Keith Hanley: I started playing golf when I was 5 years old. My parents, both avid golfers, would take me to the golf course and let me use one club to hit balls and putt with them. Ultimately, I caught the golf bug and really took up the game competitively at age 10.
KH: When I was 10, my parents bought a home on a public golf course in Kalamazoo, Michigan. My brother and I played and practiced almost every day in the summer and after school. Ultimately, we became great friends with the son of the owners of the golf course who were PGA professionals. As I was going through high school, I learned about the Professional Golf Management program at Ferris State University, which would also provide me with the opportunity to obtain a marketing degree. Ferris State University was the first professional golf management program in the country and well regarded. That is when I knew I wanted to be in the golf industry.
AG: KemperSports is a leader in golf course management and has mastered the customer experience. Looking at one aspect of the industry - the clubhouse - Has the importance of a functional, multi-purpose clubhouse been overlooked?
KH: There are not too many new clubhouses being built at this time, but where there is new construction, we are providing our clients with recommendations to make sure their clubhouse is flexible and can be used for multiple purposes. In addition, we are recommending that the clubhouses offer different food and beverage options and spaces for our guests to enjoy.
AG: Looking at current trends, what are you seeing as far as architecture and décor?
KH: We are experiencing a shift towards modern architecture and décor. More soft seating in areas inside and outside. Adding fire pits around outside patios which provide more social activities and upgrading televisions and AV sources.
AG: As for food and beverage, what’s hot?
KH: Food and beverage offerings continue to change rapidly and you have to understand your customer base in public, private and resort facilities. Menu offerings should change to some degree every couple of months. As for what is hot, we are still seeing the increase in craft beers, many times local, as well as specialty cocktails. Guests at all properties want more healthy options for lunch and dinner and the presentation of the food and beverage offerings is as important as the quality. Our onsite staff are trained to listen to the consumer and try new things based on their recommendations and trends that they are seeing in the industry.
AG: Can you offer examples of some quirky events that keep people coming in year round?
KH: Themed events in food and beverage are always well attended. Bring in a band for music and change the genres up throughout the year. We are seeing more clubs look to install simulators and track man technology in their clubhouses to provide year round promotion of the facility. In addition, creating wine clubs, craft beer dinners, scotch tastings, etc.
AG: Adding revenue through merchandise .... what are some top selling golf shop items?
KH: This will vary by course and customer base. KemperSports has a great vendor partnership with many of the most well-known manufactures such as Titleist, Taylor Made, Callaway, Adidas, Links Soul and several other great partners. But, top selling items in the golf shop usually are golf balls, golf gloves, hats and apparel which can be worn on the golf course but also in casual settings.
AG: What are some of the popular "comforts" - both high-tech and low-tech?
KH: Making it as easy as possible to do business with our clubs through the booking process and when they are at the facility. Utilizing technology in our POS systems to know our customers / members and what they want. There are some great mobile applications out there today which really help the club and the guest. As far as low tech, we feel that members / guests still like to have simple items provided such as tees, ball markers, towels in golf carts as part of their experience.
AG: What can golf courses and resorts do to grow the game?
KH: The PGA professionals at KemperSports have worked hard to build best practices with regards to structured player development programs for golfers of all abilities and for the entire family. One part is getting new golfers to take up the game but we also have to keep the golfers coming back to the facility once they have taken up the game. Constant tracking of the golfers as well as marketing to them to bring them back is very important as well as showing them that the game is fun and is a lifelong sport. There are so many great initiatives out there today backed by the governing bodies of golf such as the PGA, LPGA, NGCOA and NGF to take advantage of and embrace the game. Providing instructional opportunities as well as on course playing / practicing is important in order to grow the game as well as more opportunities which allow everyone access to the course and amenities.
AG: What’s your “dream foursome” (living or dead, golfer or non-golfer)?
KH: Wow, that is a tough one. Currently, I really enjoy my weekend foursome with my wife Lisa and another couple Trevor and Sue Gleadhill. But, if it was professional golfers it would be Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.
Learn more about KemperSports at www.kempersports.com.