Nick Solski CCM, one of our speakers at GolfBIC 2018, spent 8 years working abroad at golf resorts in Eastern Europe and spent his final 3 years at Roman Abramovich’s golf course in Moscow, culminating in hosting the 2015 European Tour event – M2M Russian Open, before making a move back to the UK to open his own driving range, Boomers and Swingers in Manchester.

Here Nick explains how he broke tradition and added a twist to the driving range experience.

50 or 100 balls with no dimples, which would you prefer?

100, 150, 200 yard targets…which of these exciting targets shall we aim for today?

Having such a limited choice over the years has lowered the expectations of both golfers and non golfers alike. They expect to be met by a grumpy old soul who will give you the necessary change required to push into the cold, battered metal machine that unhappily dispenses tired, cracked discoloured old balls that can defy physics by drawing and fading in one shot (The Bernoulli principle in action).

Arriving in the car park to two huge white signs “Boomers and Swingers”. What is this establishment we have come to? What happened to the old faded pink signs with a green surrounding? They were so comfortable on the eye. This in your face sign wouldn’t look out of place at a Donald Trump Convention (that’s the idea, the owner smugly thinks).

Walking into a brightly lit shop to be met by a good morning, a smile and a genuine welcome is so shocking to some, we felt the need to buy a defibrillator!

The universal response has been “ooh, things have changed”. Straight away they are on guard, change must be bad! This leaves their walk to the counter filled with trepidation.

Is it still “happy hour?” they “discountingly” ask. No, is the reply. It’s happy hour EVERY hour now, apart from “miserable hour” when we double the prices!

As they look over the servers shoulder out on to the freshly cut range with the distance markers lined up in a very pleasing to the eye way, they are greeted by the sight of three silver washing machines adorned by 6 old beer barrels. The lack of flags on the range nearly causes the defibrillator to be pulled out for a second time! The opinion soon changes once the first satisfying *ding* is heard after a successful ball / barrel collision.

The explanation starts. We have a new system of 30, 60 and 90 minutes with UNLIMITED balls, the confusion levels are through the roof! The word unlimited is repeated back in the same uncomprehend way as GARLIC BREAD.

Yes, we have new balls. Nike ones. And new mats that won’t hurt your hands when you hit from them. We won’t achieve our goal of being the best driving range in Manchester without them!
Is the price still the same as it was in happy hour?

No Sir, then you got 100 balls for £6.75. Now you get unlimited for 1 hour for £8. (with unlimited its impossible to calculate the price per ball so our prices cannot be compared to anywhere else but giving perceived “unlimited potential value”)

The balls are all laid out on the bays waiting for you, we will be round to top up if you are running out and please help yourself to a free coffee from the machine on the way out. (It’s free coffee every time it rains in Manchester..not far off 365 days per year)

So, that was a little customer journey. What does that have to do with anything?

  1. Breaking traditional constraints allows you to play with products and prices
  2. Having responses ready to customer comments / complaints leaves you ready to respond (practice role play)
  3. Don’t be afraid to be different, but remember that every single person will have an opinion, so cover your bases with quality as well as quirkiness.
  4. Tell your members / customers your goals. Be proud of them and don’t make any action unless it relates to achieving them.
  5. Don’t bad mouth other competitors. Sing their praises, but highlight their differences. (Thorough market research and SWOT analysis needed on each competitor)
  6. Be a beacon of positivity. Turn negatives into marketing positives. (eg, I’m just a driving range, I have no golf holes, but I do have a roof! Hence the tagline “golf with a roof”
  7. Encourage feedback. People love to share their experiences. Let them speak, ask questions, be interested. Face to face is the time to do it, not with a survey.
  8. Don’t Lie. But you don’t always have to share the innermost secrets of your facility. Front of house and back of house. Perception and Reality. Choose how you want to be perceived.
  9. Price is only important in the absence of value. What are you doing to add value to your product as opposed to discounting it?
  10. Do you know how to use social media to get a response / action? If I see one more club logo with the words “hidden gem” under it………

If you want to hear more on what Nick has done at Boomers and Swingers to increase participation, enjoyment and profit - register for GolfBIC on the 24th January 2018.