Who says golf is in decline?
Don't count Jason Becker in that camp. The Bonita Springs golf professional is building a promising business called Golf Membership Consultants that matches avid golfers in northern states with clubs and communities in Florida.
There are 165 golf clubs from Port Charlotte to Naples and 700,000 private-club members from Minnesota to Maine. With 1,000 people moving to Florida per day, Becker hopes to match them with the right club.
Golf clubs pay a yearly fee ranging from $3,500 to $7,500 to Golf Membership Consultants. So far, 42 clubs have become such affiliates, and Becker plans to add another 25 in Palm Beach by the end of the year. Many of these clubs are tied to residential developments.
Golf Membership's residential real estate agency finds and brings buyers to these clubs based on an analysis of their real estate and golf budgets. So far, the company has found buyers by referrals from private-club managers in northern states as word has gotten around.
Already, Becker says his company performed 128 complimentary consultations with prospective buyers, helping them select the right golf community for their needs. Like other real estate agencies, Golf Membership's real estate arm collects a commission on any sale in which it represents a buyer.
Golf clubs know that prospective buyers have been vetted. “The last thing you want is a member that doesn't enjoy it,” Becker says.
Golf Membership Consultants plans to launch a public relations campaign to generate prospective northern buyers. “Last year was the testing stages,” Becker says. “We knew this would work.”
To do that, it has hired Buffalo Brand Invigoration Group, a firm headed by former PGA of America CEO Joe Steranka. The $155,000 effort will involve targeting golfers through various media channels, including magazines, websites and television. “He has agreed to take over our PR campaign,” says Becker, who notes that the push will begin in October.
The firm also attracts prospects by hosting tournaments at the clubs that are affiliates. For example, Golf Membership Consultants will host 40 couples who will pay about $3,000 per couple for a week of golf and spas in Naples in December.
So far, the company has raised $500,000 from 25 investors. Revenues could reach $5 million next year, Becker estimates. “It depends how quickly we develop on the other coast,” he says, referring to the company's expansion in Palm Beach.
The relationship with buyers doesn't end at the sale. Golf Membership Consultants works with more than 200 businesses in the region ranging from hotels to doctors and plumbing companies to help buyers get settled. These businesses, which have been carefully vetted, pay Golf Membership Consultants $350 a year to become affiliates. “We've created other revenues streams,” Becker explains.
So far, the company employs nine people. But Becker, a Business Observer 40 under 40 winner who started the company in his garage, plans to move the company to a much larger facility near the Naples Municipal Airport to accommodate the anticipated growth. “We're getting prepared,” he says.
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