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Get Golf Ready: Best Practices for Private Golf Clubs

Would you like to increase the number of rounds played at your club? How about increase member retention and revenue? A national program supported by a broad golf industry coalition launched in 2009 with the goal to grow the game of golf by bringing in new or former adult players. Year one produced astonishing results.

Get Golf Ready in 5 Days was announced at the GOLF 20/20 Forum in November 2008 as part of the golf industry’s “Play Golf America” campaign, led by the PGA and World Golf Foundation and supported by all golf industry associations. GOLF 20/20’s mission is to galvanize all segments of the industry around strategic initiatives and grassroots activation to ensure the future vitality of the game of golf. The National Club Association supports GOLF 20/20 and serves on the executive board. A paramount focus for GOLF 20/20 is growing the game through player development efforts. The program’s curriculum was designed to make learning golf fast, fun and affordable. More than 1,150 facilities were certified to host the program in 2009, surpassing the initiative’s first year goal of 700 certified facilities.

The Get Golf Ready program is designed to teach new or novice golfers everything they need to know to step onto a golf course and get out to play with confidence—in five fun, affordable lessons. In the course of its first year, Get Golf Ready introduced the game to thousands of golfers. Through September (2009), participating facilities averaged 25 students per class with 86 percent being new golfers, 61 percent women and 25 percent minority. Following their participation in the program, 76 percent of the students returned to the golf course, playing an average of eight rounds.

According to Cathy Harbin, Director of GOLF 20/20, “Perhaps the best news of all is that 89 percent of surveyed participants said they are likely to continue playing golf. This is a significant statistic since the program is designed to increase player retention and grow the game.”

A Turnkey Program

Get Golf Ready in 5 Days is comprised of a series of five introductory lessons offered by PGA/LPGA professionals in a small-group environment at prices targeted to make the program affordable. In almost all cases the five lessons were offered at $99 with some facilities charging more based on location. The program provides basic skills instruction and background on the game’s rules, etiquette and values, with on-course learning opportunities a part of each lesson. Participants gain insight into techniques regarding chipping, putting, full swing, half swing and bunker play as well as the fundamental guidelines regarding the use and maintenance of golf equipment, keeping score and navigating the course, and more. Following the completion of the five-session program, the new golfers are encouraged to transition into other Get Golf Ready graduate outings, such as the free and low-cost programs offered as part of the PGA’s Play Golf America program.

By offering a full menu of player development programs, private clubs can choose to offer classes that could help them recruit and retain members. Clubs can introduce their social or tennis members to golf to encourage them to upgrade their membership, or introduce spouses and children of golfers to the game to boost club usage and member retention. Some of the programs offered at private clubs during the first year of the program include:

  • Free Lessons with PGA professionals – 10-minute lessons offered on certain days
  • Women’s Clinics – weekly one-hour group sessions for $20
  • Family Nights – one-hour scrambles on certain days using short course tees
  • Junior Clinics – two-hour weekly sessions providing on-course time and golf fitness
  • Junior Play Days – weekly 3-hole/6-hole/9-hole groups, with a tournament on the last day

Many facilities exceeded their first year goal of 50 students. Eagle Ridge Golf Club in Lakewood, N.J., held a program in which family members could play nine holes or take lessons, and then meet for dinner. It was an instant success with 492 participants over 18 Fridays. The Get Golf Ready program at Hiwan Golf Club, a private facility in Evergreen, Colo., attracted 166 students, resulting in $14,801 in lesson revenue and the addition of 12 new members to the club.

Supporting the Program Nationally

PGA professionals at private clubs can use many of the Play Golf America tools and programs such as Get Golf Ready to grow membership, increase member play and generate more revenue. Private facility resources available at include program templates to assist clubs with the development, promotion and execution of player development initiatives—ranging from new golfer teaching curriculums and short “family courses” to special programs for women and leagues—as well as a resource center describing various private club initiatives. 

Get Golf Ready also offers facilities promotional support for the program, including public awareness for introductory golf programs through PSAs, Web banners for club Web sites, and monthly e-newsletters for Get Golf Ready facilities and participants. In addition, there is a Get Golf Ready Facebook profile with 279 fans.  

Get Golf Ready surveyed participants about their experiences and received some terrific feedback. The participants talked about what they liked most about the program, including:

  • Golf instructors were knowledgeable, patient, helpful, enthusiastic and personable. They made participants feel comfortable/at ease and were not intimidating or judgmental.
  • The curriculum/instruction was well organized and covered all the basics.
  • The on-course experience provided a different experience than just learning the swing; it was good to play a hole.
  • The atmosphere was not intimidating, the other participants were at or near their skill level, and a good introduction to the game was provided.
  • Small class size provided a great opportunity for more individualized attention.
  • Participants received great value for the money.

