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What Does a Golf Manager Do? A Guide to the First 90 Days

What Does a Golf Manager Do? A Guide to the First 90 Days

For a golf manager, golf facility management is like on-course management. In both instances, you must execute against a daunting array of demands, variables, priorities and outcomes. Off the course, however, the stakes are higher.

Consumer habits and golfer expectations are evolving, and day-to-day operations are becoming more complex just as the need for efficiency has become more essential. Consequently, what a newly hired or promoted golf manager does in their first 90 days is crucial for setting standards, staying competitive and charting a path for success.

With that in mind, here are six key steps to take in a golf manager’s first three months.

The golf management software buyers' guide

Great golf managers use great golf management software. Here are 12 questions to ask to help you select the right platform.


What does a golf manager do?

A golf manager, also known as a general manager, is responsible for overseeing and providing day-to-day direction of all aspects of a golf course and its facilities. This includes (but is not limited to):

  • Golf operations
  • Retail operations
  • Golf course maintenance
  • Customer service
  • Sales and marketing
  • Food and beverage
  • Accounting and budgeting
  • Human resources

In an organization of specialists, the golf manager is a generalist. Collaborating closely with the heads of other departments (depending on the size of the operation), make strategic decisions that impact the entire golf course business and ensure that operations run smoothly

With this in mind, let’s dive into key steps any golf manager should take to simplify operations, optimize revenue generation, reach more golfers and deliver amazing customer experiences.


Take your tee sheet to task

As golf course businesses evolve, one thing remains true: proper tee sheet management is the lifeblood of daily-fee and semi-private golf courses. It sounds obvious, but tee times are the most crucial revenue-driver for these facilities, so it’s essential to have an effective way to create, organize, process and analyze them.

Any new tenure as a golf manager should start with an evaluation of your existing tee sheet’s workflows. Tee sheets built into modern, cloud-based golf course management software come with a range of features that should make day-to-day golf operations easier, even in the face of growing complexity. This is why it’s so important to take an objective audit of your tee sheet’s features to understand whether it’s meeting your facility’s needs.

Questions golf managers should ask about their tee sheet software

  1. How easy is it to make, take, adjust, cancel, block and refund tee times?
  2. Is my tee sheet intuitive to navigate and easy to use?
  3. Does it give me the information I need, when I need it?
  4. Can I set up dynamic pricing for my tee times?
  5. What level of reporting and analytics do I have access to?
  6. Can I process transactions from the tee sheet and does it sync with my POS?
  7. Can I manage my tee sheet from anywhere or do I have to be in the pro shop?
  8. Does it seamlessly connect to an online booking module?
  9. Can it manage different play types, formats and tee time intervals?
  10. How do I manage tournaments and special events?
  11. Can I create and manage a customer information database?
  12. Does it look after your members and support different player types?
  13. Can I communicate with staff and customers directly from the tee sheet?
  14. How easily can I add carts, promos, range balls and booking extras to orders?
  15. Can I manage multiple tee sheets for multiple golf courses?
  16. Can you access 24/7 support and detailed resources to solve issues?

Let’s look at some of these features and consider their importance.

Dynamic pricing

Dynamic pricing is a pricing strategy that uses automated pricing changes that respond in real time to supply and demand. Tee sheet software with built-in automated dynamic pricing can analyze tee sheet data and make pricing adjustments based on the popularity of certain times and the number of days out certain rounds are booked. This kind of automation dramatically reduces the amount of time it takes to optimize pricing on a tee sheet.

Online booking

At this stage, offering a reliable online booking module is table stakes for daily-fee golf courses. Your tee sheet and online tee time booking system should work seamlessly together, update in real time, help you run promotions for certain times and allow golfers to book and pay online 24/7 from their mobile device or desktop.


Your tee sheet software should be flexible and designed to work for your facility’s unique operational needs. Whether you need to manage times for multiple courses, run league and tournament play with different formats, set different tee time intervals on certain days, or need to run crossover tee times, your tee sheet should have intuitive workflows that can make it happen.

