Getting the full picture of how your golf club is performing means you also need to know how you are measuring up against your competitors and the overall golf market.
Here the PGAs of Europe and PGA Professional, Mark Taylor, explore this underutilised area of management looking at where to start and what to think about when it comes to benchmarking your facility…
Certainly many factors influence a club’s reputation and performance including; perception of the club’s brand, the quality of the course, course activity levels, recognition of the bottom line value of guest play; to name just a few!!
Benchmarking is a tool that provides facilities and management teams a way to compare their clubs with peers.
Here’s what to consider when benchmarking…
Benchmarking is a process for golf operations seeking to compare financial performance and operating metrics to others in the same industry and re-align business strategies that have become unsuitable.
Through considering the results and practices of others in the same space, an enterprise can potentially improve its own understanding and management of processes and practices.
Information is crucial, and this is accessible from various sources:
- Competitor golf club websites and social media space
- ‘Mystery shop’ your local golf clubs
- Understanding trends in the market and adapting to meet those needs
- Golf Benchmark National/International comparisons and metrics (e.g KPMG)
- Benchmarking in local areas or regions
The factors that you may wish to consider in benchmarking competitors are:
- Membership numbers and fees
- Membership Retention
- Visitor fee prices
- Visitor packages
- Food & Beverage
- Golf Course reviews
- PGA Professional Golf services, retail, membership sales and coaching provision
- Is the PGA Professional active within recruitment & retention strategies?
- Where and how competitors are marketing?
- Are you comparing like for like products?
- Is your benchmarking SMART in each area of comparison?
Only by knowing the answers to these basic questions and understanding where you fit in the local marketplace, can you be realistic about what is feasible.
The questions you wish to ask competitors may also vary – for example, in European tourist weighted/seasonal destinations, the benchmarking process may need to be adjusted to identify different gaps in a business from a conventional ‘member’ golf facility.
For venues that either currently benchmark or are evaluating the use of benchmarking processes, there are several factors to consider:
Benchmarking is an important resource that a club has at its disposal and should be considered both during budgeting and strategic planning.
Benchmarking helps club committees/course owners and management teams deliberate about plans and operations in new and more intelligent ways. It may also help reduce input drawn from other industries that may not apply to golf clubs and facilities. The operating, financing, investment, marketing and governance practices of golf clubs all have their own unique characteristics.
Understand the Limitations:
The first thing to understand is both the goals and the limitations of benchmarking. It is, after all, a tool and not an answer. Comparing your club to others of similar standing should identify disparities that are worth understanding. It is not a case of right or wrong, it is just a process to help develop more thoughtful questions and a better understanding of the surprising intricacy of the golf business.
Be sure to benchmark against a comparable set of venues…
In selecting facilities to benchmark against, it is important to choose a peer set with similar amenities. Comparing a golf-only club against clubs that provide, for example, leisure club integrated golf/leisure membership or dual course options etc. would make the comparison less meaningful.
For the same purpose, simply selecting clubs in your geographic area may not produce the most meaningful result. Comparing yourself with clubs of your general revenue size and, to the extent available, other factors including number of golf holes, amenity offerings, F&B revenues, etc. will help produce more telling results. Studies have proven that geography means far less than one might intuitively suspect…
In addition to financial data, benchmarking operating data such as golf rounds played; the financing of capital expenditures, member numbers, membership costs, joining fees, governance practices etc. can be very valuable.
Key personnel within the club, including PGA Professionals have the ability and knowledge to treat this level of information with the respect it deserves and use it to drive positive change, improve service levels and profits, both in their business or for their employing club.
While the business model of golf is often consistent from venue to venue, each individual business is unique and is therefore required to make decisions based on their individual needs.
Benchmarking should not be considered a one-off exercise… To be effective, it must become an integral part of an ongoing improvement process, the goal being to be informed of ever-improving best practices and implement the necessary interventions to close the performance gap.
Mark Taylor is a Development Officer for England Golf, a Fellow PGA of Great Britain & Ireland Professional, as well as a PGA Tutor and an R&A Golf Development Professional.