Why reviews are worth a lot for golf clubs?

By: Jeroen Korving November 14, 2016

If we like it or not, the new economy is all about trust. Today, anyone from anywhere can do business with anyone.  The entry barriers have fallen away and the number of people that you as a business can approach (and vice versa) has increased dramatically. And so has the importance of trust.

Who to trust?

People nowadays don’t know whom to trust anymore.  Also, time is becoming a scarce commodity, so people are becoming more cautious where they spend their valuable time and money.

This is especially true in the hospitality and leisure industry. In the past, people trusted their friends and word-of-mouth. But, the reach of your friends is limited to the places where they have been before. So, more and more people go online for help.

Wisdom of the crowd

Online review sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp have made it possible for people to broaden their scope and people nowadays trust total strangers, by reading their reviews – both good and bad. Sites like Leadingcourses.com, 1Golf.eu, All Square Golf ,and Golfboo – focusing on a specific niche like golf – also have emerged.

All review sites, niche or general, rely on the wisdom of the crowd. So, ratings based on a few reviews are not reliable, but the more reviews the more reliable the rating becomes.

Why reviews matter?

A positive reputation is one of the most powerful marketing assets a golf club has to convince new golfers to choose for them. The social proof contained within reviews ratings helps consumers to short cut their research and make decisions faster and with greater confidence.

There have been so many positive recommendations of the value of reviews, that the case doesn’t really need to be made anymore, but I will try to explain once more why reviews are crucial for your golf club in particular:

  1. First of all, most people use reviews to determine where to go. Just think about how you book a hotel or restaurant. Research by Nielsen shows that worldwide 70% of online customers trust online reviews. And, reviews are here to stay. They will not disappear, so you’d better invest in them.
  2. Reviews help you to improve certain aspects of your golf club. It’s free advice provided by actual golfers who visited your course. They made an effort to tell you what they experienced, so use it.
  3. A good reputation helps to draw attention. Not only on review sites like Leadingcourses.com, Golfboo.com or All Square Golf – who rank according to rating – but also in Google, and on your own site. You can also use it to generate free publicity.
  4. Ratings are becoming more and more important in organic search results, paid ads and now also in Google company summaries (see image).
  5. More and more tour operators are using reviews from review sites to indicate which courses are worth playing. They’d rather use reviews from external sources, as they are significantly more trusted (nearly 12 times more) than information provided by themselves.
  6. A good reputation is not only valuable to attract green fee players (which might be potential members). Reputation is also very powerful to retain members and to show them how great their membership actually is.


Real life examples

I have a lot of real-life examples of the above. A few years ago there was a club receptionist who was not very friendly towards green fee players. Golfers started to notice that and started mentioning that in their reviews. Unfortunately, the golf club was not really paying attention to these reviews.

The word spread fast and soon it was a known fact. Golfers flocked away and although the receptionist was not working at the club anymore, the negative effect lasted for years. If only the golf club manager had paid attention and addressed the issue in the beginning.

My advice: read the reviews, determine potential problems and solve them. And, more importantly, inform the reviewer by responding to the review.

Another example how powerful reviews can be is the example of a new golf club who actively started asking players after their round about their experiences. Because they asked, people felt welcome and noticed that the club really cared about them and their opinion.

These golfers started to share their opinions online and within a year the club was ranked amongst the top of the country.

You might think: my course isn’t really great, so I will never get a good rating. But that isn’t true at all. I have ample examples of average golf courses, who have managed to excel in certain areas, like hospitality or maintenance. Golfers appreciate that and if they know that the course isn’t very special – because they read the reviews – they won’t really mind.

Not all golfers are looking for a top-class course. Just be polite, surprise people with a small gift or a cup of coffee.

A good rating is worth money

If you manage to increase your rating above the average – which for instance is a 7,6 on Leadingcourses.com – then you will receive more attention than others. Increasing your rating will also have another effect. You will be able to increase your green fee.

You are not obliged to do that, but it opens up possibilities. Last year I plotted all green fee rates of clubs to their rating in a certain country. It turned out that quite a few clubs were asking too much, others were asking too little. If you are aware of that, then there is no problem. If not, then you might have to start paying attention.


Bad reviews are valuable too…

All reviews are valuable, and especially a mix of both positive and some negative reviews helps to improve consumer trust in the opinions even more: 68% of consumers trust reviews more when they see both good and bad reviews, while 30% suspect censorship or faked reviews when they don’t see any negative opinions on the page at all.

The presence of bad reviews actually improves conversions by 67% because people who read those reviews are paying closer attention because they are in the purchase mode.

Too many negative reviews aren’t good for business. The benefits of bad reviews very much depend on the proportion of good to bad. The negative reviews make the positive ones more believable, but there is a point at which they start to ring alarm bells.

Four friends on golf course.

How to generate reviews?

Generating reviews is always a good idea, as it will help you to improve your business at almost no cost at all. It is not very difficult to generate (more) reviews.  Some tips:

  1. Ask golfers after their round: when you do this, you actually show that you care. Before serving them drinks, just ask them about their experience and direct them to a review site of your choice via a flyer or business card.
  2. Generate e-mail addresses (via WIFI-access, tee-time bookings) and use these to ask people to share their reviews.
  3. Review sites often have free widgets available which you can easily place (copy-paste) on your own website.
  4. You can also print some text on your scorecard indicating where people can leave their reviews or use stickers or business cards (image attached).


The final giveaway

The great thing about actively asking people to review you is that it demonstrates that you are proud of your club/course and the service you provide. It also stresses the fact that you are motivated to learn from your customers and that their opinion really matters.