October 9, 2014

Customization is Critical

lou-guzziGolfers are now immersed in a world of head-to-toe customization when they gear up to play the game: Drivers and fairway woods can be adjusted in a variety of ways, from loft and lie to center of gravity location. Hybrids and irons can be combined into sets that fit any golfer’s swing. Wedges and putters can be created with specific grinds, bounces, weights and lengths, and with personalized graphics and stampings. Even shoes and sunglasses can be customized to create one-of-a-kind personalized products.

The trend toward customization isn’t confined to the golf shop. PGA Professionals around the country are finding that off-the-rack teaching programs are in need of an overhaul in an era where consumers expect unique offerings that fit their golf goals, their schedules and their budgets.

“Customization is part of everything we do with golf instruction today,” says 2013 PGA Teacher of the Year Lou Guzzi. “Everything from the type of facility where we teach to the technology we use, the training aids we have on hand and the types of instruction programs we offer, it all has to be geared toward making the student feel like they’re getting a personalized experience.”

The commitment to customization is clear at the Lou Guzzi Golf Academy at Talamore Country Club in Ambler, Pa. Guzzi’s year-round, indoor-outdoor teaching building includes non-traditional touches such as a cappuccino machine and a woodburning stove to help students feel relaxed and at home. A five-acre short game area ensures that students can work on any shot that’s troubling them on the course. Pre-lesson interviews and postlesson follow-up help Guzzi and his staff create custom lesson plans and practice goals for students that range from beginners to competitive juniors and avid adults. And a large variety of training aids, state-of-the-art video equipment and a FlightScope launch monitor give Guzzi the ability to reach students with different learning styles.

“Golfers are very aware of what’s going on with other golfers, and they talk about their lesson experiences,” Guzzi says. “If a golf professional isn’t offering customized instruction, it’s harder to keep your student base. I want them to look at our academy, see our facilities and hear what we can offer, then have them say, ‘This is where I want to be.’”

Guzzi’s experience and approach are echoed by a number of PGA Professionals who shared their instruction success stories with PGA Magazine. Going beyond traditional 30- and 60-minute private lessons is a great way to reach new or lapsed golfers, and also to awaken the desire for golf instruction in past students who have stopped taking lessons.

Many of the successful customized instruction programs being offered today are built around offering golfers convenience, value and a unique overall experience. That starts with knowing your customer base and creating lesson options that appeal to certain skill levels or demographics – such as low-pressure group lessons for beginners, or organized practice sessions for avid players.

Successful PGA Professionals are also customizing their instruction programs with time and money in mind. Lessons need to fit into busy schedules, especially for families, and some instructors are venturing into online instruction to create an “on-demand” learning experience. Meanwhile, clinics and group lessons – such as Get Golf Ready and similar programs – often provide an affordable way for golfers to dip their toes in the water of golf instruction before taking the plunge with the purchase of a more expensive private lesson package.

If any of this sounds familiar, it’s clear that instruction is following the same consumer-driven trend that golf facilities are seeing in terms of rounds played and memberships sold: The passive approach that may have worked 15 years ago has been replaced by the need to be proactive in finding and satisfying customers.

“As an instructor, you can’t just wait for students to show up anymore,” Guzzi says. “I have to get out there and be visible with anything I can do to promote myself and the academy, whether that’s posting videos on my website, writing an article for a magazine or doing an appearance on local TV or radio. You have to show people that golf is a great game, and you can help them develop as a player to enjoy it even more.”