As a golf industry veteran of 25 years, you would think John McNair has seen it all. But what he loves about the business he serves is that every day is different. McNair oversees all aspects of operations for JC Golf and currently serves as president of the Southern California PGA. He’s also asked to speak on a variety of operations and marketing topics at the Golf Academy of America and Professional Golfers Career College.
We recently caught up with McNair to discuss JC Golf’s growing portfolio, what drives the company’s mission and issues facing the industry.
JC Golf has added three golf courses to its portfolio in the last six months. What are you looking for in a golf course?
They need to be a fun and playable course. And it needs to add value to a golfer in that area. For example, adding Welk Resorts in Escondido and Woods Valley in Valley Center for someone that lives between Temecula and Twin Oaks, those are two nice options to play more golf and have a good variety. Our primary focus is to partner with groups and courses that add value to the JC Players Card and card members.
Why expand into the Palm Springs area?
It gives our JC members an opportunity to play in the desert. I would say 15 percent of our members do go to the desert to play golf so this gives them another option. And since we’re working with Welk Resorts at Cathedral Canyon, there’s an opportunity for stay and play packages.
Why so many new partnerships in this short amount of time?
There’s no timeframe around it. We just want to make sure it’s the right fit at the right time. We want to add value to our members and help those courses improve both operationally and financially.
JC Golf courses have a strong reputation for quality. How do you balance a quality experience and still provide golf at a competitive rate?
It starts with the golf course maintenance side. Our philosophy is to have strength down the middle, meaning our tees, fairways and greens are always going to be in great shape. Two, we are always pace of play focused. As time continues to be at a premium, we always want to make sure we provide a great product at a good pace. And finally we are committed to quality customer service. Those three things are what our golfers expect from us. We make sure we are doing this no matter which JC Golf course you are playing and whatever price point.
Economics of the day are having an effect on rounds played. How do you compete against the web sites out there that offer discounted golf?
We believe that since we spend more money on course conditions, operations and pace than many of our competitors, we charge a price that’s equitable to that experience. We are always going to make sure that our JC Players always receive our guaranteed best available rate.
How has the golfer changed over the years? What do customers want?
We believe that a golfer wants good quality conditions, good pace of play and quality food and beverage. While expectations have changed, golfers still want that. And core golfers, the ones who play at least eight times a year, definitely want that.
What are some of the barriers to grow the game? What are you doing about it?
I think time is our biggest barrier, even more than money. The role of the parent has changed, as many parents both work. And since kids are much more active these days that has put more time constraints on parents. That’s why we spend time focusing on pace of play and keeping a round as close to four hours as possible. We also are working to introduce more people to the game. With our Intro2Golf program, we’ve had 5,000 people go through it in the last five years. At Encinitas Ranch, we have 12 people who teach full time – that’s what they do.
Which sector of the population will have the most impact on growing the game?
Approximately one-quarter of all our rounds come from female players, so I think there’s a lot of opportunity there. We also are relentless at trying to introduce more young people to the game. As an example, the Parent-Junior program at Oaks North is big for us in trying to get the whole family out to enjoy a round.
What do you love about this game?
What I love about what I do is that it’s never the same. Every day is different and presents a new challenge. The golf business isn’t easy but there’s no better business to be in frankly. I love the challenge of it all, whether it’s the work or the game itself. No matter what age or what ability, you have the opportunity to get better and that’s what I love about this game.
Marc Figueroa is a freelance writer who has been covering golf in San Diego for more than 20 years.