Don’t Fall for These Golf Course Marketing Myths

     One of the major reasons that most golf courses don’t market effectively is that they are under the influence of marketing myths. Who knows how these misleading ideas got started, but many of them have been around for decades. So, before you start any marketing program, you first need to “clear the decks” of these marketing misconceptions.


     Before I get into the “meat” of how to massively improve the effectiveness of your marketing, it’s important to take the time to debunk some of the common myths about marketing. This is a VERY IMPORTANT step because, on your journey to marketing success, managers, owners, spouses, board members, golf pros, and cooks WILL QUESTION YOU AT EVERY TURN. They will question your strategy. They’ll tell you that you must do this and that because that is what your competitors are doing. They’ll beg you to discount, disagree with your long copy, and advise you on graphics, colors, and media at every opportunity.

There is no place for myth or personal prejudice in a comprehensive, results-driven, marketing system.

Most opinions are WRONG!

     Everyone has an opinion about marketing. Rarely, however, are those opinions based on facts. Instead, they are almost always based on personal preferences for colors or styles, or based on myths that have been handed down for decades from others and repeated so many times that they are now WRONGLY considered to be FACT by 99 percent of people. Most important, since the people judging your marketing are rarely the same people as the people you are actually trying to attract, their opinions on anything are basically worthless! Worthless because their opinions are based not on marketing science but are based on their own social, economic, and psychological preferences, NOT those of the people you are trying to attract!

     Unless you are willing to drop your personal preferences and debunk years of marketing misinformation in favor of proven marketing science, you cannot accomplish your goals of achieving Legendary Marketing at your course.

     The following section includes the biggest myths and inhibitors to marketing success. READ THEM, understand them, believe them and take them as gospel. Share them with your owner, boss, manager, spouse, or whomever else is most likely to sabotage your efforts. Get them to understand the science of EFFECTIVE marketing before you attempt to market, so that everyone is on the same page, moving in the same direction.


     1. People don’t read anymore. MYTH! The biggest myth in marketing is that people don’t read anymore or at least they won’t read lots of copy. The truth is, in fact, the opposite. In almost every case, a long copy will out-pull short copy. The key factor is INTEREST. If people don’t care about golf, they won’t read anything, long or short. If prospects are interested in what you have to offer, and if you provide information in a compelling fashion, they will read it. The more you tell them, the more they’ll trust you and the more interested they’ll get in your offer.

     Send me a magazine on horses and I’ll pass it to my wife without glancing at a single page. Send me a magazine on cars and I’ll give it a quick flip through. Send me a magazine on sports cars and it will get a little more of my attention as I flip through every page, scanning for something that catches my eye. But send me a magazine on Ferraris and I will take it to bed with me and read it cover to cover, word by word, every article, and every relevant ad. The difference in how I read these different magazines is my level of interest in the subject matter. If I am interested in a topic, I want to know as much as possible. If I am not interested, I don’t want to know anything. Your customers are no different. They will pay attention to what interests them and will ignore what does not! They want more of what interests them and less of what does not!

     2. The more people who like your ad, the better your ad! MYTH! Design your marketing to create a response, not to please your owner, your members, or your wife!

     Graphic designers are not marketers! In fact, in many cases, they have the opposite effect!

     Web designers are not marketers!

     And, if the truth be told, most ad agencies are not marketers! A nice way of explaining this is that most ad agencies are bored with simple approaches that work. Or, they are so busy that they tend to produce generic ads. A more cynical way of explaining the failure of many ads produced by ad agencies is that the agencies are more interested in competing for awards and inflating their egos with their clever designs than they are in making money for their clients.

     Recently I gave three important presentations to large potential accounts. In each case, several of the people in the room did not play golf and most had minimal “real” marketing experience! If you want to estimate what marketing will appeal to your audience(golfers) you should have your prospects judge it. That’s what focus groups and market research are about. (Research with small numbers has problems, too, but at least it’s a start.)

