Dan Polites, a six-time Gateway PGA Section Award winner, is the PGA Owner/Operator of DP Golf Center, in O’Fallon, Illinois.
Dan Polites on the importance of taking steps to retain new golfers:
The presence of a global pandemic in 2020 had an unusually positive effect on our industry, boosting memberships and rounds, filling tee sheets and lesson books and bringing more new golfers to the range than we’ve seen in quite some time. The challenge is now how to retain them and create long-term relationships that will serve our business goals for years to come. This starts with helping them play better golf through lessons and development of proper practice habits. I offer a six-week clinic program that is very affordable and touches upon all the essential aspects of golf that new golfers need to know – irons, woods, short game, putting. These group sessions usually result in almost half of the students pursuing more detailed, personalized care – private lessons. In addition, I strive to learn my customers’ names and provide the kind of customer service that makes them want to come back time and time again. Also, it is critical to make the game fun and exciting for the occasional golfers who just want to come out and hit some golf balls. We put some fun targets on our range – fifteen 55-gallon drums emblazoned with our facility’s logo. Golfers of all ages and skill levels hit ball after ball trying to get them in the drums. They have competitions and work their way around the range trying to hit them all, a task much easier said than done. But they’re having fun and that’s the key to retaining golfers. When they make one in a barrel, they’re as jubilant as a kid on Christmas morning – if they make three during their practice session, they get to sign the barrel! This type of engagement, whether lessons or just plain fun, is what brings them back.
Dan Polites on the business impact of taking steps to retain new golfers:
Business is full of challenges – how to get customers – how to keep customers. As professionals, using our knowledge and expertise isn’t always enough – we must put ourselves in their shoes. What makes them come out to YOUR facility? Smiling faces and a warm greeting upon arrival – a clean and professionally run operation – a place where they want to be. These are not hard initiatives to achieve, and the business impact of our efforts will be more lucrative years like we saw in 2020. Understanding that some PGA Professionals reading this are at private facilities and others are at public courses and ranges, we all have a unique role in the future of golf. The high-end private club down the road is not going to put 55-gallon drums on its range, but they will clean the clubs of every golfer who comes and goes. They might even put a sleeve of balls in a cart for a guest to take home and remember his or her experience. The public course pro could ensure his or her pace of play is conducive with a good time – we all know that slow play drives golfers away. And at a facility like mine, we offer boxed sets of clubs so new golfers can have their own clubs and be proud to call themselves “a golfer”. If we all do our part, the game will continue to thrive.
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