We all go out and play golf courses as golfers. We see it from the outside looking in, but have you ever wondered how it all actually works? Typically you see the outer workings; you see that there is a tee sheet, that you get charged extra for a cart at most courses, and you get rushed along, or it takes too long to play. We all have gripes about how the course is run, but most people never actually see the inner workings of a golf course and how they stay open for you to get out and play. Today we will discuss a lot about how a golf course is run. Keep in mind that this might not be how your golf course is run; golf courses can all be different. This has just been my experience before I joined CTRL to help build the CTRL Swing Master training aid when I worked at various green grass facilities.
The hierarchy of each course can differ, but the basic hierarchy is as follows:
General Manager (GM) - GM will oversee all golf operations and the golf course's food and beverage side. He is usually at the top of the hierarchy and makes most of the decisions.
Director Of Golf (DoG) - Runs all golf operations, golf shop, and outside; the DoG overlooks everything golf. He will only report to the GM and/or a Board of Directors.
Head Pro (HP) - The HP sometimes has the same job as the DoG above and runs the golf operations. However, if both are there, the DoG is the boss.
First Assistant - The First Assistant is in charge of the assistants and reports to the Head Pro and DoG. Usually, there isn’t a HP, a DoG, and a First Assistant unless it's a more extensive operation.
Assistants - Assistants report to the First assistant, HP, and DoG. Assistants usually have one thing they oversee awhile they monitor the golf shop. So there is an Outside Operations Assistant, a Tournament Director, and things like that they might have responsibilities for.
Where does the profit come from?
Keeping in mind that all golf courses are different, the most profitable part of most golf courses is actually the golf carts. Every time you go out and play with a cart, you pay around $10-$20 around for the cart, both you and your partner. So if a course fills every tee time with a foursome taking two carts, and their tee times are eight minutes apart, they make at most $300 an hour on their carts. Opening the course at 7 am and the last fully booked hour at 2 pm, and you’re looking at 2000 a day on cart fees, give or take a couple hundred on missed tee times. This is what you are expecting pretty much every single day. Keep in mind that plenty of courses do way more rounds than that. Now you do pay about $3k to $5k per cart to purchase them, so with a fleet of 100 carts, you get $500K to purchase the carts, but you own the carts for 5 or more years. If you make $2000 a day, six days a week, for 50 weeks out of the year, you’ll clear $600k. So you’ll recover the cost of the carts within a year, then the next 4 are nearly all profit. So the most profitable part of most golf course operations is definitely the golf carts.
Where does a golf course lose money?
A golf course will typically lose out on its Food and Beverage operations. These operations are usually not the specialty at any golf course and are only there to give golfers an option. They tend to create a lot of overhead and do not drive profit. They almost always tend to lose money because they just aren’t what golfers are there for. They bloat the menu with plenty of options and have to keep prices low to have a good food and beverage experience for the golfers. It is only used as a way to have something other operations don’t have.
Tee times are always a really tricky part of a golf operation. You have to find the perfect match of how many tee times per hour and how many people your course can take. So tee times are spread out based on how long between each tee time. Some courses will do 5 minutes; some will do 6, 7, 8, 9, or 10-minute spreads. Sometimes you will see 12 or even 15, but it isn’t often. The sooner in between tee times, the spread is, the worse the customer experience will be. The more people on the course, the more you wait. It's a fact. So the course needs to weigh the customer experience with essentially how much money they can possibly make on any given day. A course would certainly love to post tee times at a 5-minute interval; however, it would lead to some 6+ hour rounds. Your typical hole should take 15 minutes on average to finish if you are on pace. That would put three groups on the first hole if nobody loses their ball and takes 3+ minutes to look for their ball. Courses won’t mind unless people stop coming and they lose customers because the customer experience is so bad. 6 Hour rounds will put me off whatever course it happens at; I usually won’t go back after a 6-hour round. Even a 5 hour round is pushing it for me. So the course has to decide what is more important to them and find the right mix. Nicer courses with a more luxury feel and green fees over $100 tend to have longer intervals because the experience is really important to them. The luxury golf course feel includes no 6-hour rounds.
Different kinds of Courses
There are several different types of golf courses that you can find; there are public courses, municipal courses, which are just public courses owned by the city, semi-private courses, resort courses, and private courses. Of course, all of these courses come in high-end and low-end variants. For example, you can have cheap bad municipal courses or municipal courses like Pebble Beach. Then you can have private courses like Vaquero Golf Club, which costs $200,000 to join, but you also get small cheap private clubs that don’t have initiation and would charge $30 green fees. The world of golf courses is vast and very different all the way around.
Golf courses all over the world run differently, but these are some of the things I find they have in common. We all know that they are always happy to see golfers come through and play their course. It's one of the most amazing things about golf; the variety of people that can play this amazing game.