Fat Guy Golf Monthly

This is just a spot to highlight a few pages on the site every month, based on such whims as where I've been playing lately, good seasonal destinations, where the Tour's playing, and other favorites.

Better yet, like my to get these nuggets and more (roughly once a week).

**NOTE:  I've more or less topped doing these monthy web-mags since starting my Fat Guy Facebook page.**

April 2012

Golf Course Rankings vs. The 3 Types of Retail Golfers: Courses for Horses

by Fat Guy

Note:  This article still under construction

I was recently doing some serious golf geek surfing on the web, and through the Golf Club Atlas discussion board I stumbled across a surprisingly marketing savvy 2009 article by course architect Mike Nuzzo (not a guy most of us have heard of, although he's done a handful of solo designs and restorations after years of associate work--his most noteworthy design is the highly-regarded minimalist routing Wolf Point in Texas).

Nuzzo’s article took a concept by (apparently) noted "psychophysics" expert Howard Moskowitz and applied it to the notions of golf course rankings, course marketing, course market research, golf course customer satisfaction, and ultimately the types of "retail" golfers. I found it fairly interesting and thought I’d share the highlights.

For the uninitiated like me, "psychophysics" sounds like it could be completely made-up field. But apparently it's the legitimate study of "human preferences and their detection ability." Naturally this field easily applies itself to corporate MBA-level marketing techniques for products and services.

Psychophysicist Moskowitz took these concepts and applied them to large scale taste tests for products like Diet Pepsi and spaghetti sauce, which were searching for a formula most preferred by consumers, to gain product satisfaction levels that would create brand loyal customers.

What Moskowitz found makes plenty of sense from a common sense standpoint: There wasn't a uniform pattern of preference, or a preferred formula, in an "across the board" sense. Instead, he found they were asking the wrong question. There was no such thing as a "broad appeal" Diet Pepsi or spaghetti sauce formula... but there were wide segments of test consumers that greatly preferred one variation over another. He discovered that pasta eaters' preferences on spaghetti sauce fell into 1 of 3 categories: Plain, Spicy, and Extra Chunky. When trying to create a single sauce that appealed to all 3 groups, each of the groups expressed sub-optimal satisfaction with the taste, and all three groups became disenfranchised. Only when optimizing tastes for each individual group did their satisfaction rise to the level of brand loyalty.

Course architect Nuzzo suggests that the same concept applies to golfers, and by the transitive property, golf courses.

Specifically, Nuzzo theorizes there are 3 categories of retail golfers:

-Those who enjoy the playing challenge. They want every facet of their game tested, every good shot to be rewarded, every green to be nearly flat, and strategy to be apparent from the tee. They are the group most concerned with their final score. They prefer longer courses and stroke play events. Most golf pros would fall into this category.

-Those who enjoy the overall course environment or aesthetics. They like great maintenance, pretty vistas, and lots of peripheral accents like flowers, waterfalls, and fountains. They tend to enjoy the social aspects of golf as much if not more than the game itself, and don't always even keep score. They also tend to appreciate off-course and clubhouse amenities more than others.

-Those who place enjoyment of the overall experience above all else. They love the game of golf, but they are whimsical and more interested in the course and its history than their score. They can enjoy and even laugh at the "unfair" bounces of hidden hazards or true links golf. They don't mind shorter courses, enjoy more contoured greens, like risk-reward scenarios and "hero" shots, and often prefer match play.

In other words: Challenging-But-Fair Players/Courses, Pretty Players/Courses, and Fun Players/Courses.

Compounding the confusion is that most golfers want the experience to overlap all 3 endpoints- but they seek them to different degrees. So yes, the vast majority of golfers love a course to be challenging-but-fair, pretty, and fun. But since most courses outside of, say, Augusta National, Pebble Beach, and the Old Course at St. Andrew's will struggle in at least one if not all three categories, then it's important to note that the vast majority golfers also have at least a subconscious preference for 1 of the 3 categories, whether they want to consciously acknowledge their preference or not. In the words of Moskowitz, "The mind knows not what the tongue wants."

Applied to the concept of golf course rankings, Nuzzo argues that any and all ranking lists should first be broken up into these 3 player/course categories. He offers the following courses as classic well-known examples of each category:

Challenging-But-Fair: Pine Valley, Oakmont, Shinnecock Hills

Pretty: Cypress Point, Augusta, Pebble Beach

Fun: Old Course at St. Andrew's, National Golf Links

Nuzzo offers that none of these schools should be considered a higher ideal than the others.  It's much more a matter of personal preference.

He takes the theory a step further into course market development with the theory that to create loyal repeat customers, developers and architects alike should cater to one category and try to max out that market segment. Courses should not try to be all things to all golfers with statements like, "X Golf Course is a challenging par 72 championship course with 18 whimsical signature holes." Rather, they should cater to the category embodied most by the course, knowing that golfers from the other 2 categories will still come to play, and still likely enjoy the course on some level.

I thought I'd take a moment to take Nuzzo’s concept one step further by breaking various architects into each of the categories, and rank my Top 5 courses in each as well. By the way, I'd solidly consider myself as falling into the Fun Golfer category, first and foremost.

Fat Guy's Challenging-But-Fair Architects : Donald Ross, Alister MacKenzie, George Fazio

Fat Guy's Pretty Architects : Tom Fazio

Fat Guy's Fun Architects : Mike Stranz, Stephen Kay, Pete Dye, David MacLay Kidd
Fat Guy's Top 5 Challenging-But-Fair Courses :

Fat Guy's Top 5 Pretty Courses :

Fat Guy's Top 5 Fun Courses : Tobacco Road, Scotland Run

April's "Golf As An Adventure": You won't believe how a long-forgotten 1891 Old Tom Morris design on a remote island off the coast of Scotland has come back to life.  Check out this article on Askernish Old .

Fat Guy's Link Of The Month: Hard to believe that the Hooters chain has been around for 30 years now.  Even harder to believe is that nobody else has jumped into their market niche... until now.  Think 'Hooters meets a great Irish pub', and you've got The Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery ( ).  The chain started at the Rio in Vegas back in 2003, and these days they have 55 locations nationwide (mostly on the East Coast--from NY to FL--also in TX, NV, AX, CO and CA) and growing, including one at Broadway At The Beach in Myrtle.

Drinking Made Easy -  Shake Weight Girl

Tell me this video isn't one of the sexiest things you've ever seen.