Steve Hutton: Reinvent a Challenging Area at Your Facility

Steve Hutton, the 2009 Iowa PGA Section Professional of the Year, is the PGA Head Professional at the Geneva Golf & Country Club in Muscatine, Iowa.

Our facility’s practice range climbs dramatically uphill — at about a 12 percent grade — after 120 yards. That

proves to be a major problem for players looking to pick out targets in the distance or gauge distances for various clubs. Struggling to find an identity, in 2013 we decided to market our practice facility in a completely different way: our goal was to become the best short game facility in our area. While you can still hit every club in the bag, especially useful if you’re warming up for a round, we put in short game target poles and started cutting the landing area like the fairways. We installed targets at 20, 40, 60 and 80 yards and marketed ourselves as a place to dial in your wedges. We also have a separate, 70-yard short game area with target greens that you can also putt on, especially useful for lessons, people looking to judge roll out of various short game shots (the short game area includes three bunkers), and those looking to putt away from the “regular” practice putting green used for those warming up. We did it as a value play to our members, hoping to turn what could be a potential problem into a strength.

It’s paid off nicely. After beginning to market ourselves as a place to not only work on your short game but also get short game lessons and fittings, we’ve seen wedge sales go up by 30 percent, lessons rise by 15 percent (with short game-specific lessons up 90 percent), and wedge fittings up 30-35 percent. All told, revenues from those three areas are up about 22 percent in the last two years. For fittings especially, using the range to get a baseline for fitting and then the bunker to find the right bounce combinations has proven to be a great formula for our customers. Our play is up too, 7–10 percent, with members’ scores improving in the process. As an all-inclusive country club where golf, practice range access and balls are all included, the areas of dues, lessons, fittings and sales is where I can help drive up revenues, especially important as I also own the shop. And because of this change in marketing, we’ve had several members join the club after seeing the facility. So if you’re a facility with a challenging area, reinvent it. You may just see your business shoot up.