By Marc GelbkeOne of yearly “hot topics” in golf course managers’ annual budget meetings, with either the owner(s) or board of directors, is the conversation on how much, and on what particular items, capital improvements should be made for the upcoming year. Of course, the main question I would always ask myself each year is with what improvements we could improve our bottom line. The vast majority of golf course owners and boards of directors conduct strategic planning on an annual basis for their operations by the seat of their pants. Most of these decision-makers have no real evidence prioritizing what capital improvements, if any, should be made for the facility that will, at the same time, improve capital gains. Instead, these vast expenditures are made on hunches as to what the owners or boards thinks is important to the golfers. With specific surveys to your targeted cliental, one could get a more accurate baseline on what is important to golfers and what creates true loyalty. Once you have collected enough hard data, you can compare this side-by-side and see where they would intersect and use that as a point of measure. Furthermore, you may rank them by “moderate high,” “high,” and “very high” for each category. If you collected enough data and analyzed the results, you may see that, for instance, conditions of bunkers, fairways, tees and golf shop rank on the very high importance scale to your golfers, but on the very high important loyalty side you may find that overall golf course conditions, conditions of greens, course value, staff service and friendliness, quality of practice facility, and overall course design rank as the top favorites. Remember, loyalty promotes word-of-mouth recommendations, the most powerful tool for golfer/member retention and new membership/golfer business. So, if I had to recommend where to spend capital improvement money, I would stick to the loyalty side, and it will most likely provide a reasonable return on our investments.