Harris Kalinka

Imagery + Animation Golf + Architecture

Monday 27th January 2014

Showing your golf course: why it matters

A good travel agent knows that to sell a holiday you’ve got to make it possible for your customer to picture themselves enjoying that holiday. In this respect, golf is no different to a luxury getaway in Bermuda. It’s a competitive industry, and to attract the players you’ve got to present your course in a way that makes people imagine themselves playing it.

In December 2012 I was a keynote speaker at the Asia Pacific Golf Summit at the Empire Hotel and Golf Club in Brunei Darussalam. I presented alongside some of the industry’s most important figures, including Michael Leemhuis, Henry DeLozier, Steve Mona and James Singerling. It also gave me the opportunity to meet many people who I’ve worked with, spoken to or heard about over the years but never met – such as Brian Curley and Howard Swan.

My presentation was titled ‘The importance of showing your golf course’ and in it I focused on how to fix the mistake that so many golf clubs make: doing a bad job of presenting their golf course to club members, visiting players and investors.

andrew-harris-talking-at-asia-golf-pacific-summit-in-bruneiHK director Andrew Harris speaking at the Asia Golf Pacific Summit in Brunei.

Satisfying a changing golf market

The golf market and golf players are changing, but many golf clubs are not. Most golf players, not just the younger generation, are using smartphones, wanting to book online, wanting to see what they’ll get before they play. They want to be visually stimulated and expect to see more.

Take myself and Brighton in the UK as an example. There are 18 courses within a 20-minute drive of my home. When I’m looking for a course to play, my first stop is the course website. I make up my mind of where to play largely based on what I see. If there’s nothing to see, I look elsewhere.

With so many courses competing for players the website is the first (and in many cases, the only) opportunity a golf club has to make a good impression. This is even truer for courses that depend on tourism and players who travel a great distance at significant cost.

Unless it’s a well-known course that’s on your list of courses to play, would you travel to a new or relatively unknown course without being able to see images of each hole first? To attract new members and visitors, as well as reignite the desire to play in your existing members you need to present your course well online.

Getting the basics right

So many golf club websites seem to have forgotten about the golf course, failing to show more than a photo or two, let alone include a visual guide. They include plenty of information about the clubhouse, club etiquette and what’s on the menu in the restaurant, which is all relevant information, but they fall down when it comes to presenting the course itself.

Show each hole in all its glory, give the prospective player something to look at, entice them to come and play your course. Even if you don’t have the budget to create a flyover animation of each hole, you do need to have professional and tempting visuals that give an impression of what playing the course will be like.

Your photography

So many clubs try and save money on their photographs. They use shots taken by a club member or a friend of a friend who is an amateur photographer. But there is no replacing a professional photographer with experience, who understands lighting, composition and how to show your course at its best.

Poor photography reflects badly on your golf club as a whole and conveys a lack of quality. In contrast, an eye-catching professional view of your course can communicate that you are a quality club with a course worth playing. Great images will also give your club more exposure: blog writers and magazine editors love good content, and in particular they love a striking image.

According to Andy Hiseman, a photographer specialising in the golf industry and Managing Director of Magic Hour Media: “Pound for pound, good photography is one of the most efficient ways to deploy your golf club’s marketing budget. In an age where everyone now has broadband, and most people have tablets, smart phones and goodness knows what’s coming next, high resolution images are more accessible than ever before – and not just in the golf magazines, although it is still key to have a few photos in your club’s portfolio with true double-page potential for when the magazines come calling.”

TheShireLondon_Credit_Andy_Hiseman_June2012-11_5compPhotograph of The Shire London taken by Andy Hiseman.

Your golf club website

Often the first contact anyone has with a golf club is its website, and it’s the best opportunity you have to show your golf course. For this reason, it’s essential your website works on a variety of devices (desktop computers, tablets and mobile phones), and that, even though the club might have been founded in the 1800s, the design doesn’t feel like it was done then.

Your website doesn’t need to be complicated or cost a small fortune, but it should be easy to navigate, include all the information existing members and prospective players might need and reflect the character of the club. And most importantly it needs to include visuals of your golf course.

