How can you recruit new golfers with the help of digital technology?

recruit new golfers

Recruiting new golfers has become a real gamble, whether for the FFG (French Golf Federation), for national brands such as Ugolf, Bluegreenand, of course, for the many independent golf courses.

In a market that is considered to be sluggish or even in decline in recent years, despite the presence of the famous Ryder Cup in France in 2018, the sport is struggling to attract new golfers to the Green.

Shrouded in a (wrongly) elitist and expensive image, golf is struggling to recruit new golfers, or simply to initiate and convert them.

A combination of fortunate and unfortunate circumstances, 2018 saw France's football team win its second World Cup, and efforts to democratise and popularise golf were robbed of the limelight.

However, Optimize 360, Search Engine Optimisation Agency which specialises in the world of tourism, leisure and hospitality, has discovered that it is entirely possible to recruit new golfers, particularly through digital means.

It's far from being an absolute martingale, insofar as golf, like any other business, is based on criteria of geographical proximity, the intrinsic quality of its staff and its environment, but we did manage to demonstrate that it was possible to create new golfers.

Here are the findings, lessons learned and advice we were able to gather from our support of the Ugolf brand in 2017, 2018 and 2019

recruit new golfers

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1 - Determine the Buyer Persona of these new golfers

The course of a potential future golfer is often tricky.

Indeed, when you succeed in convincing and converting a young teenage golfer, and getting him to take out a licence, his sporting career is often interspersed with studies, changing passions of a Generation Y and Z (the millenials) who are used to zapping quickly... including their sporting and leisure activities.

Young adults, on the other hand, will have to cope with and manage a new family structure (marriage, children, etc.) which will force them to organise their work and leisure time devoted to the family in a different way.

With a bit of luck, the whole family will be able to get back into it together once the children are old enough. However, one of the 2 adults will also have to have a passion for golf, and this will have to produce some youngsters of their own...

As a result, we often find the father who takes the risk of going off for a good half-day alone on the golf course with friends, only to run into family problems after a while.

Otherwise, you find them in early retirement and retirement, when the children have grown up and left home, and you have to look after yourself after a busy career...

Unless you have realised that golf can (also) generate networking, business invitations and/or business gifts, it is difficult for a golf club to address all these people in the same way.

First and foremost, you need to be aware of this and get the message across at the right time to each category of "Buyer Persona" ("Typical Buyer" or "Typical Customer").

As you can see, recruiting new golfers may also involve recruiting former golfers who need to be persuaded to come back or get back into the game.

The Buyer Persona are therefore numerous.

  • The young sportsman who could do it
  • Young adults constrained by their family life (but who love it)
  • Professionals who can use golf as a networking and PR opportunity
  • Families who want to do sport as a family
  • The selfish person who leaves them at home to go it alone
  • Pre-retirees and retirees who end up making up the core customer base

With an ageing population and these observations in mind, we can therefore imagine taking advantage of a potentially growing market with an ageing population, while recruiting the lower age brackets as much as possible.

In this context, we need to:

  • Tailor these sales offers to each potential Buyer Persona
  • Capture market share from direct competitors (neighbouring golf courses)

to grow like any other business in terms of sales and profits

buyer persona type

2) Target them via Google SEO, Google Ads and Social Networks

Regardless of age, even the oldest members of the population have taken to the internet.

Even the old-timers have at least one Smartphone, and like 95% of the population, they search for information on Google...

In other words, the famous 'not seen, not taken' rule obviously applies to the world of golf, as it does elsewhere.

Good natural or paid referencing on Google means that you can be found when people are actively searching for your site.

Recruiting new golfers will therefore be largely thanks to Google and social networks.

Social networks will play a role not only in managing your fan communities, but also in replacing the famous 4 by 3 with "costs/contact" that are much more interesting and appropriate for the size of an independent establishment than the old flyers and press articles used to generate awareness.

Take a look, for example, at what we can put in place in terms of a strategy for acquiring new golfers with Facebook:

Facebook strategy for recruiting new golfers

3 - Look after your digital ecosystem for your golf course

A well-designed golf website

A golf website needs to meet a number of objectives:

Institutional and contact information

Inform existing golfers about competitions and events

Information for new golfers (promotions, offers)

Ability to book courses and Green Fees

And of course be mobile compatible (responsive web) for a potentially mobile population or one that needs to call golf quickly with clickable buttons from the mobile.

Here, perhaps more than anywhere else, appearance, appeal and a world that makes you want to go there are fundamental.

A well-referenced golf website on Google

Making a difference in Google referencing (SEO), it also means potentially gaining market share in terms of reservations versus the competition.

Optimize 360, which has worked particularly closely with the Ugolf courses in Paris, can testify to this.

Visibility on Google leads to connections and qualified traffic from potential or existing golfers.

