Golf Facility Operations Field Trip: Ken McDonald

We got to put barcodes on a new shipment of Arizona State University fleece pullovers.
We got to put barcodes on a new shipment of Arizona State University fleece pullovers.

In Golf Facility Operations with PGA Professional Warren Pitman, we’re learning how to run a golf course from the inside-out. There are a lot of things happening behind-the-scenes that the customer doesn’t see, whether it’s properly managing the tee sheet or taking stock of inventories.

That’s why today’s field trip out to Ken McDonald Golf Course in Tempe (one of the City’s two municipal courses) was so important. It was a chance for us to see how all of the things we’ve learned in class from a theoretical perspective are being utilized from a practical perspective – in the real world.

Ryan Kern is the Head Golf Professional at the City of Tempe-owned facility currently operated by Millenium Golf Management (MGM) in Gilbert, and he’s been the Head Pro for a few years now. Ryan is also a 2012 Golf Academy of America graduate, which means he’s a great resource of students like us who are getting ready to graduate and enter the golf industry in the next few months.

We got to see how Ken McDonald uses its Active Network System to book tee times and build customer profiles as well as process inventory. The course recently received a new shipment of Columbia fleece pullovers with the Arizona State University pitchfork logo, and we got to affix barcode labels on them so they were ready to go out for sale in the pro shop.

Ryan explained
Head Golf Pro Ryan Kern told us he does everything from giving golf lessons to cooking and cleaning dishes.

Ryan told us how MGM works closely with the City to manage the course’s nearly $3 million annual budget. MGM makes its money on lessons, food and beverage, and merchandise sales in the pro shop, while Tempe makes its money on greens/cart fees, range balls, and about 20% of any group lessons or instructional clinics at the course.

There was a time, before the crash in 2008 and before Ryan was working here, when Ken McDonald was getting 100,000 rounds of golf a year. Tee times were just six minutes apart. Then from 2007 to 2008, rounds plummeted some 30%!

Now, the course gets about 65,000 rounds a year, and like a lot of Valley golf courses, will make roughly 70% of its total revenue for the year in a three-and-a-half month period. The rest of the year, Ken McDonald is operating at a loss, although it still sees 130-150 rounds per day during the summer months.

Ryan is the head pro, but he’s also in charge of the Tempe Golf Newsletter. He showed us how he uses Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel, skills he polished while attending the Golf Academy to make everything from the newsletter to flyers for the pro shop.

These are pretty important skills to have, and Ryan uses them on a daily basis. The newsletter is also important for generating new business. Research shows that a majority of people go back to the facility where they learned how to play golf, so there’s a good chance the beginners that come out to Ken McDonald will be customers for life.

Ryan took us into the cart barn
Ken McDonald has more than 70 E-Z-Go golf carts, a fleet Ryan says will be upgraded next year.

The big takeaway for me today was seeing how many jobs Ryan has to do as the head pro. Ryan wears a lot of hats, and they’re not all golf related. When he’s not managing its fleet of more than 70 E-Z-GO golf carts (which the course is planning on upgrading next year) or making sure the range balls are continuously being replaced, Ryan is calling on the course’s 62 leagues and scheduling weekend tournaments or cooking and cleaning dishes.

Oh, and in his spare time, Ryan also gives golf lessons. He’s a busy man, but from the sound of it, Ryan is also thankful not to be stuck in a cubicle. When you’re in the golf business, you’re always learning, and you’re never stuck in one department.

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