     No matter what people say about being “open-minded,” they (as we all do) judge you on their preconceived notions about marketing and with their personal preferences for design, text, and style. They may know something; they may know nothing, but make no mistake about it, 99 percent of the time they judge your work based on what they like, or think they know about marketing, not on what will actually work!

The key to great marketing is not to design ads, websites, and mail campaigns that people like. It is to design marketing that motivates targeted prospects to take the action you want.

     Your target market is a very tiny percentage of the entire population. Your ideal prospects are a certain age, have certain hobbies, wants, needs, and passions. If the people who make marketing decisions are not avid golfers they cannot possibly understand the emotional connection that a good ad will have with an avid golfer any more than I can possibly understand why my wife enjoys mucking out horse stables and riding the beasts. (I was once given some very sound advice which I will share now. Never take up a hobby in which the main party eats while you sleep!) Nor unless they have exceptional marketing experience are they qualified to provide any useful input on the ads in question, but they will anyway!

     Some of the best golf marketing my company has ever produced has never seen the light of day because it does not meet the criteria of the person paying the bills. I call it the Everyone-Loves-My-Ad Syndrome!

     Just because everyone loves your ad doesn’t mean that the phone will ring or that people will buy your lessons or come to your course.

You should design ads specifically
for the people who you think will buy.

     You should test different ads and headlines based on the response. It doesn’t matter whether you like the ad, your wife likes the ad, or anyone on your staff likes the ad. What matters is whether or not the people you want to buy respond to the ad.

     I once designed an ad for a well-known manufacturer of graphite shafts. At the time it was quite simply the best ad I had ever designed. With all due modesty, first, let me tell you that I understand golf advertising better than just about anyone on the planet. Second, I backed up my knowledge with abundant and irrefutable research on what people look for when they buy a golf club. Third, I designed an eye-catching ad that showed the product in use, had a sub-box that highlighted the product, and copy that would have golfers foaming at the mouth in anticipation of owning such a club. The VP of marketing who had been in the golf business for many years loved it. So did a host of golfers with whom I had tested the ad! The new CEO, a recent Harvard graduate who didn’t play golf, wasn’t sure. He said he wasn’t getting a “warm, fuzzy feeling” about it. He left the conference room, which adjoined the manufacturing plant, and entered the factory. There I watched in complete disbelief as he wandered from worker to worker, of whom 50 percent spoke no English and the other 50 percent were suffering from the effects of too much glue sniffing and showed them the ad.

     Five minutes later he returned and announced, “The boys don’t get it!The boys didn’t get it because the boys didn’t play golf. He didn’t get it. He wanted the workers to feel good about the ad; he didn’t want an ad that would work! Unfortunately, this general scenario occurs in many, many businesses. Owners, CEOs, and marketing executives who don’t know the first thing about advertising, and who don’t truly understand their end users, make terrible decisions based on what they like, not what the customers and prospects are looking for or will respond to!

     Shoppers buy only two things: benefits and solutions. They do not buy features. They do not buy because of your logo because your picture happens to be in the ad, or because you have been in business for 20 years. They only care about what your business or product can do for them. Is it cheaper or more reliable? Will they feel more important being a member of your club? Will they hit the ball farther, straighter, and more consistently with your golf clubs?

     After my first ad for the shaft maker was rejected, I came back with another that offered information to people in the club-fitting business who were among the prime buyers of their shafts. This time the CEO turned down the idea because he feared it might generate too much interest, and clog up the company’s phone system! I resigned after that one. The shaft maker's new ad agency designed a two-page color ad containing a picture of a large tree with a hole in it, the hole supposedly made by a golf ball on its way toward a distant green. One of their golf shafts lay across the bottom of the page. There was a weak headline, which I can’t recall, but it had nothing to do with the product. That was it. No reason to buy, no benefits, no testimonials! Although they had a good market and a great product, they allowed themselves to be bought out by a larger company with deeper pockets because with marketing like that you can go broke quickly!

