Monday, March 21, 2011

Old guard or New school, which one are you?

In my hometown of Knoxville, TN, there are two major gyms:  Old guard and New school.  

Old guard had all of the business for years.  They had old equipment that wasn’t a very big priority to fix.  Their membership prices increased steadily over the years and they had zero customer service.  

Had they become complacent?  You bet!

When New school came to town, they brought in new equipment, a more lively atmosphere, better pricing...and quickly, they took a huge chunk of market share from Old guard because Old guard thought that running the same playbook for the last twenty years would work for the next twenty years.  Ooops!

Despite the proliferation of Wal-marts, Super home improvement stores, and online tee times for basically cart fee, I believe there is still a market for personalized service.  Look no further than Old guard and New school, and you will see a giant transformation in the health club business with (now) huge monthly calendars jammed with events/classes and more personalized service, i.e. personal training.

Why, when people are so pressed for time and squeezed financially, do they double and sometimes triple PER MONTH what they spend on a health club membership to have someone count reps and lead them through a work out?
Drive down the interstate and main thoroughfares of town and you’ll notice that nearly every other billboard Old guard and New school advertises on contains a message about personal training.  

In fact, immediately after they say, “press hard, the third copy is yours”, they do a pitch on their personal training the point that you can’t refuse because the value is so high (the first session is usually free).

Of course, that would never work in the golf business...

Golfers just want to log onto, play for $25, skip your $6 lunch special (you do have a daily lunch special right?), and pass on the happy hour short game clinic’s you hold on tuesday and thursday evenings for $20.  Private/group lessons?  Nah, that would never work.

Are you serious?

I don’t know anyone that doesn’t want to shave five strokes off their score by learning a 
decent bump and run or blast from a greenside bunker.

I don’t know anyone, that if they could eliminate their slice wouldn’t play more or bring a few guests on a more regular basis.

Doesn’t it make sense that happy customers/members are more likely to spend more money with you in every other area of the club?  

Aren’t you more qualified, since you gave Mr. Smith a few lessons, to tell him which set of irons would best match his swing over that twenty-two year old at the local golf shop?  I think so!

“We offer lessons, the thing is, very few people want to take them”.

No, they want to take them, they just won’t because they don’t believe your Pro is worth what he/she is asking for a lesson or frankly, they are rarely asked.  Not a good combination!

...but what if the offer were so enticing they couldn’t afford not to take them?  

1. What if you offered a guaranteed 25% reduction in their handicap in trade for a six lesson commitment with value priced “tune-up’s” (10-15 minute quick checks) for when things were just a touch off? 
2. Are you good enough to promise “one to two less clubs into every hole” for a lesson package?
3. Have you ever considered doing a once per month “lunch and learn” series for your members/guests in your grill room on the flat screen and/or dry erase board?  
4. Do you have a student that has improved dramatically because of your lessons?  Why not feature them in your club’s monthly newsletter, facebook page, or (outdated) club website each month?
5. What if you offered a free lesson to anyone that referred a new student?  

“Look, I don’t think you get it, we have 250 members right now, and out of that number probably 25-30 have EVER TAKEN A LESSON with our Pro”.

Actually, I do understand your dilemma.  Your club thinks that comma PGA means people are automatically supposed to sign up for lessons without being asked, without sufficient proof of success, or offered anything of value...and/or your Pro is doing ten other things besides teaching your members which you (falsely) think saves your club money, but actually ends up costing you more than you can fathom.

People won’t leave because you are servicing them too much or offering too many services with an offer they can’t refuse.  No...they leave you when you become Old.


  1. Hey Joe - great post! And thanks for following our blog! You should add a blogroll so that we can swap links on our main pages. Email us at and we can chat.

  2. Joe, right on the money with this one. I'm excited to have found your blog via Golfstinks, and will definitely be loyal follower.

  3. Don thanks a bunch! I hope you'll spread the word.