It has been well documented that golfers engage with the game in a wide variety of ways and are often less than fully satisfied with their experience. A 2018 Golfer Experience Study conducted by the USGA found that overall customer satisfaction with golf courses was at 69%, which was equivalent to experiences with the federal government and airlines, and below the satisfaction level of industries like hotels (75%) and full-service restaurants (82%). Because the operation of nearly 15,000 golf facilities across the United States represents over 70% of the $46 billion direct golf economy, strengthening the value proposition of golf courses and improving golfer satisfaction are critical needs.
In the USGA Green Section Record article “What a Golfer Really Wants,” we shared information from the initial phases of golfer experience research commissioned by the USGA. The article delved into the five stages of golfer engagement from selecting a course through interactions after departing the facility. The five phases – which contain more than 1,000 touchpoints – were identified through interviews, focus groups and surveys. This article focuses on how best to classify golf facilities based on the experiences they offer to their customers and members, and the implications for improving golfer satisfaction.
Primary Golf Facility Classification Categories
Traditionally, golf facilities have been classified by access (daily fee, private club, resort), ownership/management model (small business/individual owner, multi-club owner, municipal, private equity club), number of holes (9, 18, 27 or more), region, price point and a variety of other descriptors. Our research has determined that a better method of segmenting facilities to evaluate and benchmark golfer satisfaction is based on the type of experience provided. We propose a system of six classifications supplemented by secondary characteristics.
To understand the range of experiences that courses provide golfers, we interviewed owners and operators and then categorized facilities into the different types or segments. This step focused on differentiating properties based upon the customer experience's scope, primarily the revenue generating services and expense generating departments, to establish categories of green-grass courses that would account for the full spectrum of course types.