Kevin Baker on Travel: Offer a Quality Club Shipping Service

Kevin Baker
Kevin Baker is the PGA director of golf at Reunion Resort in Kissimmee, Fla.

Kevin Baker on the importance of offering a quality club-shipping service:

About a quarter of our business comes from golf groups, and many of them have their clubs shipped to Reunion. It was always hard to track the clubs because for a group of 12 golfers, we’d usually have 12 different tracking numbers and even different shipping companies.

So we decided to try a golf-specific shipping service that all of our golfers could use. The service we use, Ship Sticks, makes it easy for us. The golfers can ship their clubs to Reunion from home, their office or their home golf course. The shipping company uses UPS and FedEx but takes care of tracking the clubs. When the clubs arrive, we get an email.

My group services manager can actually log on and see that the clubs have all been delivered and are on Reunion property, which is a huge benefit. But the biggest advantage for us is when people are leaving the resort. They come to us at the last minute and tell us they need to ship their clubs. In the past, we’d have to contact our shipping manager, who might not have been immediately available.

The golf shop would then have a quote a price and collect the money from the customer, and often we’d get a bill that was higher than what we charged. We won’t back to the customer for the difference, so we lost money. There was also the perception by the customer that we were making money on shipping, or nickel-and-diming them, even though that wasn’t true. Now, we have the service set up on a computer in the golf shop.

We can click on the Ship Sticks icon, fill out the form, and the customer can pay for it right on the computer with his credit card. We don’t collect the money, so we’ve removed that perception that we’re upcharging them. And the golfers get a better rate than they can get directly with UPS or FedEx.

For example, they had a special roundtrip rate that was cheaper than checking your clubs on the airlines. One foursome flying in from Michigan put everything they were going to wear in the box with the clubs and shipped it, so they only needed a small carry-on. When they arrived, they had their stuff delivered right to their rooms at Reunion.

Kevin Baker on the business impact of offering a quality club-shipping service:

The biggest impact for us is operational. About 25 percent of our business in 2012 was groups, and we’re on target to increase that to about 35 percent in 2013. All together, we do roughly 30,000 rounds of group golf business, and the shipping service streamlines this aspect of the business.

If there’s a problem, the shipping service figures out where the clubs are and ensures they reach the resort. It eliminates the perception that we’re upcharging our customers, and it takes us out of the middle.

Plus, we get a small commission based on our overall sales, so it’s been a really good service for us. We love the ease of booking for ourselves and the golfers, and we don’t have to worry about tracking. Our next step will be pricing the shipping service into our packages; in essence, we’ll be offering complementary shipping.

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U.S. Open at Merion

U.S. Open at Merion will be Unlike Any Other We’ve Seen in Recent Years

U.S. Open at Merion

For over 100 years the U.S. Open has staked claim to the “Toughest Test in Golf”. With narrow fairways, high rough and lightening-fast greens, it can make even the best players in the world look like your everyday average hacker.

Thirty years ago, winning the U.S. Open required precision, patience and strategy but with the USGA lengthening the site of the tournament nearly every year, it now requires something else – a considerable degree of distance off the tee.

Most of this is due to the recent advances made in equipment technology over the past decade. Players are hitting the ball farther thus the courses needed to be lengthened to remain formidable, and while this practice has certainly helped the U.S. Open live up to its reputation, it has taken away from the rich tradition of the tournament that stood for so many years. This June at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, this won’t be the case.

At only 6,900 yards, the U.S. Open at Merion will be the shortest it’s been in over 10 years. Just to give you an idea of how much shorter, the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in 2008 was 7,600 yards and the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island last year was 7,800 yards. And with temperatures expected to be in the 80 degree range, the ball will be flying farther and the course will be playing even shorter.

What Merion lacks in length, it will certainly make up for in course layout. In addition to the deep rough and signature fairways associated with most U.S. Opens, it will also include tricky pin locations and a number of high-risk, high-reward opportunities.

In the past, players with average length off the tee have been able to compete in the U.S. Open but the longer hitters have certainly had an advantage. Jim Furyk’s win at Olympic Fields in 2003 may have been the last time a player won who didn’t have above average length off the tee.

This year you can expect a plethora of Jim Furyk-esqe players to be in the running coming down the stretch. Merion will require course management to the highest degree and with players having to take more of a strategical approach, it will be much more of a mental test than it has ever been.

Jack Nicklaus once said “Acre for acre, Merion may be the best test of golf in the entire world.” It is without a doubt the most intriguing venue the U.S. Open has been held at in the past decade and with golf legends like Lee Trevino and Ben Hogan having already won this tournament on this course in the past, it will be interesting to see whose name will be etched into the trophy this year.

