In a market that’s always been a dogfight, the Carrollton, Texas club has put the pieces together to be poised for growth, as the Dallas metroplex becomes a new center of the golf world.
On a recent Thursday morning in mid-January, motorists who had set out to cope with the usual joys of commuting in the Dallas metroplex also found themselves trying to navigate swollen roads and flooded underpasses, as the skies opened up for what would be a thorough all-day soaking. “Gotta love this Texas weather,” said John Viscontti with a smile, after he had made his way to Coyote Ridge Golf Club in Carrollton, Texas north of Dallas, where he is the club’s General Manager.
Viscontti could manage the smile, even though Coyote Ridge had filled up a pretty healthy tee sheet for the day that was now going to be wiped out by the weather, because of the success the club has had engaging golfers in the area through its rain check policy that provides no-questions-asked refunds. “You can have beautiful days here even though weather apps say it is going to rain, and also the reverse,” says Viscontti. “We started the [rain check] policy as part of the premium we’ve put on being flexible, to help us build some brand loyalty in a market where there are lots of choices.”
The rain check policy has yielded benefits beyond just getting golfers to be less hesitant about booking a round anywhere, and to be more likely to book it at Coyote Ridge when they do, says Viscontti, who came to the club in the fall of 2018, bringing experience from a variety of private and high-end semi-private and public properties.
“Even when it’s pretty clear it’s going to be a rainy day, we’ll now see double the number of rounds on the books that we normally would have,” he says. “The word has gotten around that we live up [ to the policy], and that even if someone plays 17 holes and gets washed out by a sudden storm for their last one, we’ll refund them for a full new round.
“It also makes people show up here even when it’s pretty clear they probably won’t be able to get out on the course,” Viscontti added, on a morning where that was certainly going to be the case. “You might even see that here today—they’ll still come to eat or drink or hit the pro shop. So [the rain check policy] has had a nice effect on our F&B and merchandise sales, too.”
The policy originally set the refund period at 90 days, but has proved popular enough that Coyote Ridge has now extended it to 180—and if the rain check still hasn’t been redeemed by that time, its value can be converted to a pro shop gift card. “It’s all part of what we’re trying to do to stand out in a market that has the heavy presence of major operators [including Dallas-based ClubCorp and Arcis Golf],” says Viscontti. “We want to position ourselves as a unique, top-tier destination where you can expect special service, but still get great value.” Coyote Ridge’s main marketing message, in fact, touts how it can offer “a luxury country club feel, without the country club fee.”
Those efforts have paid off in a resurgence of rounds, Viscontti reports, to past previous peak levels in the 32,000 to 34,000 annual range and hit 36,000 in 2019, with prospects for approaching 40,000 this year. Additionally, the club has put itself on the map as an event venue and a source of shopping options that can’t be found elsewhere, for both golfers and non-golfers alike. Led by Head Golf Professional Casey Finch, Coyote Ridge’s standard-sized pro shop has earned accolades as one of the Dallas-Fort Worth area’s top destinations for offering a wide variety of in-demand brands that aren’t as readily available in other outlets in the region, including Travis Mathew, ASICS, Bushnell, Oakley, and many others.
“We try to find ways to be leaders in every possible niche that’s popular, without overcrowding the store,” says Finch. “The vendors are coming to us now, instead of us going to them.” [Finch and his staff didn’t even go to the recent PGA Show, instead preparing for the upcoming peak season by finding room for new items like ASICS golf shoes that they were being supplied with on an exclusive basis for the Dallas-Fort Worth market.]
SENSE OF BELONGING
In addition to its efforts to make those throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area aware of all that Coyote Ridge has to offer, the staff has focused on special outreach to residents and businesses in Carrollton, which has grown to a population approaching 125,000, so they will keep the club front-of-mind as their primary hometown option for golf, events, dining and other activities.
“We want all of the city-related events we can get, from the police and other departments, and we also want local businesses to think of our boardroom and dining and banquet rooms first, as the best place to hold their offsite meetings and outings,” Viscontti says
Promoting corporate memberships is part of that effort, and Coyote Ridge is also marketing itself to Carrollton residents, many of whom live in the sprawling surrounding community for which the golf course was originally built, by offering a variety of membership options that include special “Coyote Club” and “Carrollton Club” choices.
