The Pellucid Perspective - January 2013 - (Page 18)

THE LAST WORD “Customer co-production” worth looking into for golf I recently read a very interesting article by a freelance writer named David Gould in the January issue of Golf Business magazine. Many of you may have as well, but if not, and you have the magazine lying around, it’s worth a look. The gist of Gould’s piece was a concept called “customer co-production,” which essentially refers to involving a business’s customers in some facet of, in this case, your golf course or club’s operation, much like gas stations have done for years with self-pumped gas or grocery stores are frequently doing these days with selfcheckout stations. The benefits, according to the article, can be either direct in terms of investment capital or cost savings, or indirect returns in the form of increased customer loyalty and a sense of enfranchisement. Gould cited the Sunnybreeze daily fee course in Florida where owner Bill Baker has funded several capital improvement projects at the course by twice offering his customers the chance to “lock in” the greens fee prices they were currently paying for the rest of their life, in return for a $1,000 payment into the course’s capital improvement fund. At least one golfer who took advantage of the original offer in 1984 is still happily playing the course in his 90’s, at 1984 greens fees, and enjoying the extra 9 holes that Baker was able to build back then with the “partnership” investments. A subsequent second offer funded additional course improvements. A similar concept which Gould predicted would soon crop up in golf is the concept of “crowd funding” of course or club capital improvements. In that scenario, announcements would be made to course customers through various social media and electronic communications that the course is planning a particular capital improvement project, such as an updated grille room or a new on-course snack bar. Using a web site such as, customers would be asked to pledge a certain amount of money toward the future project. In return, they would 18 The Pellucid Perspective receive benefits or preferential treatment, possibly including participation in the planning of the project, special recognition at the club, free golf, free range use, etc. Pledges would not be cashed until the budget target was reached. Other examples of customer coproduction might include asking golfers to clean out their carts upon returning them to the cart barn, hosing them off, and hooking them up to chargers. While there wouldn’t necessarily be any direct The benefits, according to the article, can be either direct in terms of investment capital or cost savings, or indirect returns in the form of increased customer loyalty and a sense of enfranchisement. reward for doing so, and certainly not every golfer would participate, the concept is that the customers might feel more of a sense of community and pride of “ownership” in the facility where they have chosen to spend their money if they were directly involved in its operation and appearance. While the latter may strike many folks as unlikely, or possibly entail some legal or insurance risks, the article reminded me of an example of the practice I have personally observed. My wife’s parents lived for many years in a private, agerestricted community called The Villages on the east side of San Jose, CA. During visits to their home on the commu- nity’s golf course, I was surprised to see groups of residents happily working their way around the golf course on Mondays when it was closed, carrying buckets of top dressing, sand and seed mix and replacing fairway divots. When I asked my mother-in-law what was going on, she told me it was called “The Bandini Patrol,” named for the manufacturer of the top dressing and fertilizer mix they were applying. A call to The Villages’ course superintendent, Brian Bagley, confirmed that the Bandini Patrol is still in full swing many years later, turning out about 25 people every Monday morning during the warm season. “They don’t get anything for doing it, although I always host an Irish coffee and doughnut gettogether for them after the season, but we always get really nice comments on our fairways, and I know they enjoy that, and having nice turf to play on,” Bagley said. All in all, customer co-production is an interesting concept, whether it’s applied as a capital investment strategy or is used to replace expensive staff labor with voluntary assistance from course customers. I am certain that other golf course communities have incorporated voluntary programs such as the Bandini Patrol at The Villages, with club members and homeowners donating their time to help out with some basic golf course maintenance functions, whether it be raking bunkers, cleaning up trash or repairing divots or ball marks, perhaps in return for some small concession such as free range balls or an occasional treat in the clubhouse, sleeve of balls, etc. While some volunteer tasks are inevitably going to be nixed by the course or club’s risk management team or legal advisors, it may be worth giving some thought to ways courses can cut their maintenance and staffing expenses without cutting back on course conditions or operating efficiency and service levels. If your customers are part of that effort, and in turn it binds them more closely to your facility, that’s an extra —Jim Dunlap win in the equation. January 2013

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Pellucid Perspective - January 2013

The Pellucid Perspective - January 2013
A Pellucid Preview of the 2012 State of the Industry
Boom times for golf course brokers
Show time: Happy days are here again?
Sharp Park wins
Private owner launches another attack on municipal course tax exemptions
December golf weather impact: 2012 a year for the record books!
Goofy had company in Orlando course developers
Dallas negotiating for construction of new championship course
“Customer co-production” worth looking into for golf

The Pellucid Perspective - January 2013