by Robert Bicknell
Well, despite it being the holiday season (if you’re Christian, just substitute “Christmas” for “Holiday” and your blood pressure will go back down), it seems (according to Facebook VN) that many players are complaining about the “No Outside F&B Policies” again at some of the clubs. As a former successful club manager of some 30 billion years, I thought I’d chime in on the subject.
This is not the first time this subject has been raised. In fact, this particular item is a bone of contention with players in Viet Nam ever since the first club opened. A few months ago, the fight was over a club deciding that buggies (Golf Cars) are mandatory.
A few months before that, it was a few players complaining about having to take a caddie and demanding to be allowed to “pull their own clubs” (on a trolley).
OK, first of all, before anyone gets the wrong idea, this is not about personal freedom or “playing golf the way it was meant to be played”, this is about money, pure and simple. The clubs need it to operate and some players don’t want to pay it. Simple.
The fact of the matter is that clubs in Vietnam are NOT “member owned”. They are owned by a company or corporation and their purpose is to provide a return on their investment. To be honest, they shouldn’t even be allowed to call themselves “clubs” because what clubs in Viet Nam do defies the definition of “club”.
CLUB: “An organization of people with a common purpose or interest, who meet regularly and take part in shared activities” (Cambridge English Dictionary). In this particular case, the interest is “golf” and the purpose is “playing golf”.
Courses in Viet Nam are considered to be “semi-public” meaning they have “members” (who also don’t fit the actual description of a golf club “member “due to the particularities of memberships in Viet Nam), but are also open to the public and collect daily fees.
In simple terms, a golf club in Viet Nam is a “profit-oriented business” and, because of that, is entitled to earn as much revenue as possible.
OK, back to the most recent argument, “no outside F&B” policies…
Clubs have restaurants and on-course kiosks whose purpose is to both provide refreshment for the players, and to earn revenue for the club. Therefore, someone bringing in outside F&B deprives the club of earning revenue. Imagine if you owned a nice restaurant in District 1 and some guy walked in with 10 huge pizzas and demanded a table and cutlery, then ordered only water.
You’d be upset, wouldn’t you?
By doing that, you deprive the restaurant of a table that could have held paying customers, which the restaurant needs to pay its bills and employees. Bottom line, you’d get politely asked to leave, or maybe not politely… depends on who the owner is.
The problem is that players feel that since they bought a green fee or a membership (which is simply a huge discount on 25 years worth of green fees), they are entitled to do as they want.
Sorry, but that’s not the case. Buying a green fee entitles you to play golf and nothing else. While on the premises you have to obey the rules of the club and that includes having a caddie and / or not bringing in outside F&B, if that’s the policy.
Now, at all of my clubs, we enforced the “No outside F&B” and at some of my clubs we even had a mandatory caddie AND buggy policy. Guess what? No problems. The reason is that I kept the prices for these things reasonable and that’s the key.
Nobody wants to feel ripped off or taken advantage of, especially getting charged VND25,000 for a bottle of water you can buy outside for VND6,500. My view has always been that it’s better to make a small reasonable profit on many sales, than a high profit on a few sales.
Smuggling in F&B isn’t the answer.
Instead, I would recommend working with the club management to lower their prices, and if they don’t have something people want, ask them to add it to the menu. In most cases, the club would be willing to work with the players to keep everyone happy.
At least the smart ones will…