What Alister MacKenzie Taught us About Golf Course Marketing
What Alister MacKenzie Taught us About Golf Course Marketing

What Alister MacKenzie Taught us About Golf Course Marketing

Posted on April 26, 2019
Any golfer who passes by a television showing any portion of Augusta National Golf Club can immediately identify it.  Ditto for photos and illustrations hanging on a million office walls.  Those who visit the club recall it as a religious experience.  Even those uninitiated into the world of Masters-mania can easily identify it.  The emerald fairways.  The white bunkers.  The tall pines and colorful flowers.  The massive elevation changes and undulations.  Augusta National stands out.

But if you strip away the history, the major status and the brand of The Masters, you’ll find something different.  The course is extremely difficult.  Walking it is a toll on sore knees and aching backs.  The undulations create unpredictable bounces toward perilous hazards.  The severity of the greens makes three-putting a good effort.  If Augusta National opened next week in your hometown, most average golfers would play it once, and then run for the safety of the more player-friendly muni.
In Dr. MacKenzie’s own words “A good golf course is like good music or anything else; it is not necessarily a course which appeals the first time one plays over it, but one which grows on the player the more frequently he visits it.”

It seems the physician-turned-architect knew a little something about marketing too, or branding specifically.  He knew that “if you try to be everything to everyone, you’ll end up being nothing to no-one.”  And so his work still stands out a century later.  Augusta National, Crystal Downs, Cypress Point, Pasatiempo – they are all beacons of light in a sea of mediocrity.  They stand out, and in doing so, Dr. Alister MacKenzie knew that they wouldn’t appeal to all.

The same theory applies to your brand.  The golf industry is dotted with thousands of vanilla branded golf courses with Creek or Forest or Hills in their name, sometimes all three.  They all strive to occupy a space where their brand appeals to the widest market.  There are far too many golf courses and far too few golfers for that to be a winning strategy.  If all the golf courses are basically the same, the only viable strategy for growth is a lower price.  Sound familiar?

So take a few minutes and figure out what makes your course different.  It doesn’t have to be superb course architecture; find out what makes you, you?  Now instead of hiding that piece, highlight it.  Own it.  Yeah, you’ll turn away a few people.  But the ones who stay will love you more for it.  Being different engenders loyalty and creating loyalty is a winning strategy.  Just ask Dr. MacKenzie, or Apple, or Chick-Fil-A, or Tesla, or Nike, or…must we continue?

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