If the courses are the flesh of the Bandon Dunes experience, the caddies are the blood. They're equal parts advisor, guide, local historian, confessor and post-round drinking buddy.

5 Habits of "Highly Effective" Golf Resorts

This article originally appeared on GolfVacationInsider.com

You've probably heard of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the famous self-help book written in the late 1980s by Stephen Covey.

I was thinking about the book recently and realized that a lot of these habits apply to golf courses and resorts.

It turns out that five of Covey's seven "habits of highly effective people" can also be seen as "habits of highly effective golf courses and resorts."

Take a look at these and let me know what others you'd like to add...

"Be Proactive"

As far as I'm concerned, the first rule of customer service - not just in travel but in any business - is: "Keep the customer informed." The resorts who put themselves in their guests' shoes tend to communicate best and clearest. Here are a few examples of great proactive behavior:

  • Informing guests -- during the reservation process -- of any maintenance issues
  • Sending upcoming guests an email with events and activities for the days of their stay
  • Offering to pair a twosome with another twosome in order to smooth out pace of play
  • Pre-marking players' scorecards with cart-path-only holes on a morning after overnight rain
  • In case of a mix-up or mistake, not just apologizing but giving some info as to what's being done to rectify the error

"Put First Things First"

Mike Keiser's properties' main mission is simple: provide a world-class golf experience. Everything else follows from there.

Some resorts seem to be hell-bent on trying to please every possible type of visitor - buddy groups, families, business travelers. These different groups have different expectations and needs, and can sometimes mix like oil and water. What inevitably happens is that property concerned with attracting everyone ends up delighting no one.

What makes Mike Keiser's developments - Bandon Dunes, Cabot, Sand Valley - so unequivocally successful is that they all seem to spring from one guiding principle: "Build the best possible golf courses and people will come." If you want to attract golfers, and you build world-class golf courses, chances are you're going to succeed.

"Think 'Win-Win'"

Yes, the leisure business is just that: a business. But I can't help but think that the nickel-and-dime tactics some resorts seem to deploy actually hurt their balance sheets in the long run by annoying some guests into seeking R&R elsewhere.

Let's be honest: is charging $15 for a yardage book really so necessary that you want to give up the chance to create warm-fuzzy feeling that golfers get when extras like a yardage book and a bag tag show up in the golf cart, included in the guest fee? Those facilities make golfers feel special and enrich themselves by creating strong repeat business.


This is especially crucial when it comes to booking both the golf and lodging for a trip at the same time, or with the same person. Highly effective golf resorts have well trained reservations staff who are as well-versed in golf operations and tee time bookings as they are in lodging concerns. Likewise, a golf staffer who can help make you a dinner reservation is a great ally.

"Sharpen the Saw"

Trends are constantly cropping up and dissipating. Golfers' behaviors are changing. Yet some courses and resorts seem to be stuck in 1995. "Highly effective" courses and resorts aren't afraid to implement new ideas and seek feedback from their clientele. Six-hole rates. FootGolf options. Relaxed dress codes. Not every new initiative becomes permanent, but the inclination to experiment is a sign of attentive leadership, which makes for a better guest experience.

What are the most important "habits of highly effective golf resorts," in your experience? Please do us the honor of sharing your thoughts in the comments below!

Oct 31, 2017

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john sharp sr.'s avatar
john sharp sr. wrote at 2017-11-07 15:15:13+00:00:

Pairing up foursomes is quite common place at many gold courses. What is not done is pairing like golfers together. The questions should be asked are:

1. What is your handicap

2. What tees do you play from

3. What type of person would you prefer to be teamed with.

4. May we change your tee time to better pair you with someone who plays like you.

All to often I get teamed up with an excellent golfer and that screws up my game because I rush to keep up. I play from the Senior tees and playing with someone who plays from the championship tees just isn't right.

D. Thomas's avatar
D. Thomas wrote at 2017-11-01 18:59:10+00:00:

I've played both Cabot courses and 3 at Bandon Dunes . Both gorgeous settings , and a worthwhile experience ,but I do wish modern golf architects would keep the average golfer in mind . Blind shots to greens that don't hold is not good design . The 17th at Cabot Links for example -- a short par 4 that goes straight up hill, then doglegs right down the hill . The green is reachable , but the tee shot is blind , the green is guarded by a deep bunker in front, and is impossible to hold with a short iron hit .The pin was set almost in the middle of the green , but the entire left side of the green is sloped severely from left to right . putting up hill , if the ball went 2 -3 feet past , it would roll back towards you ,leaving a 4 footer ! Goofy .

