Resource Center - Play Golf America

Program: PLAY GOLF AMERICA LEAGUES

Program Description
Golf Curriculum
Admin Tips
Marketing and PR
Measuring Success

Golf Curriculum


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Program Description & Considerations
Marketing Leagues
Facility Preparation and Considerations
Weekly League Ideas
League Formats
More League Ideas
Monthly Events


Branded Pilot Program
Play Golf America Leagues
Play Golf America Leagues Sales Template


Introduction

According to a recent survey, one of the “Top 5 Reasons” that golfer participation has dropped is because golfers have no one to play with. The same applies to newcomers that have been introduced to the game through lessons. Many will complete their lesson series only to drop out afterwards because playing opportunities with other golfers were not available.

Given these considerations, any golf course that neglects to offer leagues as part of their player development program is limiting their opportunities to grow rounds, increase incremental revenue and maintain a loyal customer following.

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Program Description & Considerations

Target Audience – In the past, leagues were typically viewed as events brought in from outside agencies such as corporations, men and women clubs. Many golf courses didn’t initiate leagues of their own. Today however, it is common for courses to create their own leagues to draw golfers to their facilities, thus filling down times and increasing rounds. Therefore, when defining the “target audience” for leagues, the options are limitless. Consider the following:

  • “Newcomer” leagues or “Welcome to Golf” leagues are becoming increasingly popular. These leagues create opportunities for those that are new to golf to find playing partners with others of similar talents. They are conducted in a non-threatening, and many times non-competitive format often preceded by a brief clinic or warm-up session. The idea, as should be the case with all leagues, is to make these events as fun as possible.
  • With the increase of women participation in golf, “Women Only” leagues are also becoming increasingly popular. Golf courses that host these leagues enjoy the reputation of being known as “women friendly.” Facilities can capitalize on the social aspect that golf offers to women, by marketing their leagues as a “great way to meet new friends.” Offering a social gathering after play not only retains women golfers at the facility, but can increase food and beverage revenue as well.
  • Families are another market that should be considered for leagues. In addition to not having any one to play with, another top 5 reason that golfer participation has dropped is due to “family obligations.” With the commonality of both parents working in today’s environment and with parents spending more time at work, “free” time is spent with the family. By hosting family leagues, parents can fulfill family obligations as well as having someone to play with.
  • Of course golf facilities should continue to host corporate and event outings, however facilities shouldn’t wait until these league opportunities find them. Facilities should actively pursue league opportunities by visiting local businesses, corporations, organizations and clubs within their communities.

Purpose– The obvious purpose of hosting and creating leagues at golf facilities is to create immediate rounds, revenue and exposure. However, there are additional short and long term benefits to be considered as well.

Referring back to the introduction, many golfers have expressed that they don’t have anyone to play with. Leagues that are fun and open to all are a great way for golfers to meet and play with other golfers. The experience goes beyond just the league play itself. As golfers get to know each other, they will start playing together outside of the league environment increasing rounds in general.

Another benefit of hosting leagues is the increased flow of traffic generated from new golfers who have just finished “Introduction to Golf” lessons. A large percent of new golfers drop out of the game shortly after taking lessons because they don’t feel comfortable enough playing golf on their own. Offering “Newcomer” Leagues or “New to Golf” Leagues give new golfers opportunities to get out on the golf course and play golf in a non-threatening environment with other golfers of similar playing abilities. In addition, they get to meet new friends and make future playing partners, again, increasing overall rounds at the facility.

Pricing– Recommended pricing should fall within the green fee pricing of when the league takes place. For example, if league play starts at 5 p.m., and super twilight rates are in effect, consider offering the same price. If golf car rental, refreshments, prizes, and clinics will be offered as part of the league package, then these should be factored into the price. Keeping a fairly low price point is important for enticing new golfers to try the game. Remember, when it comes to new golfers, the focus should be in creating affordable opportunities for newcomers to play golf, and also to play golf at the facility that first introduced them to the game. That is how facilities can create a loyal following and become known as the place to learn and play golf. With that type of branding, a facility will always have a flow of constant new customers, while retaining existing customers as well.

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Marketing Leagues

It is important to take the time and consider the options available for promoting league programs at the facility. Creating a marketing plan and continuously looking for opportunities to grow league play is a must.

