Most people close to indoor golf know it is a seasonal business. Our golf center survey found that business is much more robust in the cold and wet months than it is in the warm and dry ones. No big surprise there. What is interesting is that the trend for "indoor golf" searches on Google is seasonal as well. Notice how the index from Google below shows that indoor golf searches peak around January each year and tend to bottom out in the May through August period.
What does this mean for your indoor golf business?
It means that your off season marketing efforts need to be broader than just talking about indoor golf. Be creative, look for ideas that align with search trends, provide what folks are looking for in your area. An example is "Golf League" in the chart below. It's peak will perfectly correlate with the off season bottoms on indoor golf in terms of search trends. Get creative, do your research and find ideas lie golf lessons, golf tournament, or golf coupon (I know those aren't too creative, but they do better support summer search patterns than indoor golf.
Being in a good and accessible location that matches your target customers is a key to running a successful indoor golf business. Research on the indoor golf industry points to a few keys to determining the best location for your indoor golf center. It is also critical to make sure you are not paying too much for your location in order to keep your expenses in line. Based on our research, some of the keys to site location include the following:
The higher the proportion of home ownership there is in your target area, the more rounds of golf you are expected to be able to support. This means a higher percentage home ownership in the zip where you are locating, indicates a higher propensity for playing golf. In addition, the average home price tends to also help predict the volume of rounds played. The higher the average home price in a zip, the more rounds you can expect. Look for information on the web about your target zip code and see home prices, percent renters, income and more.
Number of golfers in a 10 mile radius:
Not surprisingly, the number of golfers in a 10 mile radius from an indoor golf center were strongly correlated with the number of rounds reported by that golf center. The more golfers in the radius, the better for your golf center. A great place to find this sort of information is from marketing list companies. They gather information on golfers from things like magazine subscriptions and website registrations. Some may provide you these numbers as part of the process to price a list and you can get the number without paying for the list.
This probably doesn't help pick an area within a city, but can give you a sense of how viable a given city is for an indoor golf center. The higher the number of rain / snow days there are per year, the higher the number of rounds played. Indoor golf centers in the United States experienced as many as 156 days per year with rain or snow, while others had as little as 90 days. Centers on the high end of this range get more play.
Average Annual Daily Traffic:
I am including this as a probable driver of rounds played, as traffic data was somewhat difficult to get with enough precision to be confident in analysis. That said, with a high number of first time visitors during the first year of an indoor golf center business, it stands to reason that a higher volume of traffic outside a location would be better than a location with lower traffic. The traffic statistic in question is often called Average Annual Daily Traffic and most reports abbreviate it as AADT. You may be able to search for it on the web for your target area in question.
I am starting to compile a list of all the golf centers in North America - please help with edits if you can. If you have edits to the table below, they can be made here (click to edit file)
I've recently run across a website called Bundle. It creates ratings on business based on spending patterns accumulated from credit card transaction data. It is all free for you to use. According to the bundle website:
"We use anonymous, aggregated spending data to rate businesses based on factors such as how often people go back, how many people go there and how much people actually spend. Using this data, we can learn a lot about whether a place is good, and further, whether a place is good for you."
I've now spend a little time on this website looking at indoor golf centers. I think indoor golf center owners and potential owners have a treasure trove of information here about their business. Here is an example of the kind of information on the website - I've removed the name and location of the center:
The first page on customers gives a pretty concise view of where customers are coming from and how the business ranks on popularity versus other local recreation.
In this example, 17% of customers are from the same zip as the facility and 69% are from the same county and almost all are from the same state. This does seem to vary a bit by location and it is worth checking out your own statistics.
This could be helpful in understanding where to spend your marketing dollars. The next set of charts they provide cover when your customers come to your facility.
This points to some opportunities around growing Tuesday through Friday traffic with targeted offers, leagues, demo days or other specials.
In our 2013 survey, signals of optimism abound. We asked several questions about upcoming plans ranging from opening a new center to adding staff to shrinking facility hours. We were quite pleased that so many golf centers are reporting planned increases in advertising, staff, and hours. Additionally a high percentage of respondents indicated plans to open a second center or to upgrade their simulators.
In our infographic below, you can hover over the shapes to see the percentage of respondents answering each question and how they answered. I.e. New / Upgrade Center will show 44 which means 44% of respondents indicated they'd be opening a new or upgrading their current center.
An encouraging sign from the survey is the increase in the percentage of visits from repeat customers. As a golf center matures, it appears its clientele is increasingly made of up weekly golfers. How does your center stack up and what are you doing to increase repeat visits?
I visited my in-laws over this summer and accidentally discovered indoor golf while we were out for lunch. As we were parking near the restaurant, I noticed the shop next door was putting up a sign about golf. Having been a golf nut all my life, golf stuff always catches my eye. I haven't been playing as much of late, so maybe my lack of play drove a little extra interest in investigating.
As we were walking up to the restaurant, The sign came into full view and it indicated that this was an indoor golf shop. Right then and there, I decided to check it out after lunch. I remember my reaction when I entered the store. I thought to myself this could be the coolest thing I've ever seen. At the time, it was totally empty and the owner approached to see if he could help.
It turns out the store was opening in the next week or so. I asked all sorts of questions about how it worked, how much it cost to play, how he had the idea and on and on. Being from the south, I'd never seen anything like it. It had 6 simulators, couches, a bar, rental clubs and an awesome atmosphere.
Don't get me wrong, I've seen these at Golf Galaxy or Dicks Sporting Goods, but never set up like this. I started to wonder if there was one near me. I did find one, but it was a single simulator in a very spartan environment. I've played it a few times and it is a lot of fun, but I wish there was one more like my first in the area.
With my time to play becoming increasingly limited and courses around me getting much more expensive or closing, indoor golf seems to make so much sense. Its not exactly the same, but it is a lot of fun.