Archive for August 2012



I’ve recently been reading through Hank Haney’s book The Big Miss: My Years Coaching Tiger Woods, and in one chapter of the book he talks about a commercial that Tiger Woods did for Nike back in 2006, titled “Swing Portrait”. I know the commercial might be a little old, but since the book is relatively new (published in March of 2012), I thought it would be cool to revisit this commercial:

In his book, Hank Haney talks about why he thinks this commercial demonstrates “the greatest swing in history”:

Two weeks after the Masters, he went to a Las Vegas sound studio to film a commercial for Nike. The cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, who won an Academy Award for Schindler’s List, used a super-high-speed camera and shot Tiger hitting a driver. The angle was face-on, and Tiger wore black. As captured in the commercial, Tiger’s swing took a full 53 seconds, from takeaway to follow-through, the entire sequence accompanied by a cello solo. Tiger later told me that he’d made about 25 slow swings for the cameras to make sure he executed all the changes we’d worked on just right, and gave final approval to the one that was chosen. What I loved about it was how quiet his head was, hot tall he stayed on his downswing, and how free and unencumbered he was as he released his upper body and arms. It was the swing I envisioned him making with the driver, which really hadn’t come out in competition. Of course, I’m biased, but I think that commercial is a record of the greatest swing in history. I’m proud to hold that swing up as what I was after.

I’m really enjoying reading through this book. Since I didn’t really start playing golf until late 2008, I never really followed or kept track of Tiger Woods’ and his accomplishments in the early and mid 2000’s, specifically 2000 and 2006, which were, so far, the highest points of his career. The book provides a behind-the-scenes look at Tiger’s golfing mindset, personality, and work ethic, which can be very interesting for many people wanting to look deeper into the world of a golfing great. I highly recommend reading this book.

Also, if you liked the commercial, Nike still has the interactive version available on their website, where you can switch between one of six cameras during the swing. Pretty cool.

 

 

This is the second post in a two-part post on greens fees from an interview with Brandon Evans, General Manager & PGA Certified Golf Professional at Village Greens of Woodridge (and self-imposed “Director of Fun and Entertainment”).

In this post, we talk about the breakdown of greens fees and cart fees.

CGN: What’s the first thing course management looks at when determining the cost?

BE: Like nearly any other business, what price do we charge to maximize both revenue and customer satisfaction/value?

Some courses try to earn revenues on a volume basis, while others may want to keep the amount of play a little lower but achieve a slightly higher revenue-per-round figure. Each course walks a fine line between price and perceived value. When the perceived value side of the equation tips in one way or the other, changes are made to the pricing. Perceived value could be determined by a number of factors… weather, time of year, time of week, time of day, pace of play, customer service, course conditions, cleanliness of bathrooms…etc.

CGN: Does popularity, difficulty, course type, grass type, location, average rounds per day (etc, etc, etc) have an effect?

BE: All of the things mentioned above. Difficulty of the course can be a double edged sword… some people want to say they played the PGA Tour course in their town, or the course with water on 15 holes, but after losing a dozen balls and shooting 15 strokes above their average, the novelty may wear off. Village Greens of Woodridge happens to be in a great location and we receive a ton of play because it’s so convenient to get to our facility… one of our biggest strengths.

CGN: What percentages of the costs go into course management, course maintenance, course employees, etc?

BE: It’s all over the board. I have seen budgets from dozens of courses in Chicago and very few are similar. However, labor will typically take up 30%-60% of a budget, maintenance excluding labor about 15%-40%, debt and capital expenditures from 0% – 15%.

CGN: How about cart fees… is there a science to pricing those?

BE: Yes. A fleet of golf cars can cost several hundred thousand dollars, amortized over the 5-10 year useful life of a car. Factor in gas or electric costs, maintenance and repair, and daily labor to clean and store the cars, and you arrive at a cost-per-car expense. Some of these expenses are obviously fixed expenses, while others are variable.

On the revenue side, a course considers the percentage of riding vs. walking rounds (or average cart rentals per day), competitors pricing, desired profit level, and a few other components to arrive at an appropriate price to charge.

While greens fees are all over the board, riding car fees are fairly homogenized in Chicago, usually around $10 for 9-hole and $16-$20 for 18-holes.

Since I play so many different courses in the Chicagoland area, the one thing that I’ve always been curious about is how courses set their greens fees. I’ve played many courses that have a wide range of pricing, and there’s one thing I’m sure of: the price of the greens fees for the course does not always match the quality, beauty, or challenge of the course.