Richard Netherclift, Director of Insignia Creative, who specialise in the design of websites for golf clubs, adds “A website for your club should be looked at as an investment into your business as it is your window to the world and often is the most important advertising asset you have.

In the modern world of NOW and immediate responses people do not have time to trawl through complicated websites looking at multiple pages to try and find the information they are after and so a good clean design with easy to use navigation is critical and with the ever increasing use of mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets having your website mobile compatible is a must.

The content you place on your site and where you place it is an important consideration; viewers do not want to read pages of text and so key landing pages should be kept short and punchy with read more links allowing viewers to make their own choice to click through to read longer textual content.

Photographs and imagery should look professional and be kept up to date. So many sites have beautiful professional photography but lack the existence of any human beings – viewers to your website should be shown happy smiling people involved in the activities you are displaying as this helps them picture themselves teeing off from the third, sitting having a coffee with friends or relaxing in your new spa development.

And lastly remember to keep your website up to date; in so many cases after the initial buzz and activity of the launch the website is left to fester and grow old like that tub of mixed spice in the back of your kitchen cabinet.”

Website design for the Sand Golf Course Consultants Association website, by Insignia Creative

Golf course graphics and animations

For many smaller clubs, course graphics or flyover animations may seem like an unnecessary expense. But great imagery and flyovers will keep people on your website and connect you to more potential players. If you have a tee-to-green flyover for each hole this this can capture the attention of the viewer. You can then direct them to book a tee time, sign up for membership or share the content via social media.

If you’re a proud member of a club or you’ve just played a great new course, sharing a striking photo or animation of the course via Twitter or Facebook will make a far greater impression on other golfers than just saying you played a brilliant round.

Flyover animations in particular will increase the likelihood of someone finding your course on Google. If a player searches for golf courses in their local area and one of the listings is a flyover of the course, then there is a pretty good chance that will be the one they click on.

The younger generation is so familiar with animations, computer games and online video sharing sites that this type of media presents a great opportunity to engage them and spread the word about your course.

A tee to green flyover animation for each of the 18 hole course at a new golf development in the Middle East

Making it pay for itself

The initial outlay for a professionally designed website, great photographs and flyover animations might seem ridiculous to some clubs who will prefer to prioritise spending on other things. But if you don’t have a strong membership, you need to think about how you can set your club apart, and get people talking about it and driving the extra 20 or 50 miles to play your course.

Visuals to show your golf course really are an investment that can show an excellent return. High quality images and graphics will increase publicity and interest and can be used for multiple purposes over a number of years. For example, tee-to-green flyover animations of each hole can be used both before (investment), during (design) and after (marketing) the course is built.

Besides being used in the club’s printed marketing material and on its website, you can use your imagery for email marketing, smartphone apps, press releases, blog posts, print articles and social media. A great photograph can even be sold as a framed copy in the club shop for members who want to be reminded of a memorable experience playing that particular hole.

For a new course that costs many millions to build, the cost of such animations are minimised by the significant returns. By creating a strong visual experience for potential players months, if not years in advance, you can build interest and anticipation, so that when the course does open it has people ready to play.

If your golf course is part of a larger real estate development then there is no doubt that visualisations pay for themselves. With a flyover of the course or a walkthrough of the real estate, properties can be sold off plan even before construction has begun, securing vital investment to move the project forward. Too many developments and golf clubs miss this opportunity, initially focusing only on the design and build of the course (and real estate) and leaving no budget for marketing. Selling is far easier if people can see what they are buying.

cgi-golf-course-real-estateComputer generated image showing the golf course real estate before it is built

Inspire potential players

When I see the beautiful shots of the tournament courses on TV, in particular the flyovers of each hole, I feel an urge to get back on the course. But you don’t need a manicured course that looks like Augusta to persuade players to visit your course.

You just need to show them what it looks like so that they want to experience it for themselves. Give them a reason to spend their day on your course rather than watching a tournament on TV, playing golf on the computer or choosing the course down the road.

If done correctly every course can present itself as an attractive place to be, that will get players out playing.

Need more information?

You can listen to my full speech on this topic, or, even better, contact me to give a presentation about what we do and how we could help you present your golf course better.

Contact me to discuss how you can show your golf course