One of my mentors always said that you can learn a lot about a person’s character over the course of 18 holes of golf. Lately, I have learned a few other things from golf that translate into the business world.
A few weeks ago I found myself in Georgia at the Augusta National Golf Club watching a practice round before the Masters tournament. I have watched the Masters on television every year for as long as I can remember. On television, the course looks amazing. From the dogwoods and azaleas that are always blooming at the right time to the greenest and perfectly manicured fairways, Augusta appears to be perfect.
So as we parked our car and started walking towards the grounds, I started to wonder, “Are my expectations too high? Will I be disappointed because reality cannot possibility meet my expectations?” I was just about to get a big dose of what I am now calling the “Augusta Experience.”
Augusta National blew me away. Even with my sky high expectations, it simply blew me away. What I witnessed was perfection. And very customer focused. Here are a few things that contributed to my experience:
1. An apparent lack of greed exists at this event. I bought one of the famous Pimiento Cheese sandwiches (had to do it, had to experience it!) for the whopping price tag of $1.50. They realize there is no need to gouge the patrons (there are no customers at Augusta, just patrons), because the experience is so great that patrons will keep coming back for more. More of the golf course, more souvenirs, more pimiento cheese sandwiches.
2. The main product, the main attraction, is the golf course itself and the history that is part of its make-up. Bobby Jones, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and many others have created history on this course. But in this case, the canvas might be more important than the paint and the artists. The course is hard to describe using any word other than…perfect. It is beautiful with strategically planted trees (for which each hole is named) and flowers. The grass (Bermuda, overseeded each fall with rye) is thicker and greener than any other course. There is no trash anywhere. Even leaves and pine cones that drop from trees are quickly scooped up by the grounds crew. It is a great product with a well-deserved reputation.
3. The patrons form a community. Any given day of practice of the tournament there will be somewhere between 35,000 and 50,000 patrons on the course. Yet, if you place your chair in a spot you like and wander away for a while (even a long while, even the rest of the day), when you return, your chair will be there waiting for you. No exceptions. The patrons respect each other because they know they are all there to witness the best golfers in the world playing one of the best golf courses in the world.
4. Augusta National is a patron-friendly experience. Yes, there are rules. Actually, there are many rules and they are enforced. But the little things that together make up the experience are all done to ensure that each patron walks away having had an incomparable day.
So here is the challenge that August National presents for the rest of us. Would your patrons, your customers, say their expectations of you are very high and you consistently blow them away? That is what I have started to call the Augusta Experience. It may be a lofty goal, but just think how loyal your patrons would be if you were to achieve it.