Deer Run Golf Club – We Know It’s Fun At The Run, But Who Has Those Great Ideas That Make Golfers Want To Return?
By R.J. Smiley
Those of us old enough to remember Mr. Ed, the talking horse from the TV series of the same name, will recall that Mr. Ed had a special insight and was able to relate that insight to Wilber, his owner.
Meet Harvey, the real brains behind “Fun At The Run”. You see Harvey is a Welsh Corgi (Welsh, as in Great Britain, the home of golf – Corgi, the Welsh word for “dwarf” as in dwarf dog). His ancestors worked as herding dogs for shepherds who invented golf – whacking stones to a distant point with their shepherd’s crooks. Harvey is the constant companion of Tom Abts, general manager and head golf professional at Deer Run. For several years Tom thought that Harvey was just sleeping as the staff discussed growing competition and shrinking number of golfers; but Harvey was listening, using those centuries old instincts to solve today’s golf course marketing problems.
At first, Harvey only talked to Tom while he was sleeping, Tom would awaken with revolutionary marketing ideas. Tom thought to himself, I am not thinking out of the box, I am just seeing golf as a timeless game, not a fad. But when Tom started thinking that he was a real marketing genius Harvey, with a tough “little guy” mentality started talking. Harvey and Tom have now reached an understanding; Harvey lets Tom take credit for the ideas (in public) as long as Tom admits privately to Harvey – that it was really the dwarf dog’s idea.
It all started when Tom awoke one morning thinking that the original golfers, Scottish shepherds tending their flocks 24/7, needed a break. Harvey had told him, “shepherds played golf for FUN! Shepherds are not lollygaggers; they did not have six hours for golf. Those shepherds just found a few rounded stones and started whacking those missiles toward that tree in the distance, walking at a brisk but comfortable pace.” Thus the birth of “Fast Play Friday”.
Now, every Friday at Deer Run golfers are required to play 18 holes in less than four hours. If a foursome does not comply with the stated and agreed-to time limit, they are asked to leave. No refunds! Interestingly enough, the Fast Play Friday idea has changed the culture at Deer Run where most round are played in less than four hours.
Harvey also told Tom to get the kids playing golf with their parents, but let them play for FREE. Then Tom figured it out, if we get kids playing when they are young, when golf is easy to learn, they will be golfers for life. So now every Saturday afternoon, kids get to play free with their parents.
Harvey has also informed Tom that golfers want more than just a good golf course (Tom has always been a stickler for having the golf course the “best it can be”) they want an enjoyable experience. Golfers will return to a place where the staff treats them like they are truly guests. Where staff members smile and say hello. Golfers will return to a place where every golf cart in the fleet is perfectly clean and comes with lush seats (not standard) and the state-of-the-art GPS system that even tells golfers how far the carts in the next foursome are from them. Harvey told Tom most golfers would not even notice; they just won’t have anything to bitch about.
Harvey also likes the warm fireplace, to warm up by on those not-so-perfect Minnesota days, and comfortable leather furniture in the cozy bar area. Harvey whispered to Tom one night years ago, “golfers really don’t want the standard golfers grill food, a frozen hamburger shipped to the course in a big truck is just a hamburger. Give them something they will remember. Example: last week I had a blue cheese, mushroom bacon burger where everything was blended and cooked with the burger. Not a golfer’s grill hamburger – Something Special!
As you can imagine Tom takes really good care of Harvey. After all Tom has used his insight and timeless principals to achieve many honors for himself and his beloved Deer Run Golf Club. Tom has been the winner of the Minnesota Section of the PGA Promoter of the Year Award and Deer Run Golf Club was voted as Best Public Golf Course in Minnesota by local CBS viewers. Golf Inc., a golf industry trade magazine, selected Tom Abts as “one of the 18 most creative risk-takers who are on the cutting edge of improving the golf industry”.
The next time you are worried about spending six hours on the golf course, just call Deer Run for a tee time, you will need it, then make the quick drive on Highway 5 west to Victoria and turn left at the light, then watch for the sign to Deer Run Golf Club. From the time your group turns into the parking lot until the time you leave (less than four hours on the course) later you will have Fun At The Run. Ask to say hello to Harvey, he might even speak to you if you give him a bite of a blue cheese burger.