Golfnutter: What really makes golfers happy?


Laem Chabang at Bt.2800, Khao Kheow at Bt.1000 or Century Chonburi at Bt.500 – which one?

Pattaya golf organisers and local golf courses share one thing in common – a desire for happy customers.  When golfers walk off that last green, if they feel good they will be back.  So what really influences how they feel?


Are we golfers so insular as to evaluate a golf experience based solely upon how we play?  Or does the value-for-money equation play the major part in determining satisfaction?  And what about the pace of play, practise facilities, locker and shower amenities, food and beverage or quality of service?

Pattaya golfers will decide from which society they will play their golf based upon a variety of factors.  This article is not about those factors.  Rather, it is about which golf course the society chooses to play – which may or may not amount to the same thing.

Khao Kheow’s signature hole: the par-3 B8.Khao Kheow’s signature hole: the par-3 B8.

Some of us have spent many an hour debating this very issue in an attempt to arrive at a list: a top-10 that determines which courses will feature in a rolling three-month playing schedule.  And in so doing, organisers will be mindful of what their punters prefer.  But what if these same punters don’t know what they actually want, or worse, when giving reasons why a particular golfing experience was good, tell untruths?

In a recent survey commissioned by Golf Digest, two well-qualified researchers quizzed some 2,400 US respondents in an attempt to determine what golfers really want.  They were asked to recall their last away game – a round not played at their home course.  The median profile of these respondents was that of a 58yo male who plays seven rounds per month, which is not too far removed from our average Joe Blow, here in Pattaya.

Questions asked fell into one of two broad categories; satisfaction across a variety of issues such as pace of play, quality of practise facilities, weather, score and so on, and the importance attached to each issue rated.

Social scientists have long told of the contradiction between what people say and do.  In this study, for instance, many respondents said pace of play was their top driver of satisfaction, when in actuality it was the least.  One of the researchers explained that this is an aspect that assumes great importance only when others are constant.  At your home course, for example, pace of play matters a lot because you already know what to expect in the other areas.

Another point to consider is that while a slow round has a large effect on causing dissatisfaction, a fast round has minimal effect on increasing satisfaction.

Results: What golfers say makes them happy – first to last: Pace of Play, Green Fees, Course Conditions, Ease of Booking, Course Layout, Weather, Practise Facilities, Score, Quality of Carts, Service, Food and Beverage, Locker Room and Merchandise; thirteen in total.

What actually makes golfers happy – first to last: Course Conditions, Course Layout, Score, Green Fees, Food and Beverage, Service, Locker Room, Ease of Booking, Quality of Carts, Practise Facilities, Merchandise, Weather, Pace of Play; thirteen in total.

Analysis: First, to put these results into a Pattaya context, out comes Weather, Merchandise and Quality of Carts as issues I believe wouldn’t or don’t overly concern us.  Replace these and one other with Caddies and you may have a Pattaya-related top-10 of issues.

Second, the huge disparity regarding Pace of Play – from first to last – needs clarifying.  The article partly explained it by saying it is a hygiene factor, a dissatisfier rather than a motivator.  It also notes that golfers playing away are normally on tour with mates, so are not likely to be in a rush to get home, or attend an evening meeting.

Third, and by far the most telling, course conditions proved the most important driver of satisfaction when golfers travel.  Specifically, in ascending order, golfers value the conditions of the bunkers, the tee boxes, the fairways and, most of all, the greens.  In short, more than anything golfers want to play courses where they feel they have a reasonable chance of getting their fair share of putts.

If the results of this survey are to be believed, golf organisers need place course conditions first when determining their playing schedules.  As regards slow play, it appears not to matter providing everything else is fine….umm…. I’m not too sure about this.

Personally, the major determinants for me are cost, course conditions and the people I play with, but the latter is not a course-related issue so doesn’t feature here.  Rather, this has more to do with the venue a golfer chooses, which will be the subject of a future article.

Happy golfing,