About 10 years ago we set up Leadingcourses.com to help golfers around the globe in finding the best golf courses based on their handicap, location and needs. We started with a new concept in the golf industry, a website focused on reviews from real golfers. So not based on the opinion of experts or journalist, but based on the wisdom of the crowd. We believe that genuine reviews help people throughout the world, who are all pressed for time, to make better choices and in effect create desired experiences.
Golfers did not matter
At first, nobody really believed in the concept. How could golfers decide whether a golf course was any good or not? That was actually the attitude reflected in the golf industry. The golfer did not really matter. They should just become a member, pay their annual fees and that’s that. The same was true for green fee players, but then the recession hit and times changed. Golfers started to flock away, began to end their memberships and became a ‘scarce commodity’. Now, golf courses have to try harder. Why should a golfer play at their course or become a member? What makes them special? And, with the rise of review and booking sites like TripAdvisor, Booking.com, Expedia and Yelp, what is their online reputation? These are all specific factors that golfers are paying close attention to nowadays.
When we started, we knew that getting in as many reliable reviews as possible was going to be one of our most important challenges. Furthermore, how were we going to get them in multiple languages? Everyone likes to read reviews in their own language. The bottom line was that without reviews, we had no right to exist.
At first, golfers were hesitant to write reviews, journalists didn’t want to help because our rankings and ratings were poor and, due to the prospect of negative reviews, golf clubs were not that willing to help us either. Nevertheless, slowly but steadily, we started to create fans that finally helped kick-start our site. They started sharing their opinion, they invited their friends and our ratings started to improve.
Every golfer is different
From day one, we had the vision that we wanted to provide golfers with personal advice. Low handicap golfers look for different courses than average or mediocre golfers. So that’s why we asked for a handicap level from the start. We also knew that the date of play was important. If you want to play during spring, the course might be better than during the summer. Also, the status (or reputation) of a golfer matters. If you have reviewed more than 100 courses, you tend to compare the course that you are rating now with all the others that you have rated before. All in all, you will probably give a slightly lower rating than someone who has only played a few courses.
The problem with all this information is that you cannot really use it if you only have a few reviews per golf course. You need a lot of reviews, for a lot of courses, in a lot of different languages before it makes sense to add filters. And, finally that day has come!
Making reviews more relevant
When certain golf courses had more than 600 reviews we started to hit some boundaries. The loading time of our review pages started to reach critical levels and showing hundreds of reviews is also not very helpful for golfers. One of the courses that has more than 600 reviews is Golfbaan Stippelberg and their review page now makes a lot more sense. Below an image is shown for Club Golf D’Aro – Mas Nou. It shows that the filfers are really helpful in drilling down to the reviews that you want to see and read.
So finally, with enough reviews, we could do what we always wanted. As of today (25th of November 2016), we now have filters on all review pages for golf clubs that have more than 20 reviews. If there are less than 20, we just show all reviews without a filter.
From now on you can filter the reviews based on the following facets:
- handicap level
- year (play date)
- quarter during the year
- status of the golfer (reputation on our site)
- language of the review
We are very proud of this new and important step. It is a sign that more and more golfers share their reviews on our platform, which enables us to provide even more relevant and more personal advice to the golfers visiting our site.
Information at a glance
To make the filters even more relevant, we also decided to add review scores per review filter (see image on the right). In this case, the course (De Texelse) was upgraded from a 9 hole to an 18 hole course at the end of 2013. You can see the impact of that change in the years thereafter. Achieving an increase of more than 1 full point is really difficult, but apparently golfers were impressed with the renovation.
We hope that golfers will now be able to quickly see how reviews are distributed. Is the club highly rated by low or high handicap players? Or, is it evenly distributed? Did the golf club improve their rating or did the rating go down? All these things can now be easily determined by just scanning the different filters.
The next step
Our next dream would be to provide golfers with personalized advice. The more we know about where you’ve played and what type of courses you like, the better we are able to provide you with tailor-made advice on where to play next. If we know your location and if we know who you are (handicap, courses played, ratings provided, etc.), our goal is to be able to provide you with a detailed list of ideal courses to play. These could contain well-known courses, but perhaps hidden gems aswell. So, stay tuned and register on our site 😉
Finally, a big thank you to all golfers who have taken the time to write reviews! Keep on sharing! #bygolfersforgolfers!