Stanley Cooke, the North Florida PGA Section East Central Chapter 2017 Golf Professional of the Year and 2016 Chapter Bill Strausbaugh Award winner, is the PGA General Manager at Stone Creek Golf Club in Ocala, Florida.
At Stone Creek Golf Club, we pride ourselves in offering wonderful wedding experiences that couples cherish for a lifetime as well as other events we offer, golf or otherwise. With the competition that exists in the wedding and banquet business, it is more important than ever to make a great first impression when prospective clients call your facility for information. Our first rule of thumb is to never spew prices on the phone. We believe that when searching for the ideal location for one’s event or important affair, considering price alone is doing yourself a disservice. So, anyone who calls for information is invited to our club for a personal tour with our private events director. We greet the organizers at the door and welcome them to Stone Creek. We ensure that the facility is pristine, setting up a table in our dining room to mirror the set up the folks will enjoy during their day. Our Executive Chef will come out to greet them, dressed to the nines in his chef’s outfit and hat. We offer food samplings and champagne and escort them throughout the property as needed, stopping periodically to display on an iPad what each area looks like when fully decorated. This also enables them to visualize how things will look during their event, and we discuss any additional personalization they may desire. We are selling the experience during the tour. Quoting prices on the phone does not take into consideration the value of the experience we provide. In fact, I like to say we beat the customer over the head with a “value stick”, emphasizing what they get, and not what it costs. Golf outings are approached in a similar manner but are harder to sell. Most outings are charitable events, and the organizations running them, essentially fundraising, usually just want to know how low we can go. Despite this rather universal fact, we provide organizers a similar tour of the facility, highlighting areas pertinent to their event. In addition, with 55,000 rounds of golf played annually, we find it difficult to meet the lower pricing needs of the charitable organizations hosting a golf event.
The process of providing all prospective wedding and outing clients a tour of the facility was implemented at the beginning of 2018, and has been highly successful so far. In providing personal tours to couples and often their families as well, we are in a sense preaching value, and most eloquently painting a picture of the wedding experience available at Stone Creek. We have a 75 percent success rate on wedding bookings, making every effort to present an irresistible opportunity to young couples scouting wedding possibilities. As mentioned, our golf events book at a lower rate, but the success in this aspect of the business is in the outings we do secure. They are sold at nearly full retail price, justifying our hosting of the event and further evidence that our process of providing prospective clients with personal tours is working and will increase the revenues on this vital aspect of our facility’s business in the future.