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Benchmarking 101: Golf Course Operation

Let’s face it, when it comes to benchmarking, most hotel professionals historically put their efforts into measuring room revenue. Sadly, if you’re only focused on rooms, you're missing out on ancillary revenue and, ultimately, profit. 

In this blog, we shine the light on golf. While golf participation hit a peak in 2005—because of this guy—it waned in the ensuing years as the sport lost some of its popularity. But that same guy’s resurgence has led to a mini golf boom, which is sweet music to golf resort ears worldwide.

A resort’s golf operation is one of the most untapped resources out there. After all, golf is an $84 billion industry—don’t you want your piece? 

Nailing down a resort’s golf course benchmarking strategy can lead to higher profit.

Not sure where to start? Read on. Here are the essential tips for benchmarking a hotel’s golf operation. 

Why You Need a Golf Benchmarking 101 Strategy

A resort’s profit relies on assets other than rooms. And setting up KPIs around a golf operation tells a more complete story about the resort’s overall financial health. However, benchmarking for a golf course comes with some caveats. 

Why You Should—And Can!—Benchmark Profitability: How Moving Beyond RevPAR Can  Improve Your Bottom Line

First, the demand for your golf resort depends heavily on external events. After all, when was the last time your fairways were packed during a rainstorm? This is why a golf benchmarking 101 strategy should help stabilize the operation’s full profit. By digging into the metrics, you can see which areas of the golf operation are profitable and which are holding the resort back. 

Second, golf can be a high-cost business. From course maintenance and hiring staff to operating F&B services in the clubhouse, a resort’s course comes with heavy expenses. If you neglect the numbers, the hotel’s golf resort can bleed out profits. 

So, how should you go about setting up your golf benchmarking strategy? Here are some tips to get you started.

Take a Holistic Approach to Benchmarking Golf 

Naturally, it’s easy to get caught up in revenue-only metrics like revenue per hole. However, the better approach to benchmarking golf operations follows the same blueprint as a healthy hotel performance strategy—drill down into profit. 


Start by setting your sights on gross margins by department. Pay special attention to how much the hotel is spending in each area of its course operation. This means pitting revenue numbers against these key costs:

  • Course maintenance costs
  • Labor costs
  • Building energy and maintenance costs
  • Equipment and general admin costs

By starting on a granular level, you can see how much profit each area of the golf course is pulling in. And this reveals where you can cut back when revenue streams change. 

Approach Revenue in a Smarter Way

Revenue should never be the only figure in your benchmarking strategy. This goes for the whole hotel operation as well as its golf operation. However, revenue can still play an important role—as long as you keep the big picture in mind.

When looking at golf-related revenue, remember to stack it up against what the hotel is spending. This means reaching beyond popular golf metrics like average rate per round (ARPR) or revenue per available round.

Instead, there are more complete golf revenue KPIs that you can use in tandem with expenses:

  • Full Course Labor as a percent of revenue and costs 
  • F&B labor expense as a percentage of F&B revenue
  • Course maintenance as a percentage of gross margins

As a bonus, be sure to account for all sources of revenue as you set up your metrics. This includes things like tee-time fees and promotions. 

Measure Every Corner of Your Golf Operation

Sure, it’s easy to get caught up in the obvious on-course metrics, such as green fees and course maintenance costs. But there’s much more to a resort’s golf operation than what’s happening on the links. 

When you’re benchmarking, remember to keep mini-operations in mind. This means gathering data for often overlooked course-related operations:

  • Measure clubhouse F&B cost and profits
  • Consider instructor costs and classes
  • Use metrics from merchandise and equipment rentals

By benchmarking the operations that live on your golf course’s fringes, you’ll get a more complete picture of where money is really coming from, and where it’s going. 

What Metrics Can Show You

Great golfers understand the strengths and weaknesses of their game. If they don’t have the drive to clear the water, they’ll lay up and rely on a more strategic short game.

And the same goes for your hotel’s golf operation. 

By taking a deeper look at your golf resort’s numbers, you’ll know its strengths and weaknesses. After crunching the numbers, a resort may decide to add or remove holes. Not seeing returns from the clubhouse? Maybe it’s time to take a second look at products or vendor relationships. 

Overall, digging into the right numbers means you’ll rely less on the daily forecast, focus more on operational efficiency and have the hotel benchmarking data to drive profit across your resort. 

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