Where the club only had about 35 total members when Viscontti arrived a year and a half ago, and only about half of those were really active, he says, the count is now approaching 100, and he thinks progress can continue to eventually build a solid base of 250 members. “These aren’t just your typical season-pass programs,” he says of Coyote Ridge’s membership initiatives. “Our long-term plan is to have a substantial membership core built around a full range of amenities. At the end of the day, that’s what needed to support a viable operation, especially in a highly competitive market like Dallas.”
To accelerate membership development, Viscontti also has his eye on forging a stronger partnership with the neighboring community, which has pool, tennis and other recreational facilities that would mesh nicely with Coyote Ridge’s current amenity mix.
Special Support and Insights
For all of the initiatives that it has already launched and will continue to develop, the Coyote Ridge staff has drawn support and motivation from the Sam Moon Group, which acquired the property in 2005.
Founded in 1984 as a regional wholesaler of general merchandise, the company built a reputation as a preferred supplier of women’s accessories and handbags, and then built on that success to develop a diversified portfolio that now also includes, in addition to Coyote Ridge GC, seven Sam Moon Company trading stores across Texas, plus commercial real estate ventures and hotels in the Dallas-Fort Worth area that include Marriott, Renaissance and Hyatt flags.
In addition to providing support through capital expenditures that have recently included the purchase of a new fleet of 82 golf carts and two beverage carts, plus infrastructure work on the golf course that installed a new pump station and has bolstered Coyote Ridge’s reputation as a place to play golf in less-than-ideal weather conditions, Sam Moon’s ownership has also helped the club find new ways to distinguish itself in marketing, merchandising and service, Viscontti says.
“We’ve been focusing on raising the level of service to make it more personalized and to enhance the sense of arrival,” he says. “There are some synergies with what [Sam Moon] has learned on the hotel side that can also be applied here.”
In March, it was announced that the Sam Moon Group had selected Troon Golf to manage Coyote Ridge’s golf, agronomy, restaurant and club operations (https://clubandresortbusiness.com/coyote-ridge-gc-lakeshore-ycc-select-troon/).
Continuing to step up its game will only promise to be more important for Coyote Ridge, and all clubs in the metroplex, as the already crowded and active market sees the arrival of PGA Frisco, the new headquarters complex in another Dallas suburb that will include a pair of new championship golf courses and bring six major tournaments and 17 other Tour events to the area over the next 13 years. The massive 660-acre development, which has been billed as “The Modern Home of American Golf,” will also include a 10-hole short course, practice areas, and an education center that will serve as a focal point for regrowing-the-game initiatives.
While PGA Frisco will literally cast a large shadow on all other courses in the area, Coyote Ridge is one that is eager to welcome the new spotlight it will shine on Dallas-Fort Worth golf operations (it also won’t hurt that Si Woo Kim, a rising Korean star on the PGA Tour, is a Coyote Ridge member).
“In 2019, we did a lot to get better as an organization, to define and execute who we are and all that we have to offer,” says Viscontti in reflecting on his first full year at Coyote Ridge. “I think now we’re ready for some solid growth in 2020. And with all that’s happening both here and in the area, I see nothing but good things and opportunities ahead.”
At a Glance: COYOTE RIDGE GOLF CLUB
Location: Carrollton, Texas
Property Type: Semi-Private
Ownership: Sam Moon Group (acquired club in 2005)
Golf Course Design: Greg Williams
Annual Golf Rounds: 36,000
Clubhouse Size: 26,000 sq. ft.
General Manager: John Viscontti
Head Golf Professional: Casey Finch
Superintendent: Landon Wickstrom
Executive Chef: Greg Sims
Food & Beverage/Events Director: Michael Owens
Assistant Golf Professional/Membership & Tournament Director: John Hannon
Assistant Golf Professional/Golf Instructor: Alex Turner
Marketing Manager: Delani Kelly
Grill 19 Manager: Ron Capaeu
Bar Manager: Anna D’el
Accounts Manager: Ciara Woodfield
Administrative Assistant: Kristin Marcelo
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