Here are some basic marketing tips to get your started:

  • Train, educate, and inform all of the staff at the facility about the leagues offered. Everyone should be able to provide answers to basic questions (i.e., price, time, format, etc…) about the leagues being run and be able to register players for the events.
  • Notify the media of upcoming leagues and events at the facility. Have them come out to take pictures and write a story about the innovative ideas that the facility is implementing and the benefits to the community: growing the game of golf and offering families an environment to spend time together and have fun.
  • League play will only be effective if the golfer has a positive and fun experience at their first league event. Satisfied golfers are the best marketing tool that a facility can invest in.
  • Display league marketing materials in high traffic areas at the facility. A large percent of students say that they found out about programs offered from on-course signage. Whether they themselves visited the facility, or a friend or family member playing at the facility picked up a brochure, schedule and/or flyer for them.
  • Make sure marketing collateral is in good condition and clean. No copies of a copy of a copy. No copy machine roller streaks or faded ink.
  • Word of mouth is another major source for increasing league participation at a facility. Therefore, the leagues offered must exceed the customers’ expectations and encouraging players to tell a friend.
  • Facilities should contact their local Executive Women’s Golf Assoc. chapter and find out how to become an EWGA recognized facility. EWGA can bring league play to the facility as well as opportunities for EWGA lesson program options. EWGA chapter contact information can be found by logging on to www.ewga.com.
  • At all of these events, pictures should be taken and used to create a collage that can be used as a marketing tool. Keep adding to it and updating it showing that there is always new activity going on. Make it fun and place it in a high traffic area for many to see. Add a tag line to capture people’s attention like, “Come join the fun!” “Golf is calling,” or “See what you’ve been missing?” People featured in the collage will also enjoy seeing themselves. Pictures can also be e-mailed to the participants as an added bonus for participating. They’ll want to show their family and friends.

A detailed list of marketing opportunities can be found at the Play Golf America website under the “Resource Center.” Clicking on “Program Tool Kit” then under the “League Play” category, and finally under “Marketing and PR,” a variety of marketing ideas and materials have been provided. “Marketing and PR” also includes downloadable flyers, brochures, newspaper ad templates, posters and banners that can be downloaded and used.





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Facility Preparation and Considerations

Prior to a league or event, facilities need to make certain preparations. Consider the following. By no means is this a complete list:

  • Block off the league starting time(s) on the tee-sheet or reservation system far enough in advance to avoid scheduling conflicts.
  • Communicate to the Greens Superintendent any special needs that may be required (i.e. setting up circles for “Closest to the Pins,” placing the tee markers in strategic areas, setting up the putting green for a putting contest, etc…).
  • Carts should be available and made ready in the cart staging area. If pre-signup is required and pairings are made in advance, a nice touch is having name cards on the golf carts.
  • Scoring sheets should be made prior to the event and posted in a highly visible, high traffic area. Not only is this great for the league players to view, but it acts as a marketing tool for other customers. Note that new golfers may be intimidated by events focused on score.
  • Scorecards should be made in advance. Again, a nice touch is to have the league players’ names printed on the scorecard.
  • Create a league warm-up bucket of balls for sale. This should contain a lesser amount of balls than a small bucket contains and should obviously cost less as well. Consider offering the warm-up bucket free to league players. It is important to make sure that balls are available.
  • Have “Welcome” signs out at the bag drop area and at the “Check-in” area. They should contain the name of the league and any other pertinent information (i.e. arrow pointing to check-in area). Again, great marketing opportunity for other customers to see and raise their curiosity.
  • Dedicate a specified area for check-in and registration. Place it in a location that can be easily found for first-timers. Keep it in the same location each week. Have it set up and attended to at least a half-hour in advance. Have pairing sheets, sign-in sheets, markers, nametags, info sheets and other items needed for registration.
  • Establish what prizes if any will be given. Advertise the prizes and have them on display at the registration area for all to see.
  • Get local businesses in the community involved by asking them to donate gifts and prizes in exchange for promotional consideration.
  • Create an information sheet describing the league format, local rules, pin placements, prizes, where to turn in the scorecard and any other pertinent information for the event.
  • Finally, have sign-up sheets created and available for the next league event. Accept and encourage signups.

