Season Passes vs. Loyalty Cards – What Is In the Best Interest of the Golf Course?

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Season Pass vs. Frequent Player Cards:
Which Is a Better Deal for the Golf Course?  

Golf is a fascinating business with so many vastly different business models to sell what is essentially the same basic service/experience.  Within the standard “daily fee/semi-private/private” structure, there are almost unlimited number of pricing formats.

The daily fee side is perhaps the most prolific – you have per-round pricing (with a complex matrix at even the most basic of courses), season-pass (which is in essence just a discounted daily fee) and frequent player cards.  The industry also has pricing based on the number of holes and the type of golf you play:  Footgolf, Fling Golf, etc. plus hybrid models such as Great Life Golf.

The National Golf Foundation recently in the 2018 State of the Industry reported that the net of all these programs generated an average green fee in the United States of $34.   With all due respect, golf courses cannot be economically self-sustaining with fees that low.

I remained convinced that the underlying problem with the financial stability of golf courses is founded by an ongoing pervasive perception that one has to discount. The focus is incorrectly on rounds vs. revenue per round.

We have developed an EXCEL template to guide golf course owners in the proper pricing of season passes and the issuance of loyalty cards.  A $99 investment will generate a returned exceeding $10,000 if the recommendations are implemented.

Frequently players cards are equitable.  Click here for two examples.

Regarding season passes they are often defended based on creating customer loyalty or providing advanced cash flow at the beginning of a golf year to augment the coffers.   But somebody always loses – the golfer who purchases and uses it seldom or the golf course who finds a plethora of golfers playing some frequency the average revenue per round drops to under $10.

Season passes I believe are the root of the matter and represent one of the many forms of discounting.  In our May Flash poll, we conducted research on season pass pricing and appropriate discounts for frequent player cards and were chagrined to learn the plethora of options offered by golf courses including:

  • 4 for 3
  • 12 play, pay for 10
  • 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 play cards and unlimited season passes
  • $3 discount Monday –  Thursday for 9 holes, $6 off 18
  • $100 card provides 33% off green fees and a cart
  • 10 round punch ard
  • $5 discount on each round played
  • Discounts at 64 courses statewide

For the result of the flash poll, regarding the types and frequency that season passes are offered click here.   The poll also provides an indication of the discount a golfer should be accorded in purchasing a $99 frequent players card.

Am I mistaken – is discounting too pervasive and are green fees prices too low?  Please comment below your thoughts?


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