     Before you hire anyone to design an ad campaign, educate yourself. Read a good marketing book. Discover the real principles of marketing from a true leader in the field, not from someone who happens to run a small design company down the street and thinks they know something about marketing. Read Ogilvy on Advertising, Ogilvy built the biggest ad agency in the world from scratch. In its pages, you will discover many things you never knew, like why long copy ALWAYS sells better than short copy. Or get the classic book Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins, or Al Reis and Jack Trout’s classic book on Positioning. Or one of Dr. Rick Crandall’s newer books on marketing services. In books like this, you will discover that the real secrets of marketing are not what most people think they are, in fact, very often they are the opposite!

The number one goal of a good ad, letter, or brochure is
to connect with a specifically targeted reader
and motivate that reader to action.

     In the case of an ad for a golf club, that means not just any reader. Not your wife who doesn’t play golf, or son who is 14 and into rap music, but a targeted reader, a golfer.

     Even better, you probably want a very specific type of golfer, a player of a certain age and income. Your ad should be written and designed only for him, not anyone else. What anyone but that targeted reader thinks of your copy or design does not matter one iota! In fact, if lots of unqualified people look at the ad and like it, it’s an almost sure sign that the ad is not speaking to your target audience in an emotional and personal enough way to be effective. It’s almost like “they” should be the only ones who get it!

      3. Reaching 100,000 people in the local paper is typically more effective in generating revenue than mailing to 500 people whom you know for a fact play golf and live in your market area. MYTH! Thousands of ad salesmen make a living on seducing golf courses with large numbers.

     It boggles my mind when I talk to golf courses looking for 100 new members. They’re running ads statewide, even nationwide, in numerous glossy magazines that total 3 million readers when they are in fact looking for 100 people willing to spend, say, $75,000 on a membership and perhaps a half a million on a home. The theory is that a certain percentage of people who read your ad will respond. That, my friend, is simply not true!

     In a 100-page magazine, only a tiny fraction of the readers will ever see your full-page ad with the picture of the signature hole in a section that has 12–16 pages of similar ads featuring a fairway as green as a shamrock flanked by water so blue that an Aegean postcard would go green with envy! Maybe only 1 percent will read your smaller ad.

     The same is true of people who blanket market to new homeowners, a group where, statistically, 90 percent don’t play golf!

Successful marketing is, and always will be,
about reaching targeted prospects.

     A targeted mailing list of 5,000 prospects would be 70 percent cheaper and about 1000 percent more effective than mass advertising in the newspaper to 100,000 people. But that small number throws people off. They think BIGGER is better. In fact, TARGETED is better! That means targeted mailings, targeted e-mails, targeted websites, and doubling or tripling the play of the people you already have as players. might only have had 11,214 unique visitors last month, but they were all there because they wanted to be. They all play golf and a large percentage of them gave us their name, address, and phone number, plus an e-mail. Each name is a golden lead for future marketing at a cost of zero. Now, how much sense does that make?

     If you ran an ad on that site and got 150 names, addresses, and e-mails, you would be so far ahead of the game compared to a local newspaper ad that it’s not even funny. But most people just don’t get it! They think the numbers are too small. Instead, they are seduced by huge circulation numbers when they should be focused on the quality of the leads they get, not the quantity!

     4. You don’t want to exclude or offend anyone with your marketing. MYTH! Actually, that’s exactly what you want to do, exclude all those people who aren’t good prospects so you don’t waste any more time or money chasing them. When I say offend, I don’t mean you stand up and insult them. Think of it more in terms of how a Republican might react to a Democrat’s comments.

     For example, say you are the proud owner of an 8,000-yard, Pete Dye masterpiece with water on every hole. Your market is clearly better players.


     This might be a nice provocative headline to appeal to macho single digits like me! Sure, some ladies or higher handicappers might take offense but the number of macho guys you excite by this headline will more than makeup for the furor of a few people who are obviously NOT your true target market. In fact, if people make a fuss about your ad, you will get free publicity with the target market that matters to you!

