Interestingly, members’ clubs fare better in some areas than the resorts. One can only surmise the reasons for this, but perhaps knowing your customers more personally engenders a greater sense of professional pride in those whose responsibility it is to wipe down tables or replace toiletries in the locker room.

It would be fair to assume that general cleanliness and decoration of the locker room – where the majority of golfers will be both pre- and post-round – would be a pre-requisite for golf clubs. But while the ratings for both resort (92 percent) and member clubs (90) are reasonably high, PaP venues come in at a disappointing 60 percent. Given that the latter will be relying on the goodwill and enthusiasm of punters to return – rather than an ‘obligation’ – it seems short sighted to cut corners.

Individual lockers should also be free of rubbish of course, and while resorts recorded an 88 percent success rate here, PaPs again faltered with an unimpressive 36 percent. Member clubs score of 59 is also uninspiring, though maybe this comes as a result of overlooking lockers set aside for fee-paying visitors because most of the lockers are the responsibility of the individual member. That may be a reason, but it’s not an excuse. Podium venues record a maximum 100 percent, while the industry as a whole drops, drastically, to just 45.

On-course toilets are another area where PaP venues lagged some way behind, with just 11 percent; though, disconcertingly, the performance of resorts (44) and member clubs (55) were hardly worthy of commendation. The Podium clubs fared better with 79 percent, but even that is not ideal. If cleanliness is next to godliness, atheism is alive and well in our toilet blocks! It is, of course, harder to keep external environments clean and free from rubbish, so it should, therefore – in an ideal world – be allocated a greater share of staff time. The starter’s hut is another outside area which seems to be overlooked.

When marked for being clear of grass and other debris, resort courses came out best with a score of 79 percent, with members clubs a little further back on 68. Both actually outperformed the podium rating of 65. PaPs were once again the fall guys here with a lamentable 13 percent, while the industry as a whole can’t hold its head too high with a paltry 24.

The halfway house is another area which is largely overlooked at PaP courses, it would seem. A score of 15 percent for ‘clean and maintained’ suggests people might well pass it by. Both resorts and member clubs improved on that with 55, while the Podium score was again on top with 89 percent.

We’ve all got into a buggy at a golf club and been forced to clean it out before we head off to the first tee – and it doesn’t give a very good impression. But overall, it seems more likely you’d get a clean buggy, clear of debris. PaPs scored 53 percent here, bettering the industry average by 15 percentage points. Member courses excelled with 81 per cent – four percentage points ahead of their resort rivals – beating even the Podium score of 79. A case of bug-free buggies?

If the outside areas are often overlooked it is good to report that the clubhouse bar area is kept in better condition. The question posed of 59Club to its testers is: ‘was the chosen table clean, wiped and free of glasses and plates?’ Member clubs scored an impressive 95 percent here, just three percentage points adrift of the Podium score. The resort courses were not far behind with 93, while PaPs – clearly conscious of the importance of the post-golf experience – also recorded a none-too-shabby 91. The lowest ranking, overall, was the industry average which, while still leaving room for improvement, came in at a reasonable 83.

Whether you’re a £20-per-round municipal or a high-end resort club charging in excess of £100 for a game of golf, your customers will still expect things to be clean and tidy. And why not? It just takes time and a little bit of elbow grease. Remember, you can’t get anything clean without getting something else dirty …