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Tiger Woods in 2012

The Tiger Now from the Tiger a Year Ago

Tiger Woods
Courtesy: NY Tmes

At this point last year, Tiger Woods had won only one sanctioned PGA Tour event (The Arnold Palmer Invitational). It was the first since his marriage scandal broke in November of 2009 (a stretch of 923 days).

This year, he’s already won four times.

While we saw glimpses of Tiger returning to glory throughout the course of last year, his game has undoubtedly improved over the last 12 months.

Arguably the biggest strides in his game have come from 100 yards and in.Last year, many experts criticized Woods for getting too steep on the downswing with his shorter clubs. The result was poor distance control and an overall inability to score.

This year, he’s clearly ironed those issues out. With a record 27 birdies at Doral and a 2nd overall rank in Birdie Average among tour players this year, his wedge game hasn’t been nearly as much of a liability.

Another reason Tiger’s had so much success up to this point in the year has come from his ability to completely eliminate one side of the golf course (a tool that all players desire to possess).

In the past, Tiger’s biggest miss has been a hook, particularly with his driver. Unfortunately for him, a hook produces topspin and in many instances his drives ended up so far left that his approach shots were nearly unplayable.

Not only did Tiger have to play a great deal of shots from difficult positions last year, his fear of going left hurt the most important thing he could possibly have, his confidence.

Since his coaching switch to Sean Foley in 2009, we’ve seen Tiger favor a left to right ball flight with his driver and he’s finally seemed to have perfected it. Though all his drives don’t end up in the fairway, he can manage his misses because he knows that he’s effectively eliminated the entire left side of the hole.

The last question mark coming into this season for Tiger was his putting. For nearly 15 years, he was known for his unbelievable ability to make the putts he shouldn’t make and not miss the putts he shouldn’t miss.

The past couple of years this hasn’t been the case and with a quick tip from Steve Stricker before he teed off at Doral in the WGC-Cadillac Championship, Tiger certainly gave us some indication that he might be returning to the form that won him so many tournaments throughout the course of his unmatched tenure as a professional. He’s now No. 1 on tour in putting from 15 – 25 feet.

Woods certainly won’t win every tournament this year but from what we’ve gathered in the events he has played, he’s certainly on track to winning more than anyone else; and maybe inching a little bit closer to Jack’s record of 18 majors in the process.

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Jordan Spieth

A Look at Rising 19-Year Old Star Jordan Spieth

Jordan SpiethWith just over $520,000 in earnings on the PGA Tour this year, Jordan Spieth isn’t doing too bad for a 19-year old that dropped out of college after his freshman year at the University of Texas.

Earlier this month at the Puerto Rico Open he finished 2nd and three weeks ago at the Tampa Bay Championship he finished 7th. In doing so, he’s earned himself a special temporary membership to the PGA Tour, which allows him to receive an unlimited amount of sponsored exemptions into PGA events.

Basically this means that Spieth doesn’t actually have to play his way into these tournaments (which requires him to finish well in previous tournaments). And because he has essentially become the face of young and upcoming professional golfers, getting exemptions to these tournaments will not be a problem.

Born just under 20 years ago in 1993, Spieth has been part of some pretty elite company throughout his golfing career. And by pretty elite I mean he and Tiger Woods are the only golfers on Earth to win the U.S. Junior Amateur multiple times.

In 2009 the AJGA named him the Rolex Junior Player of the Year and one year later he was awarded an amateur exemption to the HP Byron Nelson Championship, once again joining only Tiger Woods, Justin Leonard and Trip Kuehne as the only other players to receive exemptions.

Spieth further boosted his resume by getting a spot in the 2012 U.S. Open at Olympic Club after Brandt Snedeker withdrew. And while playing in the U.S. Open as an 18 year old would have been good enough for any other teenager, Spieth went a step further and finished in a tie for 21st, earning him low amateur honors. Other accomplishments of Jordan include a spot on the 2011 Walker Cup Team, All-American honors as a freshman at Texas and a spot as the No. 1 ranked amateur golfer in the entire world.

Jordan Spieth clearly has shown that he has both the mental and physical game to compete with even the best professionals and the fact that he’s only 19 years old is rather scary in terms of his potential.

His amateur career has been rivaled by a very small number of previous golfers including Tiger and Rory, and we’ve both seen what they’ve been able to accomplish. Bottom line, Spieth isn’t going anywhere. We’ll be seeing his name on leaderboards all over the country for many years to come.

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