By Bob Pike CSP, CPAE
Several years ago, during the first week of April, I had the opportunity to go to Augusta, GA, with my son, Rob, and son-in-law, Brad, a PGA teaching professional. If you’re a golfer, you already know why we chose Augusta. If you’re not a golfer, it was to attend the practice rounds for the Masters Tournament held at the Augusta National Golf Club.
During the four days we were there, we had the chance to experience many aspects of the grounds, the staff, and the experience that is the Masters. What I observed provided many lessons about training and performance improvement. After each lesson learned, ask yourself: How could I apply this learning point to my organization and the things for which I am responsible?
1. The concessions are probably the biggest bargain in all of sports. Brad bought lunch for the three of us—three sandwiches, two bottles of water, and a soft drink—the total? $10! Everything tasted great, but why so inexpensive? Because in its early years, those running the Masters realized the success of the event depended on the patrons (which is what spectators are called at the Masters) and decided that good viewing areas and inexpensive, convenient food were two keys to treating them well. As the event has become more and more successful, they have stuck to those core values—even though they could charge much more. The result is a loyal and respectful group of patrons who support the event year after year.
2. The event is one of the best-run major sporting events I have seen—and I’ve seen many of them. There are two reasons for this: an abundance of volunteers and support staff who have been well trained. Here are the stats for which I thank Brad: “It takes a team to make an event. Just to give you a scope of volunteers: There were 300 litter control volunteers, six to 12 marshals on every hole, the Professional Golf Management School at Penn State sent eight students to work the driving range [how’s that for an internship experience?!], 12 concession tents with eight to 12 volunteers, 80 merchandise specialists serving in the store and merchandise tents, eight to 12 people walking every fairway every night sanding and smoothing all the divots, 120 dining staff, 60 superintendents who volunteer from around the country, and the list goes on... More than 1,500 volunteers were recruited, trained, and worked all-day shifts for the
Fully 70 percent of those people volunteer year after year. So training plus experience gets multiplied—and both players and patrons receive the benefit of even better Southern hospitality. What do we do to retain experience and enhance the training for returning staff and volunteers?
3. Leadership is constantly visible and available. Members of Augusta National wear a green jacket, which is highly visible during tournament week. This is not to impress patrons with their status as some might assume. The tradition started with the 1937 tournament so patrons could know who to turn to as a reliable source of information. These members not only provide that information cheerfully, but each member is also on the lookout for anything that might hinder the experience of either the players or the patrons. As a result, significant changes have been made over the years to the benefit of both. The Masters was the first to add ropes along fairways to ensure an unrestricted field of play for the golfers. Numerous concession stands have been located and relocated throughout the grounds, so patrons rarely have to walk more than a couple hundred feet for refreshments. Access points to the larger concession stands and golf shops have been streamlined to shorten the length of time it takes to get served or make purchases. All of this enhances the Masters experience for everyone.
4. Information to enhance the Masters experience is freely available. A free 80-page spectator guide is offered to each patron as he or she enters the grounds. This guide has more than a dozen pages of tