Branding Golf Courses vs. Golf Clubs
The Augusta National Golf Club logo is not good design—and other shocking revelations.
We love golf, we love playing golf. We also love great branding; we make great branding. At Sussner, we are committed to playing the ball where it lies. To that point, we stand behind our Augusta statement. Now to clarify for all of you outraged fellow golfers out there—The Augusta National Golf Club is an absolutely astonishing and magical place. The course is magnificent and certainly the golf played there has been legendary (well, at least on four days every year). Augusta’s branding, or perhaps we can relegate it to “design,” is a very good example of an organization falling victim to their own mystique. To default to a flag stick jammed into a hole on a graphic map of the United States is, we’re sorry, unremarkable. Thankfully, the stunning beauty of the course, the historic nature of their tournament, and the media machine that surrounds “The Masters” rescues and more than make up for its logo. But most courses and clubs are not that fortunate.
“I’ve been” vs “I belong”
Okay, now that we’ve got that controversy out of the way, let’s move on. We consider a golf course to be a place, a physical space, a geographical area. A golf course can often be found on a bucket list as 18 holes one wants to someday walk—play Pebble Beach, get the hat.
We see a golf club as a membership opportunity, a place to be, not simply go. A club that is indeed focused on golf, or a country club that presents a range of activities. A club that has a culture and vibe and a community. Join it and join in.
Swimming in the Sea of Sameness
As mentioned above, in large part, the golf industry all looks alike. Google golf club/course logos and be prepared to witness an endless parade of trees, cattails, flags, birds and leaves. Yes, occasionally you’ll see a drivers laid out into an X shape. Organization that do take the more club-is-a-community, club-is-a-place-to-belong approach, frequently just monogram their initials on a crest and call it a day. C’mon people, we can do better. Much better.
Bring something special, something unique and distinct to the tee box. Be meaningful. Be brave and be rewarded.
Consider the case of Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. They seized on their story, their place, and their Irish inspiration, and created a stand-out brand. They truly distinguished themselves from all competitors. And their brand goes beyond the logo and the story – it’s in every aspect that one experiences there. They know how to live their brand.
Golfers love swag, and we’re no exception. But we’ve walked away from so many poorly-branded and badly-designed hats, polo shirts and golf towels it actually caused us to write a blog about it.
The Next Gen Notices
The Golf industry is poised to capture a new wave of golfers. These players have higher expectations when it comes to branding and a brand experience. Courses and clubs that are currently healthy and keeping tee times booked should not take it for granted. History is helpful, but a thoughtful and creative outlook on the game and its player going forward, will be essential.
Enough talk. Let’s go hit a bucket.
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