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Weekly League Ideas

In today’s society, the “time crunch” issue brings many challenges to the golf industry. People today don’t have as much “free” time as in the past. Therefore, when conducting leagues it is important to create opportunities for golfers to “get in a quick” round of golf. Consider hosting three, six, or nine-hole leagues over a four to six week period. Some suggested “themed” league opportunities are:

  • “Newcomer Leagues” or “New to Golf Leagues” – Appeals to new and beginning golfers that are looking for playing opportunities. Consider having the course set up with “short course” tees making it less challenging and putting the emphasis on fun. Consider hosting a complimentary half-hour clinic prior to the event as an added benefit and draw.
  • “Golf is Calling Leagues” or “Return to Golf Leagues” – Appeals to occasional golfers or those that have stopped playing golf and are looking to get back into the game. Similar to the previous bullet point, consider hosting a complimentary “Tune-up” clinic prior the event.
  • “Nine and Dine” Leagues – Play nine holes followed by a dining experience. Great opportunity to increase food and beverage sales as well as showcasing the golf facility’s food menu. A variation to this could be a “Nine and Wine” League which is nine holes followed by wine, cheese and crackers and/or finger snacks.
  • Family Leagues – Can host a variety of family events and formats such as:
    • Father/Son
    • Mother/Daughter
    • Father/Daughter
    • Mother/Son
    • Mixed parent/junior format (parent from one family plays with a child from another)
    • Grandparent/Grandchild format
    • Senior/Junior format, etc….
When conducting Family Leagues, the golf course should be set up with “short course” tees; available for juniors and parents new to golf.


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League Formats

There are many formats that can be used for league play. Changing the format from week to week creates excitement and prevents league play from becoming “stale.” In addition to keeping things fun and exciting, this is a great way to expose new golfers to the various types of play formats that golf has to offer. Consider some of the following formats:

  • Individual score
  • Scramble format (two person or four person teams). Scrambles offer many alternate formats within themselves such as “Texas Scramble.”
  • Alternate shot format
  • Best ball format
  • Combined score format
  • Blind draw Triple play (first three holes – best ball score; second three holes – team scramble; final three holes – alternate shot)
  • Use the Callaway scoring format or Stableford Scoring Format



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More League Ideas

Be creative. Occasionally change the way the league is played. Step away for traditional format and explore other fun and creative ideas. For example:

  • Three Club Play – Players can only use three clubs for the duration of the play. As a variation, require that one of the clubs must be a putter.
  • Cayman Ball Play – Players must use Cayman balls to play with (provided by the golf facility and figured into the cost). The course may need to be shortened for this event. If a player loses the ball, it must be decided in advance by the facility of whether or not that player is disqualified or if extra balls will be made available for purchase out on the course.
  • Prop Play – Players use an assortment of props to tee off with on each hole (facility provides all the props). For example:
    • First hole – Tee off using a putter (also provided for by facility)
    • Second hole – Tee off using a tennis racquet
    • Third hole – Tee off using a shovel
    • Fourth hole – Tee off using a hockey stick
    • Fifth hole – Tee off using a baseball bat
    • Sixth hole – Tee off using a croquet mallet
    • Seventh hole – Tee off using a table-tennis paddle
    • Eighth hole – Tee off using an umbrella (hook handle)
    • Ninth hole – Tee off using a 2 X 4 piece of lumber
  • On some events, add a hole or two where players have to tee off with an opposite handed club (i.e. Right handers have to hit with a left-handed club)
  • Glow Ball – Glow ball tournaments or leagues are a blast. Tie in a theme around them such as a, “Halloween Glow Ball Tournament.” Provide the glow balls and glow tees and figure them into the cost of the event. Glow discs that are placed into the golf hole and glow sticks that can be attached to flagsticks are available.
  • Monster golf – Change the layout of your golf course and create a “Monster Golf” Course. For example, depending on your course layout, have participants tee off of the 1st tee and play to the 8th green. Then have them tee off of the 8th tee and play to the 4th green. Be creative and combine short holes and long holes. Great event for all level of players.

