Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Brutally Uncomfortable Question #10

If your club is as good as you like to keep telling yourself it is, then why are referrals so hard to come by?

The best way to handle a bomb...defuse it

“It seems like our greens always heal slower than everyone else’s...”.

“I wish someone would have told us we could have played after the XYZ Association tournament ended...”.

“I don’t get it, do we as a club allow fivesomes or not”?

If you are like most clubs, you probably get comments like this from time to time.  

My question is:  How do you handle them?

Does member talk in the 19th hole or Men’s locker room clear them up?

Does your Pro or GM handle these comments one by one?

Is there one board member that everyone bombards because the rest of the board is dead-set on staying neutral on nearly every issue holding the status quo as their highest calling?  

Would you like to know the best way to handle issues going forward?  

I’ll let Mr. Bill Francis and Mr. Brad Fox demonstrate the best way.  These gentlemen have done a masterful job of explaining things and both should be commended for their thoroughness and forethought for defusing a bomb before it blows:

Bill Francis, Course Superintendent at Blackthorn Club in Jonesborough, TN

(From the May newsletter) With the golf season nearing full swing I thought I would mention the “Big Daddy” of maintenance events. As most of you know, May means greens aerification, and this year is no exception. Weather permitting we are scheduled to aerify the front nine greens and practice greens on May 10. The back nine greens will be aerated the following day. Please be advised that each day the respective nine will be closed to play. Typically, under average growing conditions, you can expect the greens to fully recover within five weeks. Over the years we have developed a maintenance plan that seems to aid the recovery process, and generally we can have the greens back in tournament condition within 36 days. A few notes on what the golfer can expect in the weeks following aerification is as follows:

Days 1-10: We do not mow greens, but if necessary, we will roll them periodically. This allows the sand to work into the holes and the turf to elevate above the sand layer. Not much healing of the holes takes place during this period. Days 11-21: Height of cut is increased and greens are mowed every other day. The greens are rolled on the day’s in-between mowings. Green speed may actually slow during this period, but this is the period where they heal the most.

Days 22-30: Normal height of cut is restored and we resume daily mowing. While healing of the holes will slow during this period, smoothness will begin to return which will help to gradually in- crease green speed. It should be noted that that during this period quality of cut, and not green speed, is our primary focus.

Days 30-36: During this period we will mow, roll, double cut and/or whatever else it takes to re- store the greens to pre-aerification quality and speed. During this process the greens will steadily improve from around day 17 on. Due to the amount of topdressing sand it takes to fill the holes, putting quality will not be the best during the morning hours for the first 10-14 days. Because the putting surfaces are typically wet until 10:00 am or so, golf balls will tend to cake up with sand during the morning hours. Therefore, if you want to avoid this and experience a slightly better roll on the ball we recommend you avoid playing early in the morning for at least the first 10 days.

A couple of notes; first, please do not chip balls to the practice putting green. This green is for practice putting only. The green adjacent the upper practice tee is for chipping and other short game work. Second, we have purchased green divot sand and will gradually introduce it as the primary sand for filling divots on tees and in fairways. There is absolutely nothing wrong with continuing to use the white sand if that is all that is available. Along this line, the Greens Committee will be scheduling several divot filling events once again this season. Be watching your email for the date and time of the first event. Finally, additional sand has now been added to all golf course bunkers. In the short term this may result in softer sand conditions than you are accustomed. The good news is that this will not last forever. Once the sand settles it should become more like what you are used to playing from.

Brad Fox, Course Superintendent, Green Meadow Country Club, Alcoa, TN

(From the May newsletter) The greens were just recently aerified and are close to healing back up completely. The temperatures were very warm immediately after punching the greens, then cooled off the following week. Fortunately the soil is fairly warm for this time of year, and they should be healed fairly quickly this time around. One thing some of you might have noticed on the front side greens since they have been aerified are some light colored patches. These areas look like wilt and seem to be recovering slower than the rest of the greens. These areas are the same areas we tend to struggle with during the heat stress of the summer. These areas show signs of what it is known as hydrophobic soils. They tend to not absorb and take in water and nutrients like the rest of the green, thus causing them to seem behind in the recovery process. These same areas are ones that tend to wilt over and over again throughout the year. We called in some professors and an expert from UT to look at some soil samples from these areas on the front nine. These areas had what looked to be hydrophobic soils, but actually had a root disease. This disease affects the root hairs of the plant causing them to not be able to absorb water and nutrients. This disease is very difficult to identify because it shows symptoms of wilt and hydrophobic soils. The soil samples were sent off and were confirmed to have the disease. Fortunately it is early enough in the year and the disease was not very far along that we will be able to get rid of it with no problem. Chemicals were applied the following morning and watered in to get it down to the roots. This particular disease is one that is very hard to identify and often times is confused as wilt. Until recently, very little was known about the disease and the cause of it. We are very thankful to have experts close by with the knowledge and equipment necessary to identify such diseases. The greens should respond to the chemicals very quickly and bounce back in no time. 

Even despite the disease, the greens are still healing back up from aerification very quickly. We have also been seeding the greens in thin areas every two weeks since the beginning of March. These areas have grown in quite a bit, but we will continue to seed them until they are completely healed.

Superb job I must say Gentlemen!

