Golf venues revert to type

    After examining the regional differences in golf service provision around the country, Simon Wordsworth, chief executive of 59Club, begins a new series of articles looking at service delivery based on the type of golf venue

    Mystery-Shopper-Graphs-November59Club’s intensive ‘mystery shopping’ data provides more than just a guide to individual venues on where their service meets or falls below expectations. It is so widespread that, when looked at together, it also provides a snapshot of the industry as a whole. That means performance levels, on all areas surveyed, can be compared and contrasted across different genres of venue.

    And that is what we are looking at this month, reviewing the performance of venues according to the way they market themselves: resorts (of all prices), members’ clubs (of all prices) and pay-and-play courses (of all prices). The results may surprise you, or, if you sit in one of the market sectors highlighted, it may merely reaffirm what you already suspected.

    The difference between those venues in the resort and member sectors, in most categories, is negligible, while pay-and-play venues lag behind in every category. That may not come as a surprise if we generalise, but there is no reason this should be the case in many of the areas.

    Pay-and-play venues will argue, for example, that they do not have the same revenue – and consequently resources – to ensure the course presentation (70 percent) matches up to that of resort (85.1) and member clubs (88). Though, it should be noted, that 70 percent is not a wholly bad rating.

    However, when it comes to the areas where the rating is reliant on individual abilities and attitudes, why should those at pay-and-play clubs fall behind the others? This is not a question we will look to answer in this month’s edition, although we will revisit it in the coming months.

    Here, we are merely highlighting such differentials and, as you can see from the graphs, staff sales techniques and procedures leave a lot to be desired, not just at pay-and-play venues (25.6) but also at member clubs (37.3). Even the resorts (42.1) are not at a level which management would desire. Such figures suggest that many sales opportunities are going begging.

    And that level of performance is also reflected when we look at the figures for the average across 59Club members (34.8) and non-59Club venues (20.8). Even the podium score – for the three best-performing venues – falls short of expectations at 58 percent. While it may be the top figure, it still leads one to assume that potential revenue is being missed. We would do well to recall the wise words of Shakespeare’s Brutus, in Julius Caesar, when he and Cassius are discussing the purchase of a new set of irons: ‘There is a tide in the affairs of men Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune …’

    While the percentage results increase in the area of staff attitude, the best-performing and worst-performing sectors remain the same. Pay-and-play venues achieved a 64.7 rating, just a ‘gnat’s crotchet’ shy of that achieved by non-59Club establishment’s (64.8), while performance levels in the other sectors rose gradually to a high of 84.6 percent for the podium score. Taken in solitude, the scores may not appear to be worthy of much concern, but even the resorts (75.1) are 24.9 percent adrift of a perfect performance.

    Collectively, however, it is clear that staff at resort destinations are better at selling and have a more ‘can-do’ attitude, than their contemporaries at other venues. The reasons for this may be manifold and will be discussed at greater length in future editions.

    In terms of the booking procedure and welcome, once again, pay-and-play venues lag behind their colleagues at both resorts and member clubs. Of all the areas covered in these figures, the 2.3 percent rating of pay-and-play clubs when dealing with written enquiries should be of concern to the industry as a whole, as these venues may well be the entry point for beginners and potential golfers may well be put off before they even set foot on a fairway. Even resorts (19.8) and member clubs (25.4) do not excel in this area, with the podium score coming in at a vastly improved 66.7 per cent.

    Reassuringly, the pay-and-play rating at arrival (65) is substantially improved on that, ensuring visitors at least feel welcome when they turn up, although such venues are still outperformed by resorts (77.1) and member clubs (72).

    Another area where pay-and-play clubs close the gap on their rivals is with food and beverage. A rating of 68.1 per cent does not sit badly alongside those of the resorts (79.5) and member clubs (77). After all, one can surely expect a burger and chips to be cooked to an acceptable standard and served with a smile, as much as one can anticipate the quality of a lobster thermidor. It’s only the price and the ingredients which differ.

    With regard to the ratings for the overall facility, resorts (70.4) beat both member clubs (69.5) and pay-and-play venues (53.8), and this probably comes as no surprise. The latter are likely to have a larger footfall which brings its own problems in terms of tidiness and maintenance.

    It can be seen from all of these figures that resorts and member clubs, while marketing themselves differently, perform similarly across most sectors, suggesting a shared ethos towards training and approach. And pay-and-play establishments are struggling to maintain the levels of the others, although, it is clear, large improvements could be made simply in certain areas to enable them to catch up some lost ground.

    In many areas, it is clear that non-59Club venues underperform … but then we wouldn’t be doing our job properly if there were not a marked difference between those who benefit from the service and those who don’t… As for the reasons behind much of the above, well, as we mentioned, we’ll look at those during the coming months.

    Do you have any comment to make on the points raised above? If so, Simon Wordsworth would be delighted to hear from you. Email him at