Strong Websites Are Now Essential For Golf Clubs
It's a reality of the times, but successful digital marketing and communication is now essential for golf clubs to thrive and deliver an experience that benefits members and visitors alike. This is something that begins with a quality, informative and engaging website.
The latest Golfshake Survey saw 98% of club golfers report that their own club had a website. However, strikingly, the average rating on its quality was only 3.44 (out of 5) with the majority selecting the option for average. Clearly, standards generally aren't as high as they could be, which presents a potential issue when 84% of visiting golfers told us that they are highly likely to visit a club's website before they visit.
Why it Matters
Since the pandemic began, the golf industry has witnessed a major shift in the way that golfers now consume information and content in relation to the game. And if they didn't already, all golfers were forced to go online and use digital platforms simply to book tee times.
Viewing the golf course as a product like any other, websites and social media can act as a significant selling tool, promoting and encouraging visitors to secure a tee time and enjoy the available facilities, best featuring updated information and attractive visual imagery.
Many golf clubs already realise the importance of digital platforms to reach and engage with an audience of golfers, but our most recent survey highlighted that fact even more and demonstrates that proactively utilising digital tools is something that all golf clubs must do.
The website should be viewed as one of the most vital departments for all golf clubs. Not only to act as a shop window but also as a way to inform and update both members and potential visitors. 86% of those surveyed stated that they accessed a golf club website when searching for information online, with booking and tee time information being most paramount.
It may come as no surprise to hear that when we asked non-club golfers - how important is it that a golf course advises of guidelines in advance - a resounding 97% replied with yes. Quite simply, if golfers are spending money, they have an expectation for what they are buying.
Social Media Presence
Whether we like it or not, social media has changed the world, and deploying it effectively should be a priority for clubs, something that has yet to be fully achieved. 79% of club members stated that their own golf club used social media platforms, with Facebook coming out way in front, followed by Twitter and then Instagram. However, as with club websites, the social media output was rated fairly low with an average of 2.98 (out of 5).
When we asked golfers about the information they viewed online, photos and images were the leading response, which should be at the forefront of a club's social media presence - showcasing the course they have to offer.
Additionally, social media is useful for promoting deals and competitions, potentially drawing individuals, groups and societies, but only 58% of the members surveyed felt that their golf club marketed itself well to visiting golfers. Several of their comments are telling.
"Lots of communication with members but not much for (potential) visitors. Getting a little better recently."
"I feel that locally and nationally, the club is not doing enough to promote itself."
"Marketing is terrible. No social media posts regarding golf society offers, visitor offers, the course, its facilities, etc. Unfortunately our club committee lives in the dark ages and don't want visitors/societies at the club as it may impact on member tee time availability, yet the club is desperate for new revenue streams."
Importance of Reviews
Finally, alongside imagery and course information, the most valuable resource for golfers surveyed was independent reviews. Reflecting a changing mood, when we asked golfers about how they access and use review websites, 62% stated that they would leave reviews online - up from 44% in 2018. 86% said that they read independent reviews online - up from 68% in 2018. But most importantly, 81% stated that independent reviews could help with the decision on playing new courses - up from 61% in 2018.
Building on this theme of finding new courses to play, we asked golfers what was important when planning a round at a new course. What may surprise some is that 'word of mouth/peer feedback' was clearly the most decisive factor and once again expectation tops the list when planning where to play.
Back in 2013, third party information and review sites such as Golfshake and TripAdvisor were only viewed as important by 35% of survey respondents, but that has now risen to 64% for 2021. Golf clubs should ensure that their own website is up to date and as visually appealing as possible, but it is almost as important for clubs to be checking and maintaining the data and reviews on other sites and online services.
Ultimately, many golf clubs have actively sought to enhance their online presence, both in terms of their own website and social media use, but our survey underlines that significant evolution is still required for the game to meet the demands of a modern, increasingly digital audience of golfers.
However, the opportunity is clearly there for successful marketing and positive communication. With almost 40% of non-club golfers either planning or interested in becoming members, these tools could make all the difference for venues across the country and beyond.
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