The Art of Winning Golf’s Unfair Game

By: Rob Hill – Partner, GGA January 23, 2017

“People operate with beliefs and biases. To the extent you can eliminate both and replace them with data, you gain a clear advantage” – Michael Lewis, Moneyball.

Michael Lewis’s book (and the movie based on it), introduced data analytics to popular culture.

Lewis examines how baseball’s Oakland A’s used analytics to build a low-cost team capable of outperforming its wealthier rivals. The hero is a data-crunching analyst who searches among baseball’s copious records for deeper truths about the basis of success.

Moneyball narrates the conflict between old-style baseball gurus relying on conventional wisdom and the disrupters of tradition—a very modern, high-tech story.

To date, many responsible for leading private member and daily fee clubs throughout Europe have been slow to embrace data analytics, in part perhaps because golf, like baseball, has leaned so heavily on tradition and has been slow to embrace innovation.

These leaders relate to the challenge which faced the A’s – golf clubs operate in a highly competitive environment – but are often apathetic to the theory of applying data to gain competitive advantage.

It may also be that golf club managers simply don’t have the tools with which to gather and analyse such data. A fractured landscape means Europe has no reliable club performance benchmarking platform from which to contribute or draw.

Data_Global Golf Advisors Club Leaders Survey_2016

In a recent GGA survey among the leaders of Europe’s top performing private clubs, just 35% reported having a management software system in place that could help them understand their members’ profile and behavior.

41% also noted that their system failed to provide the performance indicators necessary for strategic and business planning.

Appropriate data analytics improve a club’s chances of success as they facilitate fact-based decision-making, providing club leaders with a deeper understanding of existing and potential performance.

Here are three data tools to consider to get moneyball rolling at your golf club:

  1. Internal Market Analytics – The drive toward personalisation of services and experiences is only accelerating and clubs are better placed than most to excel in this discipline if they are well informed. Adopt consistent survey tools, focus groups, psychographic and demographic analysis to understand the lifestyles, expectations, profiles and factors which influence the choices made by your existing audience.
  2. External Market Analytics – Guided by internal analytics, clubs should collect and monitor data relating to their local population, their competitive environment and the social and economic forces at play.
  3. Operational Performance – Establishing key performance indicators (KPIs) in support of a club’s strategic business plan enables leaders to closely measure performance while benchmarking against best practices by region or to an appropriate comparable set of clubs, will provide valuable context.

We are now living in a world where data, effectively collected and appropriately applied, can empower people, teams, businesses and clubs to achieve great success, even against the odds.

Can golf clubs and operators continue to ignore the opportunity any longer?

Rob Hill – Partner, Global Golf Advisors (Formerly KPMG Golf Industry Practice)