One year ago, the The Wall Street Journal printed its piece, “Americans Want to Play Golf—Until They Try It.” The article suggested golf courses are like gas stations: “Come or don’t come. Here’s the price.” Implicit in that statement was that the experience at golf courses might be seen as a nothing-special commodity no better than your typical gas station.
So, one year later, an observation of a gas station development here on Daniel Island has me thinking about golf. I’m part of a 500-member “Daniel Island Dads” Facebook group, where most of the posts are about what HVAC company we use, weight benches for sale or getting angry about bad drivers in the community. But lately, there have been many posts about the Refuel facility that recently opened. In essence, Refuel is a locally owned and operated gas station with five locations around Charleston. But if you look more closely, it’s oh-so-much-more than that, and it has a ton of guys on Daniel Island buzzing.
What are they buzzing about? The amazing cuts of beef the owner sells. The wine and beer tastings. The live music and free steak nights. The beef jerky. The fireplaces, big-screen TVs, and the Green Egg outside for customer enjoyment. The fishing bait they’re going to carry, as a result of a discussion on DI Dads. Talk about being involved in the local community, and being responsive! Yes, the owner is doing some interesting stuff. But don’t underestimate the value of him being active on this Facebook group.
Golf’s comparison to gas stations last year wasn’t a positive thing. But if a course was compared today to what I see happening at the local Refuel, it would be the highest compliment. It’s obvious the owner isn’t looking at his business as a typical gas station. He’s found ways to keep the regular customer happy (give me my gas, my car wash, my beer and sodas), while bringing a real fresh and progressive bent to the business. The bottom line is the local community is buzzing about it, and better yet, they’re frequenting it. I can guarantee you locals are now eschewing the nothing-special gas station we’ve been using for years. I mean, my goodness—my in-laws went to a wine tasting at a gas station! Apparently the Refuel in nearby Mount Pleasant has some of the best fried chicken around.
For a little inspiration inside golf, I encourage you to see what owner Giff Breed is doing at Independence Golf Club in Midlothian, Virginia. I’m not saying every golf course needs to do things radically different. But I think we stand a better chance of growing, rather than retreating, if we get more responsive to what’s happening under our very noses. More family and kids parties. Local craft beer events. Cocktails and golf for local women’s networks. Outdoor yoga in a quiet corner of the property weekday mornings when the traffic is light.
What are you doing to truly connect to your community? How are you responding? How are you thinking like a gas station?