For example, type into Google "The 8 most beautiful golf courses in Paris", and see who comes up at the top of the search results.

website well referenced on google

A targeted strategy for acquiring new golfers

As we saw above, there are many Buyer personas for potential golfers.

So target your commercial offers precisely, and make sure that the slogans on Google Adsbe designed in line with these "targets".

Similarly, the landing pages will need to be designed so that Internet users find proof of what they have received as a Google Adwords 'ad'.

There's no question of all the French playing golf.

Nor is there any question of concentrating solely on the famous open days with free introductions.

Your digital strategy acquisition of new golfers will have to be designed to

And for each medium, there is dedicated content to be produced. editorial line coherent and well-constructed.

new golfers

Digital communication dedicated to attracting new golfers

Target the right offers to the right people at the right time. buyer personas with distribution channels likely to reach them

Once again, it's not just about attracting qualified traffic (although that's a prerequisite for everything else). You have to convince the potential golfer to take action ( Call to Action ) and book an initiation or Green Fee online.

Le CRM that you may have behind the site, the landing pages for your offers, and the booking engine for initiations or Green Fees should be linked to your schedule.

The digital ecosystem to be put in place and the digital communication that goes with it need to be fine-tuned.

The visuals you use (photos, videos, online posters, banners, etc.) should also be designed to appeal to the right buyer persona.

To recruit new golfers, all this digital communication needs to be perfect.

4 - Take care of the quality of your offers to attract new golfers

Over and above the intrinsic quality of your route, develop offers that are in tune with each category of the population concerned.

Don't say the same thing to a young person who wants to try golf as you would to a pre-retired person who wants to find a sporting activity after their professional career.

The two populations will not respond to the same motivations and therefore to the same commercial offers.

They don't have the same interests, the same means of transport or the same financial resources.

The same applies if you're talking to families with children. How can you think for a second that the sales arguments will be the same?

Finally, in Golf, as in other commercial areas, Yield Management and Pricing versus the competition will obviously have a major effect.

5) Convert them with very good golf instructors

However, it's important to understand that even if a digital strategy can enable you to attract qualified traffic with cutting-edge SEO and digital communication, in golf as in rugby, it's you on the pitch who'll have to make the grade...

In fact, the final conversion of the free initiation or open day will be made by you, the Golf Director, and/or your operational teams.

The role of the digital agency working with you is to provide you with the best digital tools for attracting crowds and attracting people who might otherwise be interested.

But if your Golf Teacher doesn't make the initiated want to take out a subscription afterwards, then everything you've done (well) beforehand will be for nothing.

We are not (apart from the Green Fees part) in a closed purchasing system like Amazon (I enter the site, browse and buy everything on the site and that's it).

In a golf course, it's the operational teams, from the reception to the Green Keeper, who will decide whether or not to encourage members of the public to sign up with you.

This is another final stage that needs to be thought through jointly by you and your digital agency. How to build customer loyalty.

6 - Take care of your E-Reputation in the world of golf

Don't neglect this stage, because like many businesses, golf courses are now identified and listed on the various customer review sites.

Tripadvisor, Facebook, Google My Business among others, are part of the range of media on which you will have to "deal" with your golfing customers' satisfaction and discontent...

Yes, the business of a golf course is no longer just about playing golf, but about what more or less well-meaning people say about it.

In the final choice that a potential customer will make before coming for an initiation or a trial, opinions and comments will be potentially decisive.

Optimize 360's E-Reputation management tool enables you to obtain a summary of these opinions and comments, analyse them for quality control purposes and respond to them centrally if necessary.

7 Measure the ROI of your recruitment of new golfers with Digital

The advantage of digital marketing is that you can build up databases of prospects and customers, especially if you are implementing an inbound marketing strategy.

It also makes it possible to measure the investment and the return on investment, provided that in the final stage the golf course is also able to identify the other acquisition channels.

As long as the booking of a Green Fee, for example, is done online, the conversion is fairly easy to calculate, but someone you don't know who turns up at reception can come from several sources.

The digital marketing initiatives described above

Word of mouth and traditional communication or co-optation campaigns

Optimize 360 has succeeded in modelling the digital part of the project and measuring the ROI (Return on Investment).

In a previous article, we presented these results:

We have demonstrated that the ROI could be x 6 compared to digital investments in terms of recruiting new golfers. 

Growth on Google Optimize 360

8) Call on a digital agency that understands golf

Don't hesitate to call on digital specialists who have already carried out these actions and measures in the world of golf.

Optimize 360 has 3 people in its ranks who worked at Ugolf, and who now have dual skills.

We'll be happy to answer any questions you may have.

It is always preferable to combine and fully understand the business environment with technical skills.

Optimize brings the two together, and we'll be happy to help you.

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