By JOHN REITMAN
It might be time for a title change for Chad Bain.
As the director of golf, membership and marketing at Findlay Country Club, Bain’s job is to make sure the club delivers a diverse menu of activities to hang onto the members it already has and also to attract new ones.
That’s not easy considering families today are more strapped than ever for leisure time and discretionary income. And a country club needs people with a lot of both to remain viable.
In his 10th year at FCC, Bain, a native of Ontario, Canada, has a better way to describe his job.
“Since I’m Canadian, I joke that I am the prime minister of fun,” Bain said.
That might include playing the role of master of ceremonies for a corporate golf tournament or a charity outing, but increasingly more often it includes planning and following through on events that have absolutely nothing to do with golf. It also means promoting activities that many clubs might have scoffed at 20 years ago.
Recently, FCC hosted a poolside movie night that outdrew the opening day of the golf season by a count of more than 2 to 1.
“I have three kids under age 10, and I have to be honest with you, if I wasn’t at the club already, I don’t know if, A, I would be able to afford it and, B, if I would be able to utilize it to get the value out of it,” Bain said.
“A family may not be able to use it three times a week like they could 20 years ago, Now, it might be three times a month. We have to come up with a viable solution for them from a cost standpoint to make (membership) reasonable.”
Once, Bain’s job largely consisted of overseeing the golf operation. Today, it’s more about getting people in the door anyway he can.
“On Tuesdays, this room is full of bridge players who all used to be my Wednesday morning golf league. But they don’t play anymore,” he said. “They can come in and play bridge and have lunch, and that is more enjoyable to them. The weather is never a factor for bridge.”
Bain, and his colleagues around the country facing the same concerns, have found answers to this and other questions through a PGA of America program that, like the customers it serves, is constantly evolving.
A decade ago, Bain was selected to participate in the PGA’s Ambassador Program, in which a handful of PGA professionals from around the country are selected to travel to golf destinations around the world, like Pebble Beach and Bandon Dunes.
The purpose of the program is two-fold: to help PGA professionals promote each destination to travel golfers, and to provide networking opportunities for Bain and his colleagues nationwide to discuss issues and challenges affecting their clubs.
Each trip mixes business with pleasure, including a slate of business meetings and educational opportunities as well as an opportunity to play the host resort’s golf course(s).
The curriculum in those business meetings has changed over time as the needs of the attendee change.
For example, when Bain entered the ambassador program 10 years ago, the golf business was booming, and many golf shops were still trying to figure out how to bring their shops online so members could make tee times online and the golf shops could do a better job of competing with other online retailers of golf apparel and equipment.
“Then, the focus in the business meetings was on merchandising,” Bain said. “That was in the ramp-up to online marketing.”
Today, golf has gone bust by comparison, and the needs are much more pressing than which sweaters to carry in the golf shop.
“Now, the focus is on operations, and how to position yourself at the club because you’re now part of a department that is on the decline,” Bain said.
That’s where discussions on new ways to attract and retain customers comes in handy.
“Fewer and fewer people are looking for that true golf experience,” Bain said.
“How do we incorporate what we have from a facilities standpoint to offer it to members and evaluate their needs that are always evolving and continue to meet those needs?”
Those trips also have helped him build a network that allows him to meet the needs of customers who are avid golfers.
“I was just in Hawaii and traveled with a golf pro from Austin (Texas),” he said. “Two days after being back, I got an email from a member asking ‘do you know anyone in Austin?’ They had someone traveling down there and wanted to set them up to play. I answered ‘as a matter of fact, I do know someone in Austin.’
“The ability to make those connections,” he said, “and promote that to members has been invaluable.”
It’s all in a day’s work for the prime minister of fun.
John Reitman is director of news and education for TurfNet, an Orlando, Florida-based online news and source for the golf industry. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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