Like most everyone else in the golf industry, we were taken aback to hear of Arnold Palmer’s passing on Sunday, September 25, 2016. Even though he was 87 years old, and we could see over the course of the last several months that he looked to be in ill health, we took the news hard. The outpouring of emotion from every corner of the golf world and beyond has been amazing. The Ryder Cup, his family’s private memorial service, and the celebration in Latrobe on September 27, 2016, are all expected special outpourings of emotion and remeberances. We all should consider ourselves very lucky to have witnessed the life of a very special soul.
One word that is repeated over and over when describing Arnold Palmer is the word “authentic.” According to just about every personal recolection by people who’ve encountered him over the years is that ‘he made you feel special,” “he made you feel like you were the most important person in the room,” “he was never looking beyond you to be with someone else.” The Merriam Webster definition of the word “authentic” is: “true to one’s own personality, spirit or character.” From that definition you can see the connection.
We know Arnold Palmer was a golf course owner and the name sake of a successful golf course management company. Bay Hill in Orlando, Florida and Latrobe Country Club in Latrobe, Pennsylvania are two for sure. For those who’ve had the good fortune to visit and experience those properties, what was the common denominator? How did they make you feel? Did you feel welcome? Did they make you feel special? How was the staff? How was the condition of the property? Was it all consistent with the “authenticity” that Arnold Palmer brought to his life? Every golf course operation is a small business, like a tavern, a restaurant, a shoe store, a clothing store, a doctor, a dentist. Each of these businesses take on the personality of the owner, through the people that are hired, the way they are trained and managed, even down to the way they are compensated and treated. This is an immutable fact. Golf courses are no different.
What are you doing to give your customers that “authentic” experience at your property? Are you getting out from your office? Out from behind the counter? Are you looking people in the eye? Are you taking your hat off inside the clubhouse? Are you making people feel special? If you are, you’re running a successful operation. If you’re not, chances are your operation is suffering and could be doing better.
Out of respect to Arnold Palmer, for everything he has done to make this game what it is today, we owe it to him to do our part to make the experience at your golf course as authentic as possible. It will help us all keep the love and respect of golf alive, and help you create a more successful operation.