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Monthly Events

Host a monthly nine-hole or eighteen-hole event. Include food, prizes and gifts. The idea is to make the events fun while at the same time becoming known in your community as a place where families can come and play together. Here are just a few suggestions:

  • Halloween Night – Encourage people to wear costumes. Everyone who does gets a free gift (i.e. a $5 range card). Give prizes for best costume, funniest costume and scariest costume. Give out free candy to everyone who attends. Offer hot cocoa, apple-pumpkin cider, coffee, and other goodies. Decorate the golf shop with a harvest/Halloween theme. Adorn the golf course with tombstones, coffins, Jack-O-Lanterns and other props. Have volunteers run around dressed as ghosts. Play scary sounds through the P.A. system.
  • Mother’s/Father’s day – Give a gift to every mom, dad, or grandparent on their special day (i.e. flower, sleeve of golf balls, tee packs with divot tool, etc…). Have a Mother’s/Father’s day dinner afterward.
  • Thanksgiving – Theme the prizes around Thanksgiving. Closest to the pin winners win free turkeys. First place team wins turkeys, second place wins turkey breasts, third place wins turkey patties, etc…. Last place team is a bunch of turkeys that win a prize accordingly (Turkey Jerky?). See if prizes can be donated in exchange for promotional considerations or green fees.
  • Christmas – Encourage everyone go bring a gift for a local charity like “Toys for Tots.” Reward everyone who brings a gift with a coupon for a free bucket of balls or 10% off merchandise. Have Santa Claus pop in on his reindeer golf car and have him circle the golf course during play. Have little goodie gifts for the kids. Conduct a “White Elephant” gift exchange afterwards. For those not familiar with a “White Elephant” gift exchange:
    • Let everyone who signed up for the Christmas event, know in advance that they will need to bring a gift that costs no more than X amount of dollars.
    • Prepare in advance index cards (Cut in half is fine.) numbered from 1 to x, with x being the number of players in the league.
    • At the start of the game, have each player draw a number.
    • The player who holds number 1 picks the first gift and opens it for all to see.
    • The player who holds number 2 picks the second gift and opens it for all to see. Player 2 then can choose to keep the gift he or she opened or exchange gifts with Player 1. (Player 1 must give up his or her gift if Player 2 wants it.)
    • The player who holds number 3 picks the third gift and opens it for all to see. Player 3 can keep that gift or exchange it with Player 1 or Player 2.
    • Continue the game until every player has had a chance to open a gift.
    • As the game continues, however, explain to players that no gift can be taken by more than three people. The third person to hold a gift is the “owner” of that gift.
    • After the last gift is opened and that exchange made, Player 1 -- who has not yet had an opportunity to exchange a gift -- makes the very last play of the game. Player 1 can exchange his/her gift for any other gift; even a gift that has already had three owners.
  • Have a “comedy club” night league. Find local comedians trying to break into the business and give them the opportunity to try out their material. Serve drinks and snacks. Perhaps have “open mic' night” or a “karaoke night.”
  • St. Patrick’s Day – Give everyone who wears green a box of Lucky Charms cereal. Follow up with a Corn beef and cabbage dinner. Create themes and contests on the golf course based around “pot-of-gold” or “the luck of the Irish.”
  • Host a mini-Ryder Cup style tournament during Ryder Cup week. Split the field into two teams and use a Ryder Cup format on a smaller scale. It doesn’t need to be competitive, just an opportunity to play different formats.
  • Host a Frisbee golf event. Use Frisbees instead of golf balls, use “hula hoops” for the holes and shorten the golf course. The scoring is similar to golf, only the players are tossing Frisbees into the hoops. Combine this with other formats like Frisbee scrambles or Frisbee alternate shots.
  • Host a “Back to School” event. Every junior receives school products (i.e., pencils, erasers, notebooks, rulers, etc….). Invite some of the local teachers and offer to let them play for free. Give the students a chance to play with their teachers. Or have a teacher or better yet a principle stationed at a par 3 hole and have a “Beat the Teacher/Principle” contest.
  • Host an “Off for Summer” event for families. Every junior receives beach products (i.e., bucket of beach sand toys, "Floatee" tubes, squirt guns, etc…). Have everyone dress in a beach theme (swim trunks, flip flops, tank top, sunglasses, etc…). Have beach themed prizes for the winners (i.e. beach towels, sunblock, coolers, etc….). Have a beach party afterward.

Conclusion - The suggestions listed here are but a small sampling of the fun that can be created by hosting leagues at a facility. Again, the idea is to create golfing opportunities for golfers of all skill levels and ages. Hosting leagues like the ones mentioned above are integral to facilities looking to grow or at least maintain their current level of play.

Please share your league ideas with Play Golf America by visiting their website at www.playgolfamerica.com.

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