As the golf population continues its growth spurt—last year a record 3.2 million people teed it up on a course for the first time—hotel loyalty programs have been taking note and stepping up efforts to reach club-toting travelers.
Hyatt now highlights golf resorts in their portfolio where their rewards members can redeem points to stay-and-play. They’ve teed up a ‘Par Excellence’ section on their rewards program website to this end, tempting members with a Charleston property featuring a pair of Tom Fazio layouts and a Scottsdale resort offering exclusive access to a private golf club, among others.
Meanwhile, Wyndham has been utilizing their annual PGA Tour stop at Sedgefield Country Club to showcase their rewards program and associated credit cards. At this past August’s Wyndham Championship, they divvied out over 100 million rewards points to spectators both on the course and at home through a promotion run for the second year in-a-row, that included a four-day digital scavenger hunt for QR codes to unlock points while running a similar concurrent activation for those watching from their couch.
“One lucky at-home viewer won one million Wyndham Rewards points, just for tuning into the tournament,” Dana Rosenberg, senior vice president of marketing at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, says.
And as for why they are so gung-ho about courting the golf cohort, Rosenberg cites the dozens of golf resorts in their portfolio including Grandover Resort & Spa in Greensboro NC and Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Golf and Beach Resort in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico.
“There’s a natural overlap between our member demographics and those who play golf. In addition, we love that the sport continues to grow in popularity and that its fans are willing to travel to interact with the sport—be that for professional events like the Wyndham Championship or just a weekend getaway to play with friends,” she adds.
In addition to free stays, Wyndham members can also redeem their points for a wide-array of golf merchandise, apparel and accessories including clubs, bags and watches.
Playing the Experience Card
Earlier this month, Marriott Bonvoy staged the inaugural Costa Rica Cup, a golf tournament open exclusively to their loyalty program members, at Parque Valle del Sol and La Iguana golf club with players hosted at the company’s area hotels.
“We find that golf is a sport that is loved by people of all ages and a great number of our Marriott Bonvoy members are avid golfers,” Dennis Whitelaw, area general manager Marriott International in Costa Rica, says.
“With many high-caliber golf courses in the country, it made sense for us to create the Marriott Bonvoy Costa Rica Golf Cup. Unique events curated for members including tennis tournaments and culinary experiences are taking place around the globe, and for Costa Rica, this is the first of what will become an annual tournament,” he adds.
The concept for the invitational seems to take a page from Private Professional Golf, a golf travel company that has been serving up member-guest style events in exotic locales for a decade where groups play alongside current and former PGA Tour, European Tour and PGA Tour Champions players.
“It is interesting to see the trends in the industry shift over time and how new ideas and new services become the standard. Everybody loves a competition, even if it’s not for big money, especially if it’s all set up for you and you don’t have to worry about the format or anything,” Derek Oakey, CEO of Private Professional Golf, says.
“I see that a majority of golfers are looking for and now expect full-service offerings. People are looking for experiences and ease of travel. One of the main benefits for members and their guests is being able to show up at a property or airport and everything is done for them. They don’t have to think about where they are going for dinner, booking a car service, or even what time they are playing golf. They know that we have secured the best of the best for them and they can truly enjoy their vacation,” he adds.
To reach a golf audience Marriott could have simply thrown together a vanilla play-and-stay reward where the rounds would be purely recreational. By minting a tournament for their loyalty members, the intention is clearly to craft a more memorable experience to reward members for choosing their program and foster customer retention, hopefully getting them to gab about it to their friends.
“Our customers definitely become brand ambassadors after their stay. Every golfer knows how enjoyable a tournament can be and the Marriott Bonvoy Costa Rica Golf Cup certainly delivered a high level of play at two championship golf courses during a weekend filled with fun, networking and enjoyable events,” Whitelaw says.