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How can a golf club use dynamic pricing to increase green fee sales…

Check out our latest article which featured in the PGA Professional Magazine…

Using variable pricing to move tee time inventory based on a simple demand curve seems the obvious choice when adjusting tee time rates. After all a golf course has a fixed capacity, perishable product, high fixed costs and low variable costs, the green fees can be priced differently, demand evolves, the green fees can be sold in advance and the market can be segmented. These factors make a golf course ideal for applying revenue management.

However, when you factor in the human element and the limitations of technology you can see a number of reasons to be wary. For example, you may ask… Am I jeopardising my core customer base of members or regular visitors? Does frequent discounting encourage people to wait until the last minute and only buy at the lowest price? Am I damaging the brand perception of my golf course? I could go on…

In our experience all those factors are relevant, but with the right strategy they can be overcome by using dynamic pricing to increase revenue and profit. A few things really matter when looking at your green fee pricing strategy, namely:

  • Your headline green fee rate

  • How & when you adjust your prices

  • The time of play

  • Booking lead time

  • How the customer will respond to price changes

  • Perception of value for money

  • Existing business mix and tee time utilisation

In today’s world of mobile bookings and price comparison websites, consumers (including golfers) understand why a business/golf course would alter its prices based on, demand, time of booking, time of experience, booking channel etc.

Once you have considered all of the above factors you can make a decision on whether dynamic pricing will suit your golf course, and then consider a strategy to implement it. The great thing is, if you are not sure you can try it and measure the results against historic sales.

One thing to consider is that dynamic pricing, channel management, revenue management and digital marketing are intrinsically linked. For example, if you change a price of a green fee on Friday for the following Monday, how do you get that green fee to market in the most cost-effective way, third party or direct etc? It is therefore important to have all of the processes in place to make it work.

This process is at the core of what we do at The Revenue Club. With that in mind we have added our top tips on how to create a successful dynamic green fee management strategy at your golf course (as an alternate to using our services!), don’t just set and forget your green fee pricing:

  • Get your distribution channels right: A number of factors are important to consider which include ease of channel management, their potential, the cost involved and the marketing opportunity the channel provides. Third parties are necessary in today’s market, they are a useful tool for a golf course, but as with any tool they need to be used correctly.

  • Offer book direct incentives: Booking through external partners such as market place websites is important, especially if the commercial is right, these range from barter tee times through to 12% commission with GoPlayGolf. But direct bookings are the most desirable method of reservation. A golf course can encourage direct bookings by offering value-added incentives. These can include anything, from buggies in the price to add value, price reductions, better lead times and so forth. The goal is to divert golfers away from using third parties, where they are more likely to choose a competitor.

  • Maintain organised records of key data: Good data is key to a successful revenue management strategy, and knowing your sales numbers for the same month last year will help you make smarter decisions about tee time pricing.

  • Always keep up with consumer trends: It is important to be aware of what is happening in the wider market. For example, of late, booking lead times through third parties have been reducing and shifting to Friday – Sunday playing days.

  • Prioritise website and mobile experience: Quite simply, too many golf course websites are out of date or neglected. Considering the number of golfers booking online is increasing, it is paramount to have an updated, optimised website for computer, mobile and tablet – especially your visitor booking engine. A professional website also requires periodic updates, taking into account technology updates, changing customer behaviour, design trends and security. An optimised website assists your search results. But you can also use it as a foundation for online marketing tactics including advertising via Google and social media as well as organic growth.

  • Technology: Does your tee sheet allow you to select a different lead time for each online channel? Does it allow you to easily add multi-ball pricing? Does it provide you with the reports you need to analyse the data for revenue management? Does it have a mobile responsive booking engine? All of these factors are important to consider when implementing dynamic pricing.

  • Internal communication: It’s important that all team members at the golf course understand the Revenue Strategy and what the club is looking to achieve this month and this year. It is especially important for your golf operations staff to understand why the price of a green fee might change, and how to handle this if a customer queries it. For example, if you are looking to drive volume it is particularly important to push up sells such as buggies, F&B etc.

  • Online reviews: Put simply the better your online reviews, the easier it is to increase rate

  • Workload & a quiet office: analysing data and editing rates accordingly requires a quiet uninterrupted space. From personal experience this is very difficult to achieve in a golf course environment, with constant interruptions from members, staff or the telephone! If you are looking to analyse data perhaps work from home for the morning or similar!

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