     You have to take a stand, and the more targeted your stand is to your true market, the more effective your marketing will be, even at the expense of excluding or even irritating some players.

     5. If all your competitors are doing it, you have to do it too just to compete! MYTH! You do not have to advertise in the local golf publication just because 50 of your favorite competitors do! In fact, it’s plain stupid to do so. Nor do you need to discount because they do! 
The less you act like your competition, the quicker you will define your own position in the marketplace!

Those are the five big myths we come up against again and again. Don’t let your marketing decisions be influenced by these dangerous beliefs.


     In the next section, I’m going to save you hundreds of thousands of dollars and years of trial and error by detailing exactly why most clubs fail to reach their marketing goals. This is not subjective; this is not our opinion. It is based on over 20 years of research into the science of marketing and the analysis of several hundred golf club clients. (Some of these 20 reasons also relate to the five major myths I just covered. That’s okay; this is a full list.)

     Here are the top 20 reasons why clubs’ marketing efforts fail. Read them, believe them and resolve not to do them!

  1. They don’t collect enough data (golfers’ names, e-mails, and so forth). 

  2. They don’t do enough with the data they do collect. This process works best when it’s completely automated such as e-mails added automatically to your list. (See our Campaign Manager program as an example.)

  3. Their websites are ineffective. If you need facts about why your existing site is ineffective please call me at 352-266-2099, or click here for a free review,  and I will systematically destroy it for you!

  4. They do not track their ad or promotional campaigns so they have no exact way of knowing which ads or promotions were really effective.

  5. Their ads stink! They have cute headlines, pretty pictures, and impotent copy.

  6. They run campaigns that people say “look good” rather than ones that actually get the phone to ring. This week we generated 200 membership leads for a client from a single sales letter.

  7. There is no written sales process or scripting or training of the people answering the phones and in charge of memberships, outings, and banquets.

  8. The follow-up to all requests is not automated or systemized, so follow-up is poor.

  9. They do almost the exact same marketing as ALL their competitors; they are afraid to risk being different.

  10. Brochures, ads, and letters are written in boring, generic corporate-speak and wouldn’t motivate a drunk to leave his seat to get a free beer.

  11. They discount green fees to get more business rather than look for ways to add more value.

  12. Their budgets are based on a percentage of gross or a number someone handed down from head office instead of being based on the goals they are trying to meet. In other words, the goals are pure fantasy with no consideration whatsoever of the income they need to generate.

  13. They do NOTHING to set themselves CLEARLY apart from other clubs in their marketplace. Yet these clubs still say “We have the best course and great customer service”...yeah, yeah, yeah, tell it to the judge (as my son would say when he was younger).

  14. Their service is really about 80 percent worse than they think it is! They have no system in place for measuring service and they never run extensive customer surveys so they never really know how good or BAD their service TRULY is!

  15. They fail to thank their customers with letters, cards, and small gifts as is done in almost all other professional businesses.

  16. They confuse “loyalty” programs with discount programs! Loyalty is earned, NOT BOUGHT!

  17. They fail to outsource the things they don’t do well (like telemarketing).

  18. They don’t capitalize on the automation that’s available to help them maximize their operations.

  19. They don’t spend enough time studying or doing marketing. (You tend to get the best results from the things you focus on the most!)

  20. They keep doing what they have always done because it’s easier than changing to a more systematic approach that would actually work. Meanwhile, their market share is sinking faster than John Daly in quicksand.

      Now you have the key information why most clubs don’t get where they want to go. You are ready to do things differently and get the corresponding successful result!

      To get an even quicker start on successful results, click here to take our free golf marketing evaluation or call me at 352-266-2099.

All The Best,

Andrew Wood
Legendary Marketing
Direct: 352-266-2099
Office: 1-800-827-1663

Fax: 1-877-817-0650

PS: Now there is a simple and cost-effective way to make sure your club always has the biggest database in town and sucks up 95% of the available traffic & leads online! Legendary Lead Gen will allow one local club per market to dominate website traffic, online bookings, and lead generation! Click Here for more information.