So I reached out once again to Brandon Evans, General Manager & PGA Certified Golf Professional at Village Greens of Woodridge (and self-imposed “Director of Fun and Entertainment”). Brandon was nice enough to offer some insight into the art and science of pricing greens fees.

This is the first post in a two-part post how golf courses set the price of their greens fees. In this post, we talk about how greens fees are developed and what determines the value of a course.

CGN: Let’s just start with the general question at hand… What exactly goes into the cost of the greens fees?

BE: Each course has a different philosophy and method to arrive at a schedule of fees. Some courses have a pretty static set of fees, while others utilize more of a ‘dynamic pricing’ method on a week-to-week, or even day-to-day, basis.

When establishing fees, courses need to balance dozens of things like meeting operational, debt, and capital expenses, course design, playability, customer service, conditioning levels, amenities, prestige, demand for play, competition, profit motives, location, population/clientele demographics, consumer perception, and more.

Setting fees used to be 80% ‘art’ and 20% ‘science’. Today, with the data and tools available to us, it’s quickly becoming 100% science. In my opinion, the golf industry will likely follow the hotel and airline industry in switching over to daily and/or weekly dynamic pricing models. Even some Major League Baseball teams, like the White Sox, are utilizing dynamic pricing. Dynamic pricing is the science of factoring all of these internal and external factors into a pricing structure that satisfies both operational objectives and consumer demand.

Ultimately, we’re trying to find the right price for the right person at the right time on the right day in order to maximize play, revenues, and customer satisfaction.

CGN: So what kinds of things determine if it’s a $30 course, a $60 course, or a $100+ course?

BE: Initially, a number of factors like those listed above. Ultimately, the consumer decides the price/value of a course.

There are some great courses 80 miles away from civilization that can’t get people to make the drive for $35, and then there’s Pebble Beach who has a six month waiting list at $500 per round that people fly in from all over the world to play. As Pebble Beach is an extreme example, most people place an emphasis on design, conditioning, and amenities as a starting point for formulating a pricing opinion.

It’s also important to note that nearly all courses have a different pricing structure for Saturday mornings vs. Monday mornings… the course doesn’t change in two days, but demand for play does. As such, nearly every course already uses some form of dynamic pricing in order to entice golfers to play their course.

We’re starting to build models that will tell us, for instance, that if it’s 80 degrees and sunny on a Monday in June, we can likely meet demand while maximizing play and customer satisfaction by charging $40 from 8:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m., $45 from 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m., and $35 from 11:00 a.m. – Noon, etc. As such, a ‘$100 course’ may also be an ‘$80 course’ or a ‘$60 course’ depending on the time of day/week/year and the consumer demand during that period of time. Not every course operator/owner agrees with that philosophy, and there is much debate over the pros/cons within our industry right now on the topic. Some courses would prefer to remain a $50 course, for example, regardless of the day or time.

Countryside Golf Club – Traditional Course

Posted by cjsharp1 on August 19, 2012 in Courses 0 Comments

A couple months ago, Markus and I traveled to the north suburbs to Countryside Golf Club and played their Prairie course.  This weekend, we traveled back up north and played their other course, the Traditional course. Located in Mundelein, Illinois, approximately 34 miles north of downtown Chicago, Countryside is part of the Lake County Forest Preserves, which also oversees ThunderHawk Golf Club and Brae Loch Golf Club (both of which are outside of the project circle). Countryside Golf Club opened in 1931 and consists of two different courses: the Traditional course and the Prairie course. As their names imply, the Traditional course is very much like a standard course with tree-lined fairways, while the Prairie course is designed in the “prairie-style”. As mentioned above, for this round we played the Traditional course.

The course features four par-3 and four par-5 holes for a total par of 72 at a length of 6,397 yards from the back tees. The fairways are formed from rolling hills and are generally pretty wide open. Even though they call this a traditional course, there are not a lot of trees compared to other traditional courses. Most of the trees are spread out, allowing you to make an easy recovery shot if your ball finds itself in the trees. The front nine features three of the four par-5 holes, including the 600 yard 5th hole that doglegs right, followed by the 498 yard 6th that doglegs left. Water touches five of the holes, all which are found on the front nine, and you’ll only need to carry over the water on two of your tee shots. Bunkers are found on ten of the holes, both near the fairways and near the greens. The greens are fairly large with consistent slopes, and played a little fast during my round.