With regard to communication you have three choices:

1. You can be upfront, honest, and timely, knowing that the more information you share, the better.
2. You can procrastinate, wait until things get out of hand, make excuses, and then blame.
or 3.  Do nothing and let the members sort it out for themselves hoping there isn’t a mass exodus in the near future.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Members owe it to their club to eat at their club

One of biggest eyesores at most clubs, financially and (at times) visually speaking, is oftentimes the restaurant.

Many clubs if cornered, will tell you the restaurant is a necessary evil. 

Could a club really be a club without a restaurant?  I guess it depends on what your definition of a restaurant is?  Is a full-service, white table cloth run operation the same as a sandwich menu, paper napkin one?  That is for you to decide.

Let’s face it, many Clubs in the golden age (roughly 1920-1960) were the only place in town to get a drink or a decent steak.  As females (no, this isn’t sexist, it’s a fact) migrated from the home to the workplace, the need for restaurants grew...and grew, to the point that on nearly every corner of any town USA, you’ll now find an eating establishment of some kind.  

What does this have to do with your club and the viability of your restaurant?  Let’s take a look at what you are up against: 

1. More competition -  As we have already mentioned, restaurant’s are now on nearly every corner and with many different choices.

2. Better quality -  Name a fast food restaurant that doesn’t have an Angus Burger now for under $5?  How many of us even knew what an Angus Burger was 10 years ago?  What about the “fast casual” category?  Applebee’s and O’Charley’s both make a pretty good meal with big portions wouldn’t you say?

3. Speed - Drive-thru’s, 2-3 cook’s, and 2-3 more available people to take your order makes speed a foregone conclusion.

4. Cost - $5 foot longs, $6 Value meals with a drink, and “two can dine for $20” offers combined with the buying power of hundred’s of locations makes competing on price next to impossible.  

5. Convenience - I have an experiment for you to run next time you drive out to the club.  Count how many restaurant’s you pass on the way and tell me the number isn’t north of twenty?

“Wow, now it really looks like we can’t compete”!

Not so fast!  I believe you can compete, but things will have to change going forward.  Here’s a good starting place:

1.  Raise your quality - You will NEVER be able to compete price-wise with the McDonald’s/Hardee’s/Burger King/Subway restaurants your members pass on the way to the club, but you can outflank them on quality.  First, vow to quit serving burgers and any other item for that matter that has more bun than meat.  Also, quit serving a handful of chips or thin fries with more fried skin than potato in the middle.  In fact, when your members get their order, you should be dropping fries/chips on the way to their table.  You want your members to say wow(!), not ugh.  

 “But if we start serving bigger burgers/steak fries instead of the cheap thin ones and heap chips on their plate, our food costs will soar”!

Ok, I get that, but your members are going to spend $10 (double the aforementioned restaurants) no matter what they order when you figure in sandwich/tip/drink, why not charge a little more and give a little more?  When given a choice, most members would rather pay $12 for a quality meal than they would to spend $10 on a bad one.  

2. Use your built-in service to your advantage - Face it, your staff probably knows (or should know) your member’s entire family BY NAME.  Dale Carnegie said many years ago (correctly) that a person’s name is the sweetest sound in the world.  Who do you think your members would rather have wait on them, Tonya with a tongue ring and a McDonald’s visor or one of your staff members?  Why do you think Norm, the popular barfly from the TV show Cheers, always went to Cheers after work?  

3. Personalize it -  Do you always offer to serve beer in a frosted mug?  Are your Martini’s a little stronger than the local tavern?  Have you ever named a “Shirley Temple” a member’s name instead?  I would order one for my daughter every time if they called it a Hayley Sponcia instead, trust me.  How much does that cost?  Nothing.  How much would it cost to call a ham and cheese with extra pickle a Joe Sponcia?   

4.Utilize social media/email reminders to your advantage - If you aren’t using your club’s Facebook page to post daily lunch specials, you are missing the boat.  How about using a Monday morning e-menu blast to your members to let them know of any specials you might be running for the week?  Do you think the local fast-food establishment’s will do this?  Nope.

5. Ambiance makes the difference - Another built-in advantage you have over EVERYONE is your location and setting.  You may be a few miles out of the way, but where would you rather eat a burger?  In a hard plastic seat with a view of the parking lot or a nice wooden chair with the golf channel playing in the background and a view of the 18th green?  Is your dining room a showplace or outdated?  When was the last time you painted?  Are your chairs in need of repair?  Do your members have a favorite table?  Little things like this separate you from the masses.  Utilize them!

The last thing that needs to be addressed is this backward mentality that is pervasive at nearly every club I visit.  It sounds something like this:  

“Our members owe it to their club to eat there”.

No, it is actually the reverse.  

You owe it to your members to serve them a quality product, at a fair price (not cheap), and with a better-than-the-other-guy-attitude.  Period.

Remember the revolutionary mathematical formula:  E=MC2?

Here’s the private club version(s):

·       Small portions of crap = crap
·       Big portions of crap = crap
·       Good food tastes better with great service (which is free) and great ambiance.
·       Price is never the issue when the quality exceeds it.

    Tuesday, May 3, 2011

    Brutally Uncomfortable Question #9

    If your food was really worth the price you were asking, wouldn’t your members want to support it without a food minimum?