Season Kickoff Event

Stewart-McCombStewart McComb, the 2012 North Florida PGA Section’s East Central Chapter Merchandiser of the Year for Private Facilities, is the PGA general manager at The Neuse Golf Club in Clayton, N.C.

At my previous place of employment, West Orange Country Club, we were experiencing sluggish enthusiasm at the start of tournament season with very few, if any, tournaments selling out. So we started having a season kickoff event to excite the member base. The event was called “Severe-Sublime,” a two-person, two-day best ball where the members played the course from the tips and set up as hard as possible by the superintendent on the first day, and played the course from the front tees with the easiest setup the next. The event cost $100 per person and included golf, gifts, dinner and prizes. It took a year to really gauge the interest, but by the second year it was clear: this event caught on and people were excited for the season. It also gave us an opportunity to advertise and promote our tournament offerings for the rest of the year, and that’s where the real benefits came.

Over the next three years not only did that event sell out, but it created a snowball effect. We sold out 14 out of our 16 total events every year, waiting lists had to be used and the excitement level among the members increased exponentially. Tournament participation and revenue nearly doubled, with two-thirds coming from golf and merchandise and the other third coming from food & beverage. From when I started this program to when I left West Orange, we gained 76 members, with about half of them starting as guests and a good number motivated to join and rejoin because of the tournament experience. The total number of lessons taught also increased due to the giveaway of free lessons during these sellouts. Our total rounds for the year increased by 25-30 percent with the increased participation. Most importantly, however, the value of a given membership became obvious. I’ve always believed more important than making money on these member events is to make sure the member sees the value in their membership. That creates loyalty, and everything else then takes care of itself.

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