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Golf Course's Postcard Drives Lessons

A $2,500 postcard effort scored a hole in one for a high-end public golf course on New York's Long Island.

The Links at Shirley in Shirley, NY, wanted to improve on the interest generated last year for its Junior Golf Academy. By using advertising and community outreach, but no direct marketing, the privately owned facility registered fewer than 10 students.

“We started [the academy] last year and didn't do as much [business] as we anticipated,” said Mel Leigh Mindich, managing member at The Links at Shirley. “We didn't do direct mail last year.”

This year's situation is quite different.

“We have 25 kids signed up already, which will bring in about $10,000,” he said. “Direct mail has given me the only quantifiable response I've had with any marketing I've done. I hope to do 100 registrations this year,” which would bring in $40,000.

Working with ad agency Topline, Ronkonkoma, NY, a postcard was produced that was mailed to 4,500 households in Suffolk County, where the course is located.

“Our ad agency bought a list of people with a golf interest,” Mindich said. “They have at least one golfer in the family, at least one kid in the age group that can attend the academy and they had to live within a 25-mile radius. From that list, we picked selected ZIP codes based on areas that we thought were affluent with a high level of interest in golf.”

The average annual household income targeted was above $60,000.

“Though everybody is trying to bring it to the masses, golf is high end,” he said. “It's not an inexpensive sport.”

The cards feature two pictures on the front: a group of children walking on a course carrying their golf bags, and another of a student putting while his instructor looks on. The copy reads, “Introduce your children to the game of golf, or help them improve their skills, by enrolling them in the Junior Golf Academy at the Links at Shirley Learning Center.”

“I wanted something that quickly captures their attention,” Mindich said. “When you see this card, it shows kids playing and being instructed in how to play golf.”

The copy mentioned on-course instruction, a 6-to-1 student-to-instructor ratio along with “learning the rules, playing techniques and etiquette” of the game.

“The student-teacher ratio is important because you want them to know it's not a mass, group lesson,” he said. “It's a small, private lesson as opposed to 100 people lined up on a tee with an instructor.”

The piece dropped in mid- to late April.

“You want this to arrive when people are planning the summer for their kids,” Mindich said. “You don't want to send it in January, when snow is on the ground, and you don't want to do it too late since there was a discount mentioned on the back for early registration by May 15, so you couldn't send it on May 10. It got to them around the third week in April, when people are thinking about golf and the Masters.”

Providing golf clubs, whether for purchase, rent or with a rent-to-buy option, is an important add-on element. The back of the card gives prices: $195 for students ages 6-9 who spend three days at the academy; and $395 for students 10-16 who spend five days at the academy. However, when including golf club purchases and rentals, along with clothing and parents' fees for their use of the course, each student enrolled generates an average of $400 in revenue.

The back of the piece gave phone and fax numbers, directions, the facility's Web site and general information.

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