I’m having trouble playing more 18s in ’18

I hate to admit it, but I’m having a hard time taking my own advice to play MORE 18s IN ’18.

I decided during the offseason that this was the year that I was going to finish my quest to play every golf course in the Twin Cities Metro defined as 50 miles or less from downtown Minneapolis.  I had planned to have at least 20 round played by the end of June but I’ve only played a half a dozen, despite very good weather during May and June.

Unfortunately, most of my regular golf buddies are not interested in this quest… and my one playing partner who was up for the challenge injured his elbow in May and may be out for the season.  That leaves me in a position of being a lonely solo golfer for many of the rounds I’m trying to plan.

Booking a round of golf as a solo golfer on an unfamiliar course is an awkward dance.  Can I find a time when I won’t be a single playing in the middle of a bunch of foursomes?  If I book a tee time at a time when 2 or 3 other people are already booked will they welcome me to their group or will they resent that a stranger is mucking up their game?  Some courses don’t allow singles to be booked online… a message that maybe even the golf course operator doesn’t really want me in the way.  Perhaps I’m overthinking this, but if I’m finding these things to be barriers you can be sure there are other golfers out there thinking the same thing.

I find myself wondering…. Why don’t golf course operators make it a little more comfortable for the lonely golfer to find a game?  I don’t know of a single golf course that is openly inviting to lonely golfers, even on days when they have gaping holes in their tee sheet schedule.  I’ve talked to several operators about this issue and they seem baffled by the question… I’ve heard more than once “What do you mean we’re not welcoming?  We’re open all day and people can book tee times online.  I’m reminded of the famous line from Cool Hand Luke… “what we’ve got here is failure to communicate”.

Those responses indicate an unwillingness to empathize with the fact that the issues I’ve described above are tangible barriers to my getting out to play a round of golf on many days. And the dilemma doesn’t just apply to my nomadic rounds… they apply to any day that a golfer gets up and says “Hey, I could play golf today… hey, I should play golf today”… but doesn’t follow through.

Why not have a couple tee times a day that are reserved for lonely golfers… advertise their availability and proactively invite people who have made it known over time that they are interested in finding a game and are open to playing with new playing partners. I know that some golfers will literally only play with the small clique that they’re comfortable with, but there are also plenty of sociable golfers out there who are happy to play with strangers.  Some of my most memorable golf games have been with random playing partners that I was paired up with at the course.

As a lonely golfer, I am much more motivated to go ahead and pull the trigger on my “could play, should play” days if two conditions are true:

#1 – I know that the golf course will welcome me with open arms even if I wind up playing as a single

#2 – I know that the golf course is proactively trying to pair me up with other people who are open to playing with new playing partners, just like I am.

I’m not completely abdicating the responsibility for trying to fill the tee time.. I would try my hardest to convince one or more of my regular playing partners to play… but if they can’t make it I would still know that I could get out and have a fun round.

This scenario also avoids the situation I really hate… I book a foursome and invite a bunch of friends… but either no one can make it or maybe only one other can make it and now I have to call the course and dial back my reservation… this whole process is enough of a stressful pain in the rear end that I avoid booking tee times unless I’m sure I can fill the foursome.

What do you think, course operators?

Is there a downside to offering a mixer tee time or two on days when you know you’re not going to be chock-a-block full?

If you’ve got 8,000-10,000 people in your email database, surely there is some percentage of them who would appreciate these opportunities.

If just 5% of the golfers in your database would play just 2 lonely golfer rounds a year, this technique could potentially generate 1,000 rounds per year… and those are incremental rounds that otherwise wouldn’t have been played.

And if those lonely golfers use the occasion to invite some friends to play and just 20% of them succeed in getting one other golfer to join them, there are another 200 rounds.

1,200 rounds * $40-$80 = $48,000-$96,000!

I’ve been floating this idea to course operators for 5 years now and not a single one has made a concerted effort to make this idea work.  I’m curious… what is wrong with this idea?  If you give me a logical explanation for why this can’t possibly work … or if a handful of courses tried it for an entire season and it flopped, I could just stick it in my bad ideas pile (it’s a pretty big pile) and I would stop badgering people about it.

Of course, if it works… you can stick that extra $50k-$100k in your pocket and take credit for leading the way on an innovative idea that helps golfers play more golf.



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