The iconic 16th is also bad -- greens do not need a four foot elevation change in the middle, with a small landing area on the right half of the green, and no obvious bail out area .Gorgeous looking , but too difficult !

Gary P. in K.C.'s avatar
Gary P. in K.C. wrote at 2017-10-31 16:58:34+00:00:

Booked a buddies trip for 8 to Doral on June 16 for Sep. 23-27. Called 3 days after Hurricane Irma. Was told minimal damage and all would be good for our trip. Called Doral the day before arrival and was told no courses open and hoped to open one while we were there. Never received any notice from anyone at Doral about courses closed. Called PGA National and within 45 minutes Richard had all accommodations and tee-times set up for arrival 20 hours later. PGA's Pro, Mike, even called after we landed and asked if he could prepare scorecards, tournament sheet, closet to the pin, etc. Great customer service all the way around at PGA National. PGA National made a terrible situation great for us. Would go back to PGA National in a heartbeat!

Clarita R's avatar
Clarita R wrote at 2017-10-31 14:48:44+00:00:

My group of ladies have been to several outstanding golf resort and so far it's been enjoyable and we feel special when they give us name tag. We visited one of the most beautiful resort this summer and to my amazement we felt like the resort is geared for men only, anyway the four courses that we played is outstanding and hopefully in the future they will cater more to women.

Jeff D's avatar
Jeff D wrote at 2017-10-31 14:32:36+00:00:

Golf courses are designed and operated by the top 1% of golfers in terms of handicap. Many have difficulty relating to the other 99%. Even the apparel manufacturers design golf clothes for the bodies of 24 year old tour players or someone 5'8" tall with an 19" neck. Let's get some mediocre golfers in charge and maybe the sport will grow.

PJ Thompson's avatar
PJ Thompson wrote at 2017-10-31 13:42:20+00:00:

This post hits it in the center of the clubface. Don't nickel and dime. Recognize the needs of the couples trip are unique from the buddy trip or the company outing. What really distinguishes the great destinations is the management of the experience. From the reservationist scheduling the couples trip so it isn't ruined by the corporate shotgun start to the manager checking on the 19th hole the great ones make the extra effort.

I would emphasize what sets the greatest destinations apart is 'ask and ye shall receive'. No seeking out the right person to talk to. Ask the caddie, the maintenance guy on the 12th hole, or the lady with the name tag you pass in the hall. Ask and it happens. The spa booking, the reservation, the thing I forgot in the golf cart. Done.

Also: don't try the gimmicks if you can't get the basics right. And just give up if your people aren't motivated to please your customers.

Dave S.'s avatar
Dave S. wrote at 2017-10-31 13:36:09+00:00:

At Forest Dunes recently with a group of 8. The staff was spectacular. We walked into the dining area our first night, I was greeted by name, and we were provided with a perfect table for our group. One of the group left some items in our villa and they were returned without hassle or cost. Service, service, service.

Bob V in Pittsburgh area's avatar
Bob V in Pittsburgh area wrote at 2017-10-31 12:53:37+00:00:

Been to all the Keiser golf resorts except SV and planning that for the summer of 2018. I organize these trips for my friends and the Golf trumps everything. One thing I would tell the resorts is while golfers like some challenges they don’t want their egos destroyed. Resorts should aim to setup the courses so they are playable and enjoyable. Four hard pins a day should be enough. You don’t want ppl saying that was too hard and no fun. Difficult is ok but brutal is wrong. I remember playing the Ocean course one time. I remember 10 hard pin placements on an already difficult track. Why? I’ll never go back. I love what resorts are doing now by adding a super large putting area like the punch bowl and par 3 courses. This gives the folks who don’t want to play 36 something fun to do while other may be playing another 18.


Tom Becker's avatar
Tom Becker wrote at 2017-10-31 12:44:30+00:00:

Coordination. Playing a 36 hole day in a group? Breakfast prepared at a time certain so morning tee time is easy; lunch prepared and ready at the turn. When each part of the operation is in synch so the day moves smoothly, everything is so much easier!

Tim Gavrich

Senior Writer

Tim Gavrich is a Senior Writer for Golf Advisor and the Managing Editor of the Golf Vacation Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @TimGavrich and on Instagram @TimGavrich.