Change the Classic Member-Guest Format

ed-winieckiEd Winiecki, the 2010 Southern California PGA Section Golf Professional of the Year, is the PGA general manager at Salinas (Calif.) Golf & Country Club.

Two years ago, after seeing our participation rates in our member-guest tournament decline, we decided to revamp the format to both create more buzz for the event and also expose our facility to more prospective members. So starting in 2012, we went from having your classic member-guest – one member along with one guest – to one member and three guests, with a rule that you could only bring the same guests two years in a row. Our intention in that change was twofold: first, to allow more people to see our facility at a given time by going from twosomes to foursomes; and secondly, exposing more eyeballs to the facility by having a pretty consistent turnover amongst the guests participating. The players count one best ball on the par fives, two on the par fours and three on the par threes (1-2-3 Best Ball format), with the low score winning. Though some members were a bit apprehensive about seeing a format we had used for 30 years get changed, everyone has subsequently embraced it and it has been a huge success. In 2011, the final year under the old format, we had less than 30 twosomes, with 30 percent of our total membership participating. In 2012, there were 25 teams (100 players) on the course, with a waiting list to participate. This year, we increased it to a full field of 36 teams (144 players) with a waiting list that seems to be ever-growing. We’re also up to 40 percent of our membership participating. The cost, which used to be $75 per player in a twosome, is now $450 for a foursome. That includes tee prizes, tournament prizes, sponsorship dollars and some drinks. Conversely, green fees, range balls, golf cars, food and other drinks are not included. So as a result, we have increased foot traffic through our doors and we have the parallel benefit of seeing more cash flow through the registers.

Besides bringing back the buzz and going from a tournament we could barely fill to one with a waiting list, there’s been a tangible business impact as well. Golf shop sales have increased 12 percent in the last two years. We’ve seen an increase in green fee revenue as well, enhanced this past year because we charged for practice rounds that we offered free in 2012. Remarkably, 80 percent of the field played a practice round, showing how much excitement there is around the club for this event and how many people were willing to fork over money in exchange for a day of preparation. We also saw an increase in lessons, club sales and clubfittings, which were coincidentally helped by having a huge demo day a month before the member-guest. But the biggest benefit of all is this: our facility has added seven new members over the last two years as a direct result of the changes to the member-guest format. In a shaky-to-bad economy, not being afraid to think outside of the box and break old traditions can be what makes a huge difference, as events that used to be all about showing your members a good time are now vital to keeping your club healthy for years to come.

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Editor’s note: The above comments reflect the opinion and experiences of the submitting PGA Professional and are not endorsed by PGA Magazine or the PGA of America.