By Vinnie Manginelli, PGA
Stephen Aumock is the PGA Director of Instruction at Gleneagles Country Club in Plano, Texas. He was the 2014 Northern Texas PGA Teacher of the Year and the 2016 Section Professional Development Award winner. We recently spoke to Aumock about teaching and player development, and how these facets of his business drive member retention, increase rounds, and promote the growth of the game. We further discussed the effects of the pandemic on his business and the game of golf as a whole.
1) How have things changed on your lesson tee over the past year as they pertain to teaching and player development?
The way that we’re structuring the job roles of our instructors has changed to include much more focus on member retention and members enjoying their experience. A major aspect of that is helping them get better at golf. We have new programs that we’re offering that include clinics, giving tips, and helpful on-course instruction. We’re trying to expand our reach with members and offer engagement that increases member enrichment.
2) What have you done differently with your clinics in this initiative?
We’ve expanded them a little bit and are offering more clinics for women, and further broadened our junior programming as well. We have juniors that start at the age of six who have the opportunity to grow in our programs all the way through their high school years. We have programs for tournament players, as well as for those who are swinging a club for the first time. After all, the pandemic and its effects on society have driven many new golfers our way – it’s up to us to engage them in a manner that keeps them coming in 2021 and beyond. We have recognized segments that we can approach to increase our instruction base and keep our membership thriving. One example of such includes the spouses of members who are already avid golfers. If we can bring the love of the game to them, these families now have two reasons to stay with us at Gleneagles, rather than before when only one member of the couple was truly experiencing what we have to offer.
3) What types of information do you offer a brand-new golfer from the outset? How elementary are your introductory sessions?
Most of these new students have never been on a course – a few might have hit balls on the range in the past. Some of the spouses are familiar with various aspects of our club, of course, but do not know how to make a tee time, when to show up for their round, or really what to do when they get here. We help provide that information so they are comforted and feel empowered to take on the technical aspects of the game. We know that it’s not always the most user-friendly game for the novice; ensuring they are comfortable and confident in coming out is key to continued growth.
We’ve always had beginner clinics on fundamentals that get people into the game but have expanded upon those efforts to welcome them to golf with empathy and understanding. We’ve all been in new and unfamiliar situations in our lives – easing their concerns about fitting in and belonging, through education and coaching, is vital. Clubcorp has done a really good job of member retention and getting people involved and playing the game, especially with the current COVID situation.
4) Can you expound upon the notion of giving tips, outside of a formal lesson or player development program?
We have a two-pronged approach to this communication and engagement with members. First, there are many times when we’ll meet a member on the range to take a look at a few swings and address an issue he or she is having in their game. We’ll offer a remedy and a plan for practice that focuses on the problem at hand. These encounters often occur between lessons with a current student or serve as a catalyst to a new relationship. These five to ten-minute sessions are offered complimentary and build goodwill between members and our PGA Professional team. Members always appreciate the effort.
The other part of it is on social media and our website. We’ll provide video tips from our practice facility that get members thinking and often trigger a conversation the next time they see us at the club. And as we all know, the more conversation and sharing of ideas you can have with members, the more they feel fulfilled in their member experience and you will usually have these members on board for the long-term.
5) You mentioned a third factor in the role player development plays in member retention – on-course instruction. Tell me about your efforts in that initiative.
The goal of every new golfer is to get on the golf course expeditiously and with confidence. The caliber of play does not always dictate the experience they have. We’ll sometimes join new members on the course for a few holes or even a round of golf. The time spent on the course enables us to highlight a plethora of issues not easily addressed on the practice range.
We take better players out for individual playing lessons that focus on their course management and mental game, adding to the toolbox that every competitive golfer must possess for success. In addition, we always enjoy bringing the beginner groups out for the first time. Again, the information discussed in these sessions may seem simple and rudimentary to the experienced golfer, but the newfound knowledge these individuals attain is a key step in their progression from “beginner golfer” to simply “golfer” and proud Gleneagles member.
We also have packages that include on-course training as part of a series. They are usually nine holes and give the student the opportunity to apply his or her skills where it counts the most.
These efforts are company-wide. Clubcorp is savvy and has responded to the key performance indicators that are driving members’ value and overall revenue. This includes, among other things, increased play, member engagement, and members’ enjoyment in the game.
With the pandemic still with us, our efforts to engage members will continue to help golf grow in 2021. There is natural social distancing available, opportunities to play with family and friends, exercise, and fun. I’ve always felt that golf is the greatest game ever invented and I’m glad to help bring this realization to the many new members out there, not just at Gleneagles but within the game as a whole.