What makes golfers happy? Surprisingly, not pace of play.

You’ve heard it too many times before. Someone comes in after their round to drop off their cart keys, and they burst out into a tirade: “Those guys in front of us wouldn’t bleepin hurry up! It was like they were walking through molasses!”

You empathize with them and offer consoling words, assuring them that, yes, those guys in front you were idiots, and no, there’s nothing you can do.

Maybe you even try to use one of the various GPS tracking technologies that improves pace of play in an attempt to escape these inevitable yet constant outbursts.

But you want to know a secret?

It’s not as big a deal as you think.

What Golfers Want

That’s right: pace of play isn’t the most important thing to a golfer’s happiness.

In a 2013 survey conducted by Golf Digest and the University of Minnesota, researchers measured 13 of the metrics that most strongly correlate with player experience. What they discovered is that there is a big difference between what players think makes them happy and what actually makes them happy.

Here’s the results:

what makes golfers happy

It’s a little hard to read, but the most shocking revelation is that, of 13 different factors, pace of play is actually last in players’ concerns. It’s even below weather! That means that a blustering gale that interrupts a golfer’s game is less likely to make him or her upset than a group of drunk dads who lose a ball every single shot.

So what does matter to golfers? What do they really care about?

The answers aren’t that surprising, but they are important to notice. Let’s take a look at the top 5 things that make golfers happy, and what you can do to keep them that way.

1. Course Conditions

maintenanceAgain, this one isn’t that surprising, but there’s a slight problem: course conditions often get overlooked. Sure, your superintendent is working his tail off to keep the greens green, but these days courses tend to focus more on things like customer engagement and tee time trades to boost their revenue.

While those things are important, the data shows that they’re secondary to the largest point of customer interaction, which is the player with the turf.

That means that computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) like Limble could be a huge help to your course. Not only do they manage all your physical assets, they allow players to take pictures and send repair requests for the greens from their phones.

2. Design

This one might seem a little unfair, since not everyone can afford to get a Jack Nicklaus redesign, or even a redesign at all. But just because you can’t afford a world-famous designer to help your course out, there are some less expensive options for you.

Many courses are famous for a physical landmark: a bent tree, a huge boulder, or a water feature. Consider planting a new copse of trees in a unique place on the fairway, or putting a new water feature in a different place.

By carefully listening to your players, you can learn what things they like or dislike about your course and slowly make small changes to make yours a Nicklaus-worthy course.

3. Score

There’s really nothing you can do about this… sorry.

4. Cost of Green Fees

Now this, on the other hand, is largely in your control, and you don’t even have to rely on third-party websites.

Third-party aggregators guarantee that your players get low prices and that you get occupancy, but they don’t make those players your customers. An easy way to deal with this is to get their email, name, and number when they check in.

That way, the next time they want to play, you can channel them to your course’s booking page and collect more money from them, and offer the same amount that the third-party site is giving.


5. Food and Beverage

This is another area that you can easily control. Hiring an excellent cook is a good step, but probably more important is having a working bev cart and bar. Once that’s in place, you can step up to the more hearty cuisine in a kitchen or snack bar.

One thing that will help you out is having an easy-to-use, customizable F&B and Point of Sale system. Not to brag or anything (ahem ahem), but foreUP has the industry’s only F&B system that’s fully integrated with the Point of Sale and customer database. Plus, it’s the only one with completely customizable quick buttons.FoodandBeverage

But enough about us. The point is, an F&B system that works for your business will not only help your employees work better, but will provide a better experience for your players when they need that 19th hole refreshment.

Data Speaks Louder Than Words

The biggest takeaway from this all for us is this: People don’t know what they want. Data does.

For years, the golf industry has been perplexed with how to solve the problem of pace of play, and as we mentioned before, an entire subspace of technology has sprung up to offer a solution. And while it’s not a bad idea to improve pace of play, the data shows that it’s definitely not the greatest idea, either.

Instead, you can focus on what really matters and what you have control over: Course conditions, design, green fees, and dining. By improving these, your course will not only be more profitable, but your players will be excited to come to your course. And, let’s be honest, after all the talk about money and occupancy and efficiency, that’s all we really want: happy golfers.