Members, customers and player types

Your tee sheet software should help you create and cater to multiple player types: members, guests, package holders, default daily-fee players, juniors, seniors and more:

  • Ensure you have a strong member management module that automates billing, enables custom booking rules and that offers a member-facing dashboard.
  • Can you offer flexible membership and package options that cater to different golfers?
    You should be able to set different prices, promos and privileges for certain player types and make it easy for your staff to apply these settings on the tee sheet
  • Your tee sheet should help you create a customer profile database, regardless of player type, to speed up payment, booking and check-in

Processing transactions

Find golf management software with a fully-embedded POS and tee sheet. This way, these two commonly disconnected pieces of software/hardware work together, making processing tee time transactions seamless, whether the customer is online or in the pro shop. It also:

  • Streamlines reporting and accounting
  • Helps you connect your tee sheet to your retail and restaurant POS, making it easy to add booking extras at checkout
  • Makes it easy to identify members and past golfers when processing sales
  • Makes checkout more efficient by consolidating transactions


Benchmark pro shop retail performance and set KPIs

As a golf manager, running the pro shop is a blend of art and science. Sometimes you need to go on instinct, sometimes you need to look at the numbers. Another way of saying this? Assess your pro shop retail operation from the customer’s perspective and from the business perspective.

From the customer side of things, ask yourself these 10 questions:

  1. Am I maximizing my physical layout?
  2. Do I create a welcoming environment where people want to browse?
  3. Do I have the right type and variety of products?
  4. Where does my eye go in the store? Are things easy to find?
  5. What’s the checkout experience like?
  6. Is my staff friendly and knowledgeable about the products on hand?
  7. Are sale and promo items on display and easy to find?
  8. Am I providing a consistently excellent, efficient customer experience?
  9. Are commonly purchased upsell items in the right place?
  10. Do I have an ecommerce presence and is the timing right to create one?

Digging into your pro shop accounting and inventory data will help you answer many of these questions more accurately. Nevertheless, objectively assessing your pro shop retail experience through instinct and observation is an essential supplementary exercise.

Dive into the data to see where you are, and where you need to get to

No evaluation of your retail business is complete without looking at the numbers to understand where you are in relation to pro shop key performance indicators (KPIs). Once you’ve established a benchmark for performance, you can understand where to make optimizations. But which pro shop retail KPIs should you consider?

Benchmarking your financials is crucial and it goes without saying that pro shop retail is only one part of the equation at a golf course. With so many different parts of the business responsible for revenues and liabilities, it’s essential for a golf manager to work with powerful, flexible accounting software and a highly competent team.

1. Gross profit margin and net profit margin

While sales are obviously great to have, the real reason people open up a store is to earn profits. Gross margin lets you know how much profit you’re making when buying and selling inventory without including operating costs such as wages, rent, or marketing. It is typically expressed as a percentage.

Golf managers need to have an understanding of gross profit margins at their course

In a quick example, say a pro shop sold $500,000 worth of merchandise last season. The cost of stocking that merchandise came to $250,000. Gross profit comes to $250,000, resulting in a gross margin of 0.5 or 50%.

Gross profit only tells part of the story. Once you factor in operating costs such as wages, rent, pro shop marketing initiatives, utilities, etc, you end up with the net profit margin.

A calculation for net profit margin

Once you factor in operating expenses, say $210,000 in this example, total cost balloon to $460,000. This results in a net profit margin of 8%.

It’s important to remember that the retail sector tends to have, on average, lower profit margins and is subjected to a lot of volatility. To put in perspective, Walmart is the largest retailer in the world and their profit margin as of October 2023 was 2.55%, according to Investopedia.

Pro shops are typically smaller retail operations that are often seasonal in nature, have high expenses, sell low margin products and must compete against larger retailers who can typically undercut them in price. This is why it’s essential for golf managers to be efficient and run a tight ship.

So start with these high-level metrics and critically evaluate your margins. From there, you can tackle the practical issues of how to improve them: optimizing your inventory, trimming operating costs, improving supplier relationships, increasing transaction sizes and more.

2. Sales and margins by product category

After assessing revenues and profits at the macro level, it’s prudent for golf managers to assess performance at the product level. Breaking down sales by category provides more detail on your total sales figures for the year. Are some categories performing better than others? What about certain brands?

  • It’s important to look at data over a long period of time to ensure you can see changing trends
  • Use the rule of ten when creating a hierarchy for your merchandise: no more than ten departments, ten classes or ten sub-classes
  • Take the time to properly set up your merchandise hierarch
  • Without the right merchandise categories in place, it will be difficult to identify actionable information

3. Stock turn

Stock turn helps you assess how efficiently you’re selling through your inventory over a set period of time. Given its impact on cash flow, how often you’re often to turn inventory over is a crucial metric to track. Stock that moves quickly off your shelf helps you bring in more, freeing up cash and enticing customers to keep coming back.

