How to Raise Your Course Ranking

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Camiral Hole 13

There are two questions LANDMARK is frequently asked by new club and resort clients.

The first is, do golf course rankings actually matter? Secondly, why isn’t our course higher in the rankings?

Paradoxically, some CEOs and managers dismiss the validity of course rankings, labelling them subjective, but in the same breath crave a higher position above their competitors.

Let me answer these two questions succinctly – and then explain the reasons:

Yes, golf course rankings do matter because regardless of whether you agree with a particular list’s methodology or credibility, it contributes towards your brand’s visibility and reputation, which ultimately affects the value of your business.

The reason most clubs and courses aren’t as high in the rankings as they think they should be (assuming they are worthy of inclusion) is that they don’t communicate proactively, expecting everyone – including the media – to know, without engaging with them sufficiently.

Having had the benefit of working on both sides of the fence – as a former deputy editor of Golf World magazine and, for the past 20 years, a brand marketer and PR consultant representing world class clubs, resorts and destinations – here’s what experience has taught me.

Why Course Rankings Matter

Your brand reputation – the opinion people have of your club or resort – can have a direct impact on the value of your business. 

Think of share prices: the value of shares in a company can go up as well as down based not only on business performance but extraneous factors. (As I write this, the valuation of education companies has tumbled due to news about the rapid uptake of Artificial Intelligence by students.)

Whether or not the perception of a company is well founded, unfortunately, is irrelevant. Perception becomes reality – and the impact on business is real.

In the case of golf course businesses, we may not be talking share prices (private club debentures excepted), but what customers are willing to pay for the experience.

So the quality of your course is critical. Good playing conditions – frequently a key factor in customer satisfaction surveys – has a positive impact on value. (The experience of service, clubhouse and other amenities will clearly also be important in terms of membership value.)

However, if your course condition deteriorates, perhaps due to underinvestment or the lack of availability of water to irrigate in a drought, your business may lose members and customers.

Course rankings – whether or not you agree with the methodology  – can and likely will affect the perception of your golf course and the value of the business.

Clearly, it’s not the only factor that will shape your reputation, but it can be the most important as customers are motivated to play the best courses when choosing destinations or places to become members.

How to Raise Your Course Ranking

There are different course rankings published by a variety of media. Internationally, established publishers such as Golf Digest and Golf Magazine are recognised authorities. However, there are also established online-only course rankings, including Top 100 Golf Courses.

More than 20 years ago, when I worked at Golf World magazine, we had a set of judging criteria that ranged from architecture to ambiance, with an expert international panel and scoring system. The system has changed since then.

In conversation recently with Golf Digest – for an article for the European Tour Destinations network – we confirmed ratings are based on the following factors:

1 – Shot Value
2 – Challenge
3 – Layout Variety`
4 – Aesthetics
5 – Conditioning
6 – Character
7 – Distinctiveness
8 – Fun

You may or may not agree with Golf Digest’s approach, but that’s its methodology.

Now, it’s one thing to know this, it’s another to be included in the rankings.

I recently took an enquiry from a links course that you could quite reasonably argue was underrated in European rankings.

The general manager was aggrieved that the media didn’t know about investments made and didn’t understand why the venue was being positioned behind some of its competitors, despite excellent customer feedback.

The simple reason was that while the club had invested significantly in course renovations, in reality it hadn’t told anyone because communications was not part of its strategy. 

Worse still, if you searched the club online, other websites – including course rankings and tour operator sites – appeared ahead of the club’s. In short, the club was not in control of its own brand and reputation online, and third parties were not giving the correct message the club needed to communicate.

The rankings are constantly changing and courses are constantly investing to improve, so it’s imperative for venues to actively engage with the course rankings media and communicate what they are doing and address judging criteria.

This involves developing the right messages, producing supporting content (photography, video or CGIs), creating a media pack, engaging with target media and editors, perhaps even hosting a press trip or experience for journalists and raters to visit. 

Next, the content needs to be integrated into all marketing channels, including digital marketing, and the work sustained so that visibility endures and the venue’s reputation is managed year-on-year.

LANDMARK has worked with numerous world class venues over the years, actively managing reputations and engaging with course rankings media. Our current clients include:

La Rèserve Golf Links at Heritage Golf Club, Mauritius

Camiral Golf & Wellness, Spain

The Club at Castiglion del Bosco, Tuscany, Italy

Find out how LANDMARK can assist your club or resort. Contact Gary Firkins: [email protected]