Golf BC
Credit: PHOTO: THE HENEBRYS

Hole #12 at Nicklaus North Golf Course

How examining why people don’t want to play has led to a surge in golfers

Rather than embarking on standard marketing campaigns, GolfBC and the managers of the Whistler-based par 71, 18-hole Nicklaus North Golf Course decided to study the excuses that people cite on why they don’t want to engage in sport.

This led to the strategy that Golf BC—which owns and operates world-class courses across B.C. and the Hawaiian island of Maui— refers to as a golfers’ roadmap, which ensures that suitable options for play are provided to prospective golfers of all capabilities. The result is that increasing numbers of lay people are heading to golf courses—and returning again and again.

Jason Lowe, general manager of Nicklaus North, says proper instruction is the key to solving many of the excuses for not taking up golf.

“For example, it’s common for people to have tried the game and never return because they can’t strike the ball properly, can’t swing properly, and feel physically awkward on the course. All of this can be solved by coaching, which even tour players must rely on to advance their skills.”

To alleviate the embarrassment some people feel in being instructed, Nicklaus North has an indoor learning centre for prospective players, along with instructional videos. Other initiatives undertaken by GolfBC include loyalty game packs or options to play later in the day.

As for the complaint that people don’t have enough time to play golf, Lowe says: “Playing only nine holes is an option, and many simple strategies can save a lot of time, such as lining up your chips and putts before it’s your turn to play, choosing the appropriate tee for a shot, and exiting greens quickly.”

Lowe has developed strategies to encourage people to hit the links, and sees a steady progression of newcomers who evolve into competitive players. “Typically they first show up with a friend at our entry-level men’s night or ladies’ night, after which many of them sign up for game packs, and then full memberships after that,” he says.

Coupled with proper instruction, this journey results in something greater than mere technical proficiency. “Golf is a great sport, but it can also be a wonderful social experience, and golf courses can be a great place to network and meet new friends,” Lowe says.

 “Our golfers’ roadmap is a tremendous asset for us on a business level, but it’s equally fulfilling to watch strangers connect and develop relationships as they hone their skills,” he says.