Participants also provided suggestions for changes or improvements that you can consider for a program at your club:

  • Follow-up group lessons: some are not ready to play on their own or to invest in private lessons
  • Round of golf with an instructor: additional on-course instruction was requested, even if fees apply
  • More on-course time during lessons
  • Offer handouts of the material covered in each lesson
  • More follow-up: organize groups so that graduates can play with people at the same skill level
  • Split the class between beginners and those that are returning to the game
  • Discounts for the range to practice between lessons

For more information about Get Golf Ready, please visit

Jay Mottola is chairman of the Golf 20/20 Player Development Committee, executive director of the Metropolitan Golf Association and the MGA Foundation and a director of the National Club Association.


Case Studies

Private golf clubs, when describing programs for player development, should state that participation is limited to club members and their guests in order to protect their private status.

Get Golf Ready in 5 Days

New Orleans Country Club

Using a format for true beginners, the New Orleans Country Club offered five group lessons ending in a 3-hole round. Eight members per session participated with a special class time offered for women. The cost was $99 and resulted in 50 percent of the men and 75 percent of the women staying with the game.

Get Golf Ready – Short Course Scramble

Walden on Lake Conroe Golf Club, Montgomery, Texas

On Wednesday afternoons, the course at Walden on Lake Conroe Golf Club in Montgomery, Texas, is transformed into a par-3 layout using the PGA “Family Course” concept with a set-up of approximately 1,000 yards. Each hole is 80-125 yards, with the layout changing weekly. The Par-3 shotgun scramble starts at 5:30 p.m. and lasts for 90 minutes. Members can select their own teammates and PGA professionals are stationed on the course to help newer groups. After the event, players can enjoy happy hour and hors d’ oeuvres. The club charges $9 per person for golf, but $5 goes to prizes, which are golf shop gift certificates. This event averages 30-40 golfers and attracts high-handicap golfers and women who would not normally participate in structured outing-type club events.

American Express Women’s Golf Month

Twin Hills Golf & Country Club, Joplin, Missouri

Twin Hills Golf & Country Club in Joplin, Mo., offers beginners’ clinics for women during the month of June. There is no charge for this four-week clinic that covers all areas of the game. The program is promoted to the women’s golf association, as well as through e-mails, monthly newsletters and posters at the club. In 2009, the clinics taught approximately 20 women, increased revenue for carts and food and beverage, and nearly all the women who participated are still playing.

American Express/PGA Friend of a Cardmember

Columbia Lakes Country Club, Western Columbia, Texas

A program in which members pay for a golf lesson with their American Express® Card and bring a friend for free resulted in a new tournament being brought to the Columbia Lakes Country Club. Women participating in the promotion opted to bring their annual corporate tournament to the club, resulting in more than $10,000 in revenue and the event was booked for a second year.

PGA Free Lesson Month

Tartan Park Golf Course, Lake Elmo, Minnesota

Tartan Park Golf Course, a private club in Lake Elmo, Minn., offered five 10-minute clinics for men and women during the month of May. The group instruction was followed by nine holes of golf for free. More than 100 people participated in the free lesson and 15 percent purchased clubs from the Tartan Park pro shop.

Lesson Special

The Club at Cimarron, Mission, Texas

Prepaid lessons purchased during the months of December and January are half price at The Club at Cimarron in Mission, Texas. The gift certificates make great holiday gifts and consumers may specify the number of lessons they wish to purchase. There is no expiration date.


Get Golf Ready Highlights

The Numbers:

  • 1,582 facilities have applied to become Get Golf Ready host facilities.
  • 1,245 of those facilities have been certified as Get Golf Ready host facilities.
  • 712 facilities have reported 17,725 students.

Facility Feedback:

  • The program met or exceeded expectations for 89 percent of facilities who were engaged.
  • 86 percent of engaged facilities likely to recommend to another facility.
  • 91 percent of engaged facilities likely to continue the program.
  • From reporting facilities: averaged 24.9 participants.


Participant Feedback:

  • The program met or exceeded expectations for 96 percent of the participants.
  • 84 percent are likely to recommend to a friend/colleague.
  • 83 percent are likely to continue playing golf.
  • 75 percent have played golf one or more times since they graduated from the program, averaging 10.8 rounds.
  • 80 percent have visited the driving range one or more times since they graduated from the program.


Participant Profile:

  • Predominantly female (61 percent female, 39 percent male and 25 percent minority).
  • Very little prior golf experience (44 percent never played a round of golf before, 26 percent have played only a few times).
  • 98 percent have a close friend, business associate or family member who plays golf.
  • One-half enrolled with a friend.

Bring a Friend to the Game:

In 2010 there will be focused promotional effort aimed at club members and other core golfers encouraging them to introduce a non-golfer friend, family member or business associate to the Get Golf Ready program.