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December 2020

Public-Access Courses Nimbly Plan for the Holidays

By Sally J. Sportsman

On Pawleys Island, just south of the Grand Strand in South Carolina, lies Caledonia Golf & Fish Club and its sister course, True Blue Golf Club. Often cited as top public courses, both are places where locals enjoy celebrating the winter holidays. This year should be no different, albeit with several twists.

“Traditionally we have had a three-pronged approach with particular goals in mind for the holiday season,” says Bob Seganti, PGA Director of Golf Operations at both courses, who has been with the company for 25 years.
There are year-end pro shop inventory levels the courses, open all year long, would like to reach, with goals based on historical sales over a three-year period. Although Covid-19 affected sales this past spring, golf rounds and merchandise revenues have been good since then.

“We had our best summer ever historically at both courses this year,” Seganti says. “There is a demand for golf, to be in outdoor spaces, taking safety precautions seriously, as we do.”

Despite the pandemic the two courses will try to hit their end-of-year retail sales goals, but they are uncertain, according to Seganti. Less inventory is kept in stock now in case there is a relapse. Instead of seasonal holiday styles, what’s been ordered is a mix of standard outerwear for men and women, with more basic colors and fewer patterns than in years past. Vendors are trying to be nimble with the ability to deliver more merchandise quickly if needed.

“We reduced our fall advance ordering between the two properties by $150,000 in wholesale prices,” says Seganti.
The second part of the strategy relates to rate integrity, particularly with respect to rounds played.
“This is important to our properties,” Seganti says. “We do take advantage of revenue management, moving rates up, not down, from a base rate.

“For the holiday season, we add value.”

For example, in years past and again this year, Toys for Tots Day at the Caledonia venue means a round of golf is discounted 50% if a player brings one new toy. The difference this year is that specials probably will be announced with shorter notice, after management has a feel for the market.

One thing that won’t change is that both properties will be fully decorated for the holidays. And there will be the usual strong focus on hosting holiday gatherings, with health precautions in place.

“We would be pleasantly surprised if we get 75% of our bookings back this year,” Seganti says. “We’ve had no cancellations yet, although we’ve been liberal with cancellation policies.”

Finally, food and beverage plans will be altered based on pandemic safety rules. With water views from every table and a casual menu, dining at both venues is popular.

“Fifty percent of our dine-in customers are non-golfers,” Seganti says. “We work hard at marketing to locals and businesses in the area.”

Dine-in business was down 25% at both places through August compared to last year. However, other offerings – halfway house and beverage cart sales – have increased.

“Golfers haven’t stopped drinking beer or eating bananas – a silver lining,” says Seganti.

 

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