Monday, July 22, 2013

The "Mini Prince" has Big Ideas

I'm headed to Kaua'i in a couple months and I was looking into which of the several great golf courses on the island I want to play when I came across this little gem.  The Princeville Resort, which boasts two 18 hole courses - the Prince (#1 ranked public course in Hawaii) and the Makai (also highly rated but under renovation) - has a six hole pitch-and-putt called the "Mini Prince Par 3."

The Mini Prince includes six holes 48-91 yards in length so it's appropriately sized for people of all ages and skill levels.

It has cups that are 8" wide, almost double the standard 4 1/4" cup, making the game easier and increasing the potential for lower scores and higher enjoyment.

The greens fee includes use of a Titleist Vokey wedge so you don't need to worry about bringing your sticks.

Kids play free with a paid adult so families are encouraged to go out together, and the adult rate is $15 for unlimited play throughout the day.

This makes so much sense to me on so many levels that I wanted to pass it along.  Princeville is a prestigious resort that is predominately visited by families, so they did exactly what I wrote about last week by putting the consumer experience first and created a course experience unlike any other I've heard of.  All a resort guest needs to do is walk up to the pro shop and with very little effort, very little skill, and very little cost, have an enjoyable, easy, quick experience with golf in an environment that has set them up for success.  That's pretty cool and is the approach I believe we need to have across all levels of the industry.

Here are some pictures from their website and I am very much looking forward to checking out this course in September.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Presidio Hills Paradox

Last week the San Diego Union Tribune wrote an article about Presidio Hills Golf Course, a par 3 in the heart of Old Town, pleading for the city to help this dying relic.  And it provides a snapshot into the issue so many short courses are facing as their inexpensive greens fees do not generate enough revenue to cover rising water and maintenance costs.

As the article discusses, Presidio Hills and short courses across the U.S. have served as the spot where countless number of kids have gotten their first exposure to golf.  Places where families could go spend a few valuable hours together regardless of the skill level of each member.

But Presidio has an 80 year old irrigation system that would cost $100K+ to replace.  It's on historically-designated land so doing any work to it will be close to impossible.  And it has no money.

I applaud the author, Tod Leonard, for bringing awareness to this story and presenting a viable solution of putting the course under the county's Golf Enterprise Fund, which uses the excess revenue generated from Torrey Pines' high non-resident rates to finance several of the other golf municipalities throughout the county.  That's why you'll find one of the country's best public golf systems in San Diego.  But Presidio is not part of that fund, at least currently.

I bring this up because I have a vested interest in player development, not only because anyone in the golf industry should, but because my company TGA specifically uses facilities like Presidio to transition our students to after introducing them to golf at their schools.  Short courses are critically important components of golf's ecosystem as they provide the most approachable experience for beginners, children, families, women and seniors.  With participation declining 13% over the past few years, we need more approachable facilities, not less.  However, the National Golf Foundation reports that short courses are closing at a faster rate than their 18 hole counterparts, and Presidio shines a microscope on this problem.

But there is good news.  I am fortunate to sit on the Southern California Golf Association's Government Affairs Committee, the only such committee in the U.S., and this is where I learned about Presidio.  The reaction by industry members throughout Southern California and beyond who sit on the board with me was swift and major.  Suggestions included: a) creating a fund with all major industry organizations pitching in a healthy amount to save this course and others like it; b) locating recently replaced irrigation equipment and donating it to Presidio; c) integrating different types of programming (like TGA) into the facility; d) organizing a fundraiser, perhaps with Mickelson, to raise funds; and more.  These suggestions/offers were made by the folks with the money and authority to execute on them, and they were made immediately.

It was an uplifting email thread to read as it demonstrated that leaders from all facets of the industry place a high level of importance on facilities like Presidio, and I agree wholeheartedly.  The paradox is that these courses hold many of the keys to addressing golf's participation challenges, and yet they're disappearing at an alarming rate.

As the greenskeeper Bob Grady says, "it's like leasing a car without an engine."

That's the Presidio Hills Paradox.  And we need to work together as an industry to figure out a viable solution.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Customers Determine Great Ideas, Not You

One of my favorite business bloggers, Fred Wilson, recently introduced me and his readers to another blogger named Benedict Evans.  Evans recently wrote a thoughtful piece titled Glass, Home and Solipsism that starts with:

One of the things you're supposed to work out some time in your adolescence is that though you're the star of your own life, you're not the star of anyone else's.  Some companies never work this out.

The key paragraph is:

In other words, your customers' relationships with you are the only relationships you have as a business and you think a lot about them. But you're one of a thousand things your customer thinks about in a week, and one of dozens of businesses. And they probably have their own ideas about how they want to engage with you (though they wouldn't put it in those words) - assuming they think about you at all

One of the readers nicely summarizes the point in the Comments section when he says:

"...a business has to remember that it's never about the product itself. It's about what the product DOES for your customers."

In looking at the golf industry on a macro level, I think we could do a better job of this.  Many consumers find golf expensive, time-consuming, difficult and daunting, and our challenge as an industry is that these issues are complex, fundamental and unrelated.

From a player development standpoint, if we're to stand out against the dozens of other ways people can spend their time and money, we need to make golf as easy, palatable and inexpensive to try as possible.  We need to market programs to the non-playing population.  Bring golf to where they already are instead of asking them to come to us.  Provide equipment and everything else needed.  Socialize the experience.  Create a nurturing environment.  Set people up to experience immediate success with the game.  All these things, a driving range with no rental clubs predominately occupied by men/husbands with golf pros charging $75+/lesson is not.

So for all the innovators, entrepreneurs and industry members out there working to grow the game, let's prioritize our focus first and foremost on the experience our consumers want/need to have, and then apply our great ideas to the manifestation of that experience.  Seems simple and obvious, but it bears repetition and I appreciate Evans' frank comments about the reality of the one-sided relationship we often have with our customers.

Best wishes and happy entrepreneuring...