We love it when our customers enjoy our aG golf simulators. We love it even more when they find unexpected ways to profit from their investment in the aG platform. When we heard the ingenuity displayed at Hayden Lake Country Club, we knew we had to share their story. Les Hintz (COO & GM) and Matt Bunn (Director of Golf) are entrepreneurs at heart. A willingness to try new things and a little creativity led to decreasing their average member age by 6 years, uncovering unexpected sources of revenue, and expanding their instruction program.
Les Hintz had the goal of building a food and beverage venue with a sports bar feel and knew the aG simulators would get a lot of attention beyond the expected boost to golf instruction. While they do have rental rates and online tee booking software for the simulators, they’re leveraged more as a tool to draw new and existing members back to the club. We’ll highlight a few of the more surprising ways Bunn and Hintz found to generate revenue beyond the obvious.
Incorporating Their Future Design
“In 2010, the membership board approved a master plan to update the golf course. We’re working with Tim Jackson and David Kahn of Jackson Kahn Design. As we have cash available, we update a hole or two per year. 12 of the 18 holes are finished. I wanted to give our members a view of what the future course would be like because it may take another 5 years before we’re finished,” said Hintz. "David worked with the developers at aG and they digitized the last 6 holes as they’re designed along with the 12 that are already developed. It’s been quite a hit for our members.” Hintz also views it as an excellent marketing tool for future club members. They can see the course as it is and play the course as it will be in a few years. “It’s been a great asset for us.”
Weekly Tournaments in the Offseason
Hayden Lake Country Club hosts three different winter simulator leagues that are each 5 weeks long. Each league has 10 to 14 teams. Their simulators are booked solid Tuesday through Friday from 3-10 PM, and some nights simulators are in use past 1 AM. A few of the guys like to stay after the league wraps up and enjoy some adult beverages over a friendly competition of Razor’s Edge. “Social members aren’t allowed to play golf on the outdoor course, but they are allowed to play on the sims. They can also be on the winter sim leagues. This last winter, three different couples transferred their memberships from social memberships to stock [full memberships] after playing in the leagues with other stock members,” said Hintz. “Our social memberships and junior memberships are both full with people on waiting lists at this time.” There’s an added benefit from the winter leagues for the club golf pros.
“We came in to use the sims about a week before going to the Las Vegas Pro-Am in November. I decided that I’m going to jot my club distances down. I hit my 7 iron 170 [yards]. The feel and the shot shape matched up with what I saw on the simulator. We went to Las Vegas—and I’ll never forget—at 171-yard Par 3 I hit the ball about a yard and a half right below the hole. It showed me that the accuracy of the ball speed, carry distances, et cetera are all spot on.” Bunn went on to say, “A lot of times, those of us in the northern climates take about a day to kind of figure out how getting back on a course feels. All the guys that went to Vegas with us had been participating in the winter leagues and we all had the same experience. Stepping back on course just feels normal. That was the eye-opening moment for me. Outside versus inside definitely felt the same.”
Increased Food and Beverage Benefits
The Red House, built in 2017, provides a more casual and family-friendly feel for club members. Hintz sees that aG simulators give people yet another excuse to indulge in food and beverages. Families often come in with kids and have the kids play games on the simulators while the parents enjoy a quiet lunch. Adults book time to practice on the simulators and then stick around for dinner and drinks. The big benefit for Hintz has been a new-found business continuity. “When you live in this market and are considered a seasonal club, which we were, you lose your food and beverage operation staff over the winter. They go and find work elsewhere. When we opened up in the spring, we had a hard time re-staffing,” said Hintz. “The Red House has made us a year-round club. We have year-round staff. Many of them are now on the benefits package so you see the same faces year after year. We don’t go through growing pains in April and May with new staff members coming on and getting up to speed. That has been a really nice benefit for us.”
Year-Round Coaching & Merchandise
“We’re able to keep a golf professional on staff all winter long running the simulators and teaching. It has been such a benefit. From a hiring standpoint for me it’s been huge,” said Bunn. “We sold maybe a couple of sets of clubs over the winter for Christmas. Now that we’re teaching and fitting over the winter, we’re selling upwards of 20 sets. The sims really helped my operation. This holiday season, I sold a ton of gift certificates for lessons. Someone would come in and buy a gift certificate even just for a club fitting.” Matt went on to say, “One of the things we did that was unique this winter, on Saturday afternoons from 4-6 with the teaching professionals we would do a clinic. We would pick a topic, maybe gripping setup, and we would get 15-20 people to attend. When they were done, they would ask questions, but they would also have dinner and drinks. It was a win-win. We were also able to sell more golf lessons from the clinics." Hayden Lake Country Club has seen significant year-over-year growth in merchandise sales and lesson income.
Attract More People to the Game
There is very little we do nowadays for entertainment that doesn’t involve a screen. “We have an unbelievable outdoor facility with three practice holes and a wonderful practice area, but it’s a big piece of property for a little person and can be very intimidating. When they’re on a simulator, we can have some fun whether they’re doing putt-putt or the different games,” said Bunn. “The kids are used to the graphics, so they don’t miss a beat with what they’re seeing on the simulators. The simulators offer another gateway into the game of golf that’s really fun."
He goes on to say the simulators have benefited adult instruction, too. “The biggest thing is the decrease in intimidation factor. We have the “back-9 sim,” we can close the door, they’re in a safe environment, there aren’t golf carts or people watching them. That’s probably the biggest thing. When they do get on the golf course they have a really good concept and start to the game of golf.” Hayden Lake’s Junior membership list filled after opening the Red House, and they had to develop a wait list, which has also filled. “It’s been a snowball effect. You get a couple of people that join and then their friends want to join and then it spiders out from there,” said Hintz.
A New Way to Enjoy Game Day
Hintz and Bunn have found that members enjoy aG’s picture-in-picture feature on the simulators. “We use picture-in-picutre to have music streaming while people are playing on the sims, and it creates a really fun atmosphere,” said Hintz. Members can even stream a game while they get in some practice. Hayden Lake Country Club has a large Gonzaga basketball fan base and quite a few Navy football fans. People have been asking to rent the aG Links Curve Screen to watch the game with friends. Matt Bunn found, “The aG sims are usable for anybody – kids, adults – everybody has been using it. Whether they’re playing, competing, watching a movie, maybe bringing in folks to watch a Gonzaga basketball game or Navy football game – the usability and versatility has been the biggest thing.”
We appreciate Les and Matt’s time on the webinar and were entertained by their stories! We hope you find some nuggets to try out at your own establishment. Check out the full webinar or download the case study here.