  • Stock Turn rates vary depending on the type of store you are operating. Large discount retailers turnover inventory at a rate of 7 to 8.75 times a year whereas luxury retailers might turn inventory only 1.5 times a year
  • Seasonal retailers, such as apparel and shoes, should aim for a turn rate of once per season (i.e. four times a year)

Before you calculate stock turn, you must figure out your average monthly inventory to ensure outlier periods don’t skew the data. Add up all the beginning inventories for the year (at retail price), plus your ending inventory (at retail price), and divide it by 13.

here is how golf managers should calculate average monthly inventory

Now you can calculate stock turn:

here is how to calculate stock turn

4. Gross Margin Return on Investment (GMROI)

It’s a mouthful, but GMROI is a crucial metric for your pro shop. It tells you how hard your inventory is working to help you earn profits. GMROI is a key metric to protect cash flow. Many retailers protect their margins, which is important.

But remember that you can live for a while without profits. You cannot live without cash flow.

A low GMROI tells you a product is either moving too slowly, has insufficient margin, or both. A good GMROI, calculated on an annual basis, is over 2 or 200%.

First, calculate the Average Cost of Goods by adding up the beginning monthly inventories for the year at cost, and divide by 12. You can then use the following formula:

here is how golf managers should calculate GMROI

5. Sales per employee

Tracking sales per employee helps employees understand what is expected of and set reasonable standards in the pro shop. Things to keep in mind:

  1. Some shifts are busier than others. Be sure to compare apples to apples
  2. Every pro shop is different. When setting benchmarks, use your own store history
  3. For new stores, try asking similar retailers that you know or your local bank or credit union for benchmarks. Be sure to compare yourself to stores with similar merchandise, square footage, and foot traffic
  4. Part-timers almost always average more than full-time employees as they don’t spend as much time on non-sales activities, and are usually scheduled during the busiest periods


Get retail POS software that can help you track these metrics

Just as the tee sheet is the lifeblood of your golf operations, a golf retail POS with built-in reporting and analytics is crucial to your retail operations. It does a golf manager no good to use outdated, fragmented technology in the pro shop.

These days, successful commerce comes down to having readily-accessible data and analytics on-hand that you can use to make optimizations and adjustments in real time. Simply put: you need to have the right read on your retail operations to stay competitive, stay efficient and stay strategic.


Evaluate your POS and inventory system

The metrics above will help you understand some of the key performance indicators regarding your POS and inventory, but how should you actually manage and optimize it? How can you make your entire retail operation intuitive and efficient on the back end?

Questions a golf manager should ask about a POS and inventory system:

  1. Does my POS software seamlessly integrate with my tee sheet?
  2. Can I search, view, add to and adjust customer data in a centralized database connected to my tee sheet?
  3. How easy is it to create new sales? Can I add items, adjust and apply discounts easily?
  4. Does my POS automatically connect to my existing house accounts?
  5. Is it easy to take payments quickly with a variety of payment options?
  6. Can I create special orders, layaways, work orders and refunds efficiently?
  7. How easy is it to perform searches of my inventory database and get granular?
  8. Does sales and inventory data seamlessly flow between my physical pro shop and online store?
  9. Does sales and inventory data seamless flow across all golf course locations (MCOs)
  10. How detailed are my product pages? Can I see sales history, images, pricing info, SKUs, etc?
  11. Can I create automatic reorder points for all of my products?
  12. How easy is it to create, manage and reconcile purchase orders and add items to inventory?
  13. Does my POS and inventory system help me efficiently conduct inventory counts?
  14. Can I create pricing matrixes for different models, colors, sizes of the same product?
  15. How many basic and advanced inventory reports does my system generate?
  16. Can I access a variety of roll-up reports to understand sales performance?
  17. Can I see grouped sales reports and reports for different product categories?
  18. Does my POS software seamlessly integrate with accounting software like Quickbooks?

Speed, versatility and flexibility are key in the pro shop

Many golf courses are fully-staffed facilities with specialized teams dedicated to accounting, retail operations, inventory, etc. That said, it’s also true that golf managers are often forced to wear many different hats. This is why leveraging the right retail POS software is so essential:

From managing inventory and accounting to sales, customer service and member management, golf managers need software that helps them simplify operations, perform a range of different tasks and save time as they try to manage a slew of different responsibilities.


Golf managers should assess marketing efforts and look ahead

It’s a brave new world for golf course marketing: the game has exploded in popularity among younger generations, digital marketing is now table stakes and the need to diversify your marketing spend has never been more important. It’s time to get creative, refine your efforts and put your course out there in a bold way.

