Brand – Is it Important?

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While I am fortunate enough to travel and play many courses, when in Colorado, I tend to play The Ridge at Castle Pines, not because I like it but solely as it is close to my house.

Playing there over the past five years, I have learned an important lesson about “brand” by being paired with strangers, as I usually book a tee time for a single.

As an aside, why a single?

  • I refuse to make a tee time for a group of friends.  It usually involves up to 15 calls/emails, and someone usually backs out at the last minute, so I have to call the golf course, hoping that I am not charged for a short show.
  • You will never see me on a Saturday with a regular group of men playing in some event with skins, low gross, and low net prizes, where they spend most of their time arguing about handicaps and rules.

Golf is meant to be a leisurely and pleasant experience; neither of the above is.  Thus, the enjoyment of golf for me is meeting new acquaintances and listening to their stories.

I have met a lot of fabulous and interesting people:  a massive liquor distributor from Louisiana for Constellation Beverages, several TV personalities from California, a lawyer who turned down an appointment to the US Supreme Court, an associate of Aaron Rodgers who played collegiate football at Yale, an agent for PGA Professionals, some incredibly talented female collegiate golfers, US Naval Academy graduates who are pilots, and a government lawyer who reviews death penalty cases to determine if the judgment should be enforced for a state east of the Mississippi river.

I also met a CPA who was mailing cannabis from Colorado hither and yon and who was arrested at the golf course in an undercover sting operation.  See the arrest here:  Karma – JJKeegan+

The list of interesting people I have met is long.  It underscores why golf is such a great game – it attracts a wonderful and diverse cadre of folks.

What did they select to play the Ridge at Castle Pines?

The Weiskopf-Morrish course, built in 1997, is just not a good golf course though the views of the Rocky Mountain and Pikes Peak are spectacular.  Most greens have bunkers in front and on the sides.  The greens are angled from 4 to 10 or 8 to 2, with the movement tilting front to back.  To hold a green, it requires a very high shot over a bunker and the hope and prayer that the ball won’t run off the back.

The pace of play on the weekends is consistently over 5 hours.  The bunkers on this course – mostly hard-packed dirt and rocks, are an embarrassment for a course whose prime-time rate is $155 plus a 6% surcharge for water.  Despite the urging of the talented general manager, the owner – a foreign Korean investment group, won’t make the necessary capital investment to properly maintain the bunkers, or repair the numerous cart paths that are cracked even though the course is financially successful with what I speculate is a seven-figure EBITDA.  Probably has something to do with a focus on minimizing the outstanding debt.

The course has some really bad holes: the short uphill par four sixth where a six is often seen.  The long 210-yard downhill par three 12th where the approach is guarded by a left-center bunker with the green running severely from front to back.  The idiotic 18th hole with the 125-yard drive over a chasm to a green that is positioned 40’ feet above the fairway with two front left bunkers in which again the green slopes front to back.

As my playing companions start to grouse about the bunkers and the slow pace of play, I would ask why they selected the Ridge.  To a person, each out-of-state player responded that they knew little about the golf courses in the Denver Metroplex and selected the Ridge for one simple reason – the golf course is managed by Troon.

Troon’s brand image gave them confidence and comfort that it would assure them of the upscale daily fee experience they were seeking.

Those comments underscore the importance of a golf course’s brand image.   Bandon Dunes tag line, “Golf As It is Meant to Be” is remarkably effective.  American Dunes on the website home heralds, “The Church – Jack Built:  Gold, Country, Golf – Golf’s Most Heroic Round.”  The affiliation of the Keiser’s with any golf course attracts interest. So does promoting the name of a famous golf course architect, i.e., McKenzie, Ross, Raynor, Tillinghast, etc.  Scotland and Ireland both beckon based on their image of offering a links experience.

That begs the question, what is the brand image of your course?

One of my favorite expressions is, “A Guest Sees More in an Hour than a Host sees in a Year.”  Perhaps this time of year is ideal for reflecting on how our course is different from your competitive set and how do you herald your uniqueness to attract new and retain existing customers in 2023.  Conveying that brand image, starting with a tagline that pervades the website and via email to reinforce the image, is savvy.

How any doubts?  Look at this website – it is awesome:  Sand Valley.  I hate the cold, but with the amenities featured, it almost makes me to want to visit there in the Winter. 

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