I felt like I played a good round. My drives were pretty decent throughout the whole round, and any drives that were not straight were pushed to the right; no major slices. I think using the longer tee has helped keep my drives more consistent and in play. My shots with the fairway wood and hybrid were a bit more random, and I had some trouble with the accuracy of those shots. I think I just need to practice a bit more on real grass with those clubs. My iron shots were still good compared to last week, though I had a bit more trouble with the par-3 tee shots. One thing I noticed, which might help in the future, is that I was keeping my head down longer after I hit the ball, and not immediately watching the flight of the ball. I think this helps me keep a more consistent swing plane, and prevents me from lifting my head and hitting the ball thin. My putting was a bit random but generally decent.

I shot a 98 for the round (26 over par, 52 on the front nine, 46 on the back nine). This consisted of one birdie (on the 319 yard par-4 8th), two pars (both on the back nine), six bogeys, seven double bogeys, and all others worse. I 1-putted four times and 3-putted twice, and had two sand shots and three penalties. I’ve notice over the last couple of rounds that I’m more consistently shooting bogeys and double bogeys, with an occasional triple bogey or worse.  I think if I can prevent these blow-up holes, along with eliminating penalty shots, I might be able to set my sights on breaking 90.

Countryside Golf Club – Traditional Course – Scores & Stats
Course length: 6,103 yards (brass tee boxes)
Course par: 72
Course rating/slope: 69.1/116 (white tee boxes)
My score: 98 (26 over par)

Countryside Golf Club
20800 West Hawley Road
Mundelein, IL 60060

Western Acres Golf Course

Posted by cjsharp1 on August 19, 2012 in Courses 0 Comments

Shortly after our round at River Bend Golf Club, Susie and I took a short drive to Western Acres Golf Course in Lombard, Illinois. The course, which opened in 1965, is located approximately 25 miles west of downtown Chicago, and is the only golf course that is part of the Lombard Park District.

The course features two par-3 and one par-5 holes for a total par of 35 at a length of 3,051 yards from the back tees.  There are only two sets of tees: the back white tees and the forward red tees, which drop the course length to 2,852 yards. The fairways are very flat and straight, with the exception of the 9th hole (a 253 yard par-4), that doglegs slightly right. Large trees line most of the fairways, but they are spaced out enough so grass can grow beneath them, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to recover from any errant shots into the trees. The par-3 and par-4 holes are fairly long for beginners, with both of the par-3 holes longer than 185 yards and the par-4 holes averaging more than 360 yards. Water hazards touch six of the holes, but you’ll only need to carry over the water on the 3rd hole (a 219 yard par-3). The water hazard on some of the holes is supplied by a branch of the DuPage River. On those holes, the fairway feels much more narrow, and any tee shots that go left have a good chance to find their way into the water. Bunkers are seldom found throughout the course, and are only next to the greens when present. The greens are large with consistent slopes, and played pretty soft and slow for my round.

The only downsides of this courses were that the fairways were not in the best condition, and many of the landing areas for tees shots were under repair. Also, the cart paths were mostly gravel where they existed, and they didn’t always follow the flow of the course, so there were some areas were it was confusing where the next tee box was. Other than that, it’s a decent course with some good challenges.

My good round continued to this course. My tee shots were not always the best again, but I was able to recover with some nice iron shots. I was still getting great distance, accuracy, and loft with my mid and short irons (almost a surprising amount of distance). For example, I somehow hit a 140 yard approach shot a couple feet from the pin with my 9 iron, a shot that I normally would use an 8 iron or an easy 7 iron to make. If that trend continues, I’ll need to readjust which clubs I use for certain distances. My putting was a bit random, but a little better than the previous round, even though the greens were still slow.

I ended up shooting a 47 (12 over par), which consisted of one birdie, four bogeys, two double bogeys, and two triple bogeys.  I 1-putted four times (all in a row) and 3-putted three times. The only penalty shots came on the last three holes, one on each hole, thanks to some inaccurate drives.

So that ends the day. If the rounds were on one 18 hole course instead of two 9’s, I would have shot a 96, which is better than I’ve been playing the last couple of months, so I’m pretty happy about that.

Western Acres Golf Course – Scores & Stats
Course length: 3,051 yards (white tee boxes)
Course par: 35
Course rating/slope: 69.2/111 (white tee boxes)
My score: 47 (12 over par)

Western Acres Golf Course
2400 W Butterfield Rd
Lombard, IL 60148

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