Operator Stories

Golf solutions for Nashville National

The day new ownership arrives at a struggling golf course is not the day every problem gets solved, a fact of which incoming manager and part-owner of Nashville National Golf Links, Jonathan Williams, was keenly aware. A veteran of 25 highly productive years in the financial services industry, Williams has circled back to golf as a calling, decades after his late-teen years working on golf course maintenance crews.

“I was one of those kids who was happy to get to the course at dawn, mow the greens, adjust my cutting height and head back out to mow the tees, fairways and rough,” he recalls. Williams loved to play the game, as well and became a low-handicap golfer. Preparing to head back to college one September, he was encouraged by the golf course superintendent to forget about the investment business and study agronomy instead.

“I was flattered, but I stuck to my original career decision,” says Williams. “As far as providing for my family and building our finances it was probably the right decision. But it always felt like work until the day I enrolled in a class on entrepreneurship while in graduate school. That class reignited my passion to be in the golf business.” In August 2016, he took over Nashville National – newly renamed and surrounded by Tennessee’s natural beauty – and began guiding it into a new era.

“As you might expect,” says Williams, “there was a pretty long list of deferred capital projects waiting for us. We had decisions to make about prioritizing improvements.” The course originally came online in 1998—under a different name—and in its heyday facilitated upwards of 20,000 rounds a year. Williams says the course hasn’t seen those numbers since 2008, although the turfgrass has improved dramatically under the nurturing of a new superintendent.

“The irrigation system was in rough shape when we got here and, as a result, we had poor turf on several of the greens,” says Williams. “On the review websites, the strongest of the comments about our greens were pretty merciless.”

Just 12 months into his tenure, real trouble came along in the form of Hurricane Harvey. In addition to high winds tearing through the property, Williams found himself dealing with nine inches of rainfall in a 12-hour period and the complete washout of a green complex. Golfers couldn’t play a full 18 holes for some time. Once things were getting back to normal, the greens were hit with infestations of moss and algae, which took many months to eradicate.

Zack Hawayek, Area Sales Manager for GOLF Business Solutions, enjoyed his conversations with Williams even before the two became partners. It was Williams’ opinion that Nashville National needed to mature a bit before it could reap the benefits of being part of the GOLF Business Solutions GOLFNOW tee-time marketplace.

“We were in various stages of a rebuild,” he said. “If all the business that GOLFNOW could bring me arrived here a year or two ago, it all would’ve backfired because the product wasn’t ready. I explained that to Zack and he understood.”

As his greens were nearing full recovery, Williams hired a new young golf professional, Connor Hendrickson, who during his interview had spoken enthusiastically about GOLFNOW as a marketing tool. When Hawayek next made contact with Nashville National, he was told they were ready to join the platform.

“I knew it would work, to a degree,” says Williams about the decision, “but the actual amount of business GOLFNOW brought us was a big surprise and a pleasant one. It blows me away that every time I open up my email I will see five or six new GOLFNOW confirmations for tee times.”

Williams said it’s a rare experience to have a new revenue stream open up for your operation and boost real-time cash flow – and give you every indication that it will continue to do so.

“The success with GOLF Business Solutions is directly connected to being able to hire more staff, as well as allowing our superintendent to implement a full agronomy plan, including upgrading turf equipment,” says Williams. “From a budget standpoint it is helping us tremendously.”

“Nashville is the No. 1 bachelor and bachelorette party destination in the U.S, even ahead of Las Vegas,” Williams explains. “So now, I have free spending 20-somethings and 30-somethings flowing to our course via GOLFNOW, requesting high-ticket items and service. They book through GOLFNOW when they’re in their home market, so naturally they use it when they go on the road.”

Plenty of upgrades needed by an under-maintained course are plain to see, but the fix that brings in a new and powerful tee-time booking system is less visible. And yet, as they discovered at Nashville National, it’s often that kind of upgrade that makes all the difference.

To learn more about how GOLF Business Solutions can streamline your course operations, CLICK HERE.