So, I did something this past weekend I haven’t done in 10 years. I went on a guys’ golf trip. Seven of us played 72 holes over three days in North Carolina’s Sandhills. There was beer-drinking. There was joke-telling. There might have been a little gambling. And I might have strung together three rounds in the 70s, something I’ve never done before. But, of course, the “industry guy” in me was making observations and mental notes about the golf operations I was experiencing.
I want to share something I admired about two of the courses I played: Talamore Golf Resort in Southern Pines and West End’s Dormie Club. What struck me about these two very different facilities is how you get a “feel for the place” once you cross the threshold. Each has a unique style and experience it’s trying to project, and each works. Both offer great golf, but the flavors are quite different. For Talamore, it’s about being a little silly and casual. The resort uses a llama as its mascot, and has images of the llama in many of its posters, as well as in the logo and other marketing materials. You get the feeling you can really relax here, and the several groups of guys—all who looked like golf package buyers—hamming it up loudly was evidence of that implied permission to just have fun. And we did.
Dormie Club, which has a stellar reputation as a real “golfer’s golf course,” seemed pretty intentional about being minimalist about the experience. Basically, it’s no frills and all about the golf. The pro shop and F&B shack are tiny. The pin position map only shows two pin positions—front or back. The signage looked like it was cut from picket fence boards. Pine straw was the fanciest adornment to the grounds. The few staff members we saw were incredibly friendly. It was apparent to me that even the stark minimalism was very intentional—the club is attempting to curate a very particular kind of experience.
I think one of the hardest jobs of a golf course owner and operator is to determine how you appeal to the masses—the millennial and the baby boomer, the women and the men, the new golfer and the experienced. That challenge will never go away, but those businesses that seem to stand out among the crowd have committed to something unique about the experience at their business. And committing to something unique is taking a risk, because you fear alienating some portion of the crowd. I admire people who take such risks, because it creates an impression. And that impression may lead to customers talking about you and returning.
How are you intentional about the customer experience? Does someone have a “feel for the place” when they walk onto your property?