Evaluating past and ongoing marketing is an important starting point for new golf managers. Provided you have means of tracking and analyzing your return on investment, dig into:

  • Whether or not your course has a defined marketing or brand strategy
  • Current marketing budget
  • Budget allocation: what channels and initiatives are you investing in?
  • Where are you seeing the best and worst return on investment?
  • The performance of specific campaigns and promotions
  • Are you leveraging customer data for the purposes of targeted marketing?
  • What is the state of your online presence and are you set up for effective digital marketing
  • What tools do you use to set up and execute on your marketing strategy

Once you’ve taken stock, you can look ahead to how you want to execute with the team you have or with a third-party. Here are some key marketing considerations to consider.

How much of a golf course budget should be spent on marketing?

A report from 2022 suggests that B2C service companies should spend around 12% of their total budget on marketing, with just over half of that going to digital channels. Of course, this can and should fluctuate based on a number of factors specific to your golf course.

Key to your budgeting and planning is understanding your goals for the year and getting specific. More members? More social media engagement? Drive more revenue in the restaurant/pro shop? More repeat customers? Reduce customer acquisition costs?

These are great starting points, but it’s important to assign real metrics to these goals so you have something to track. Another key point for golf managers to understand is where your goals fit in the marketing funnel:

  • Awareness: Tactics to try and make golfers aware of your golf course
  • Consideration: Tactics to generate more interest and engagement with your course and its services
  • Conversion: Tactics to drive golfers to take action and book
  • Keep: Tactics designed to turn one-time golfers into loyal, repeat customers

Each stage of this funnel requires consideration, investment and unique marketing strategies. As you build out your marketing plan, allocate time to each of these funnel stages and ensure the tactics for each work together to push golfers down the funnel.

Prioritize digital marketing channels

Digital marketing is something no golf manager can ignore. Email marketing, paid social media marketing, organic social media marketing, search marketing—these have become essential channels for every business offering any service and golf courses are certainly no exception:

In addition to being able to accurately track and optimize a wide range of metrics determining ROI, digital marketing is incredibly important due to effectiveness at guiding customers down the funnel. User data tracking makes it far easier for golf courses and other businesses to target audiences with the right messaging, at the right time with much greater specificity than is possible in traditional advertising.

Refine your course’s brand identity (if you need to)

Conceiving and sticking to a distinct brand identity is essential for golf course businesses. Essentially, good branding comes down to:

  • Knowing your business and your facility
  • Establishing a personality, look and feel that capture and convey your course as clearly and effectively as possible
  • Being consistent in the use of this signifiers in all your marketing materials

From course colors, logos and image styling to how your course is portrayed in photos, videos, website copy and ad copy, understanding how you want your facility to come across and maintaining consistency is crucial is establishing a unique brand.

Invest in golf software with marketing functionality

Golf managers often aren’t able to devote much time to marketing duties due to a backlog of day-to-day operations. The right golf software should help in both of these areas: not only should it offer the tools you need to run effective digital campaigns, it will also help simplify daily operations to the point where you can focus on growth initiatives.

Three types of marketing functionality to look for:

  1. Email Marketing
  2. SMS Marketing
  3. Social Media Marketing

With these marketing tools, you can directly communicate with your customers. This can include messaging about deals/promotions, course information, news, weather updates, upcoming events and more.

Find digital marketing experts you can trust

Executing on a digital marketing plan takes time, effort, coordination and strategic thinking to get right. And while the online marketing space has never been more user-friendly to navigate, the need for a strong ROI on digital sometimes calls for added assistance.

The right team of digital marketing experts can help you get the most out of the marketing tools attached to your new golf course management software. This is especially true for a team that is familiar with the golf marketing software you use and can help you navigate it:

  • Dedicated services: Multi-channel planning, committed execution, detailed analysis
  • Data-driven advice: Get more out of your software and make smarter decisions with in-depth reporting, dashboards and insights
  • Enhanced online presence: From a custom website and app to targeted campaigns, reach golfers whenever, wherever with messaging that resonates
  • A comprehensive approach: Get results where they matter: Google, Meta, email marketing, website, mobile app, golf suite maximization and more


A golf manager must review memberships and loyalty programs

Acquiring new customers is five times more expensive than keeping an existing customer. So to keep costs down and drive more top-line revenue, keeping your current customers happy should be a major priority. For golf managers, this means your membership base, subscribers, package holders and repeat customers.

Member management

Taking stock of your system for managing memberships comes down to one question: Does my current system help me keep things organized on the back end and my members happy on the front end?

The right golf software will prioritize membership management and help you simplify things for your most loyal customers. From consolidating payments between the pro shop or restaurant to helping you manage house accounts, communicate with members and automatically renew memberships, it’s essential to find a platform with a wide range of functions and that offers:

  • Automated processes
  • Consolidated reports
  • Seamless house accounts tool
  • Easy to understand, automated subscriptions
  • A world-class member experience

Loyalty programs

Whether you don’t yet have a loyalty program in place or you’re looking to re-tool it, consider the following.

Start a V.I.P. program: In this system, golfers who spend a certain amount at your course or play a set number of rounds get access to certain perks that other customers don’t, such as bonus rounds, free range access, clubhouse, pro shop or restaurant perks and/or early access to tee times. The best part about this strategy is that you’re building up your brand instead of simply giving things away.

Point rewards program: Points are given out in exchange for purchases. These incentive programs are so effective because they are easy to communicate. Loyalty programs do a great job of retaining your current golfers, as people are likely to keep returning to your business to keep racking up points, instead of trying out a competing course.

Use software to keep things simple: Loyalty software will help you target your marketing based on specific actions that customers take. You can send out different offers depending on if a customer buys a certain product, brings a friend to your course, or gives a referral to another golfer. Tailoring your marketing based on behavior will lead to much higher engagement rates.


Take stock of your golf food and beverage operation

Whether your course operates a bar or restaurant, a halfway house, on-course cart service or all of the above, complete a full review of your operations to ensure you’re offering the best service possible while maintaining sustainable finances.

Remember: The type of F&B service you offer matters less than the quality of that service. Some golf courses will do better if they offer fine dining, others will fare better with a casual bar-style restaurant and some will do best with quick-serve, grab-and-go offerings. The options you choose should depend on what your target customers are looking for when they play your course.

  • Find a balance between production speed, food costs and quality
  • Staff appropriately, prioritize food safety and be realistic with menu choices
  • Keep your F&B menu updated with selections your customers care about
  • Do your research, survey golfers and listen to staff to learn how you can improve service

Key restaurant KPIs to keep in mind

Here are some restaurant-specific KPIs you should track to benchmark performance and find opportunities to improve financial performance.

1. Food cost percentage

Food cost percentage represents the portion of total sales revenue spent on food ingredients. If you’re looking to assess the cost-effectiveness of your menu items and keep your pricing strategy in check, this is a key metric to monitor.

calculating food cost percentage for golf managers

2. Cash flow

Cash flow is the net amount of cash and cash-equivalents moving in and out of your restaurant business. This restaurant KPI is crucial for assessing your operation’s overall financial health. Essentially, it’s a look at money in versus money out.

calculating cash flow

3. Average check size

Also known as average ticket size, the average check size measures the average amount spent by customers on each transaction at your establishment. This restaurant metric provides insight into customer spending behavior and menu pricing effectiveness. By analyzing and optimizing the average check size, you can strategically implement upselling or cross-selling techniques to drive more revenue per customer.

how to figure out average check size at a golf course


Choosing the right restaurant POS for your facility

Long gone are the days of taking orders with pen and paper, and broken lines of communication between the service staff and the kitchen. Upgrading your restaurant POS will help you speed up service, stay more organized, flip more tables and ensure that golfers leave happy. What should this POS system be able to do?

  • Charge bills to house accounts
  • Create optimized floor plans
  • Take orders and send them directly to the kitchen
  • Use a self-ordering system in the form of a kiosk
  • Follow players from the course to the restaurant with a tee sheet to POS integration

The first function is especially important if your course requires food and drink minimums. By charging the house accounts, you can easily pull up reports for any guest enquiring after their running totals.


A golf manager has a lot on their plate, so lean on great software and great teams

Golf courses are large, complex businesses that require solid strategy and execution across a variety of departments (and we didn’t even dive into golf course maintenance and operations).

While many golf managers will have large teams who are responsible for the day-to-day execution of the tasks listed above, many don’t. And regardless, this is a demanding position that demands organization, leadership, multi-tasking and sound business judgment. In order to excel in this role in the first 90 days and beyond, golf managers must leverage the right tools and the right personnel.

Working with the right technology partner is key to help you learn, strategize and execute. At Lightspeed, we’re committed to serving ambitious golf courses who want to succeed and thrive—now and in the future. Speak to one of our experts today to learn more about how Lightspeed can help you level up your golf facility.

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