By | November 29th, 2017

Few think that Topgolf is a threat to the traditional golf club because the experience is so different. But it touches golf, and it has the potential to be disruptive—or to help grow the game.

Winter is coming. That means you have already begun, or are about to begin, the planning process for next year. As always, intentions will be good as budgets get developed, the golf and social calendar gets filled in, the “battle” for a fair share of the capital budget begins, and staffing and training needs are addressed.

Many of you (the fortunate ones) will build a budget that addresses waypoints on the club’s strategic plan. You know where you are headed, so it’s mostly a process of affirming the progress made to date and determining what needs to be done next.

For too many others, however, not much will change from year to year. Hope is your strategy—the club hopes to attract new members; it hopes to find the money needed to address that outdated irrigation system; it hopes that spring weather will be better next year, resulting in more rounds and revenue for the club; it hopes member attrition will be minimal; it hopes “the plan” works; and so on.

If hope is your strategy, you need some disruption.

In the classic case of business disruption, innovation creates a new market that eventually moves in on an existing market and displaces established market leaders—and the existing market leaders often don’t see it coming. Think: Sports Illustrated and disrupter ESPN.

Could your club live up to a mission statement predicated on “Producing Extraordinary Sports and Entertainment Experiences Through Actively Engaged Associates”?

Sounds to me like a pretty good fit for what a member (associate) would want from his or her club. And it’s already out there—that’s the mission statement for Topgolf, which is growing by leaps and bounds in a tangential way to the moribund (not my words) golf industry.

Check around and few think that Topgolf is a threat to the traditional golf or country club, because the experience is so different. But it touches golf, and it has the potential to be disruptive. It also has the potential to help grow the game.

If there is a Topgolf facility near you, odds are pretty good that more than a few of your members have been there. Non-golfers make up 37% of Topgolf’s guests—but if you are a private golf or country club, odds are pretty good that 25% or more of your members are non-golfers, too. The balance of Topgolf guests are said to be either occasional golfers (28%), moderate golfers (21%), or avid golfers (14%).

And Topgolf has the demographics that most clubs want: 53% of guests are 18-34; 16% are 35-44; and 15% are 45-64. This is the younger generation for the most part, but they could be potential club members down the road.

The lesson here is not to simply emulate Topgolf—after all, are you ready to suggest to your Board of Directors that “fun” should be one of your club’s core values? I didn’t think so. But would the Board argue that it’s a bad idea for members to expect to have fun when they visit the club? Of course not. So, find your fun.

Start the 2018 planning process with a good, long look at your club’s mission statement. If it’s easy to understand, and reflects what the club aspires to be, build the plan around it. If not, get consensus on a mission statement that everyone buys into, and start some disruption of your own.

And remember—hope is not a strategy.

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