Mary Bowling, Promotion Account Manager – Blizzard Internet Marketing
According to the National Golf Foundation, “there are 26.4 million golfers over the age of 12 in the U.S. Approximately 6.1 million are avid golfers…Today’s average golfer is 40 years old, has a household income of $68,000+, and plays 19 rounds a year.”
Golfers spend over $26.1 billion each year on golf travel. Seventy-five percent of that amount – more than 19 billion dollars – goes to the hotel, transportation and food and beverage industries. Avid golfers, those who play 25 or more rounds of golf each year, comprise the smallest segment of the golfing population (23%), but they accounted for 63% of all golf-related spending in 2002. These are the golfers most likely to travel for the purpose of enjoying their sport or to participate in their sport while traveling for other reasons.
The most popular golf travel destinations are Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Arizona and California. Other regions offer great opportunities for shorter golf getaways. Golf is completely dependent upon the weather, yet Minnesota boasts the most golf courses per capita in the country.
Golf travel is big business. If you’re in an area well-known for golf and would like a piece of the action, consider these directories:
Golf Link Travel (www.golflinktravel.com ) is a sister site of Golf Link.Com, one of the big players in the online golf community. Visitors choose a destination and get a page with general area and golf information. They can then choose from a menu including: golf courses, golf schools, attractions, restaurants, events and lodging. In reviewing their advertising page, it seems that every business that appears on their website has paid to be there. However, their advertorial style is convincingly good. Visitors are offered plenty of photos and useful information. It is unlikely that they realize they are viewing paid advertising.
TravelGolf.Com (www.travelgolf.com ), one of WorldGolf.Com’s online publications, claims that their “average reader takes 3 to 4 golf-related trips a year and earns $91,000 annually”. In addition to typical banner advertising, they will write and place feature articles about your business, along with photos, on targeted websites. They can focus marketing on specific countries, regions, states and cities through dozen of online golf magazines, such as TravelGolfMexico.com, RockiesGolf.com, New JerseyGolf.com and
OrlandoGolf.com. They also allow you to e-mail press releases and specials and will post them quickly.
Golf Zoo (www.golfzoo.com ) is an Expedia-type search and booking site, where golf aficionados begin by choosing a destination, then put together a package which includes lodging, golf course tee times, car rentals and air fare.
Virtual Cities (www.virtualcities.com/ ) one of Blizzard Internet Marketing’s recommended directories, has its own golf page ( www.virtualcities.com/ons/golf.htm). It allows visitors to first choose a state, then see the listed lodging properties which have golf courses nearby, as well as those which offer golf packages. When you list your property on Virtual Cities, be certain to take advantage of this feature.
GOLF TRAIL DIRECTORIES
The newest trend in golf travel is Golf Trails. The best of these can be viewed as Disneylands for golf buffs. A Golf Trail is a series of golf courses that have a common theme. Sometimes they are all products of the same renowned designer. Others are all in state parks. Some lie along a specific travel corridor and while others are merely geographically clustered. Most trails have their own websites to promote multi-day golf tours and draw travelers who wish to play a variety of courses.
Alabama has the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail (www.rtjgolf.com ), a system of nine courses along a 100 mile trail stretching the length of the state – all created by the same famous course architect. A Golf Digest survey rated it “the number one value in the world as a golf destination”. The website offers golf packages using pre-selected hotels, which set aside blocks of rooms. Visitors to this website can call a reservation agent or make an online reservation request.
In Minnesota, there is the Joel Goldstrand Golf Trail (www.joelgoldstrandgolftrail.com). Forty-one courses, all designed by Goldstrand, are arranged in two, three and four day loops, making them perfect for short or long weekend getaways throughout the state. AmericInns has worked a deal for linking from every loop page I looked at, but some have other lodging properties linked as well.
Bear Trace Golf Trail (www.beartrace.com) is a collection of five courses designed by the Golden Bear, Jack Nicklaus, and set along the historic Natchez Trace trail in Tennessee. The website offers both listings with a phone number only and listings with links on a lodging page.
The Lewis and Clark Trail Golf Trail ( www.lewisandclarkgolftrail.com ), in North Dakota, boasts more than 200 holes of golf on 20 courses along the route of early explorers. This website goes beyond golf and includes side trips to historic sites, state parks, casinos, art galleries and the like. There is no accommodations page, but you can become a sponsor for a link or ad on this page: (www.lewisandclarkgolftrail.com/index.php?action=page_manager_view_single_body&page_id=3 )
Some Golf Trails don’t have any consolidating theme, other than geography, and have joined together strictly for marketing purposes.
The North Carolina Golf Trail ( www.ncgolftrail.com/ ) promotes over 160 golf courses which welcome daily fee play, ranging from the mountains to the coast. They also provide information on lodging, vacation packages, golf schools and golf real estate. Plus, you can check out regional golf news and specials. Their detailed listings give you the facts needed to plan a golf vacation or “just get in a quick nine after a day of business”. This website came up # 3 in a recent Google search for “golf vacation lodging”.
The Red Rock Golf Trail, in the high desert of southern Utah, consists of eight remarkably scenic courses within a 15-minute drive of St George. They market packages targeted at travelers coming from Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Their “Lodging Partners” page can be found at: http://www.redrockgolftrail.com/st-george-golf-packages/
The I-95 Golf Trail ( www.i95golftrail.com/ ) claims to be “the most comprehensive and complete listing of golf courses on the east coast!” It covers 2,000 golf courses along 2,000 miles of the nation’s busiest highway, from Maine to Florida. Lodging properties located within a half mile of an Interstate 95 exit can list here. Advertising is available by the month or paid per impression. This site recently came up in the #3 position in an MSN search for “golf trail east coast”, so it likely attracts plenty of interest from the millions and millions of golfers who drive up and down the East Coast each year.
The concept of Golf Trails began on the East Coast and quickly gained a foothold in the upper Midwest. They are now spreading westward, but the Other Coast has been slow to jump on this marketing bandwagon. However, the Southern Oregon Visitor’s Association came up in the #2 spot for “oregon golf trail” in a recent MSN search.
Golf travel is such big business – and so important to the lodging industry – that we will revisit this niche again in the spring, with regional and local golf directories.