Bangkok, Thailand: The business of golf has long operated in a unique kind of vacuum, in which the same principles or more stringent ROIs of modern business don’t always apply.
According to Simon Wordsworth, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of 59club, these mostly historic shortcomings we hear about ever-more-often are coming to bear at an alarming rate.
“As evidenced by the game’s wavering investment performance, when compared to the business of other sports, golf suffers from its ability to protect tradition but unlock economic viability. So much so, it has never quite mastered its own argument as to how and why it is a catalyst for peripheral revenue and economic impact,” said Wordsworth.
Golf courses undoubtedly suffer from an unusual cost base. While this hasn’t changed for decades, neither have the tools some golf club managers and operators have at their disposal to progress their sales techniques
While some may argue that golf has failed to justify or validate its relevance to the next generation (for a number of factors, ranging from the way the sport has marketed itself to the prohibitive cost involved), it experienced a participation milestone in the first quarter of 2019, showing more competitive rounds were played then than any other first quarter in US history.
This figure is often used as a barometer pinpointing the health of the game. Alongside the fairytale Tiger Woods ending at The Masters, is now the time for golf to rejuvenate its appeal and secure its future prosperity?
One solution that the game has not turned to with zeal over the years is tech and software.
Wordsworth said: “New systems are penetrating the consciousness of forward-thinking golf decision-makers, providing vital signs and recording trends that allow us to take note of opportunities for much-needed growth, given its long absence from the sector.
“Tapping into primary data has been a long and sometimes painful road down which the game’s executors have trodden. But a slow realisation has manifested that the answer so many operators have been looking for may reside in the details, which are now available at the click of a button.”
Wordsworth cites The Open Championship as the best example of this realisation.
The game’s most storied event property, whose popularity derives from its deep-routed origin story, has morphed into a financially-savvy and tech-driven e-commerce enterprise. Winning the hearts, minds and disposable income of a community of turned-on consumers worldwide does not come without knowing your audience and their wants and needs.
Wordsworth said: “Data may, for some, be a dirty word, but its stigma resides only in the disconnect between knowing what it is, and, more importantly, how to deploy it.
“59club has become the cornerstone of many clubs’ fact-based evolution. Providing insights into employee performance and customer experience, it is a tool many clubs now simply could not do without.
“Enabling critical decision-making and evaluative thinking is what the golf industry has been missing. The ability to access and interpret data, in the spirit of enhancing customer experience, is invaluable and, once utilised for performance improvements across multiple service aspects, can be transformative.
“Employees who have previously been left blind in the field, relying on instinct to deliver service excellence and generate sales, can now embrace a data-verified approach in their everyday working lives. That is the foundation of 59club; unlocking primary data sources to empower better decision-making and results-orientated actions.”
Having access to audit and evaluating key processes within the customer service and sales disciplines create the conditions for tailoring the experience clubs want their members and guests to be exposed to.
Since beginning to work with 59club, Dubai’s Emirates Golf Club has seen a notable increase in revenue performance, growing at an average of 12% year-on-year. The club now sees 95,000 rounds a year across its two courses and has improved overall service satisfaction levels from 74% to almost 90% over the last five years.
Chris May, CEO of Dubai Golf, the group which manages Emirates Golf Club, credits the focus created by utilising the services of 59club as a major factor in this upturn.
“The key in all of this is not a silver bullet, but information that, for many venues in golf and other leisure industries, goes unrecorded every day and so is unrepresented in their product offering,” said Wordsworth.
Four-time Ryder Cup host venue, The Belfry Hotel & Resort, provides further emphasis of this point. Chris Reeve, the Director of Golf, has used 59club’s services for five years to enhance performance among its golf, leisure and spa teams.
Wordsworth said: “We know they would recommend our services to any club around the world, which is a huge endorsement when you think of their history, heritage and prestige as a venue.
“The perception of stuffy clubs has plagued the industry, as has the perception that what makes a great golf club for its members and visitors is down to some secret sauce. If that sauce exists, it’s customer experience, and it can be quantified, recorded and improved based upon some very basic principles of human behaviour and preferences, making the lives of those tireless club administrators a little easier, and the atmosphere in those clubs a little lighter.”
Wordsworth says the introduction of 59club Asia signals an opportunity for one of the sport’s fastest growing markets to capitalise on swelling interest among a growing middle class.
He said: “We look forward to helping many of the industry leaders and opinion formers in this part of the world ensure their strategic approach for delivering upon this exciting potential is a data-driven one.”
*59club Asia is an Associate Business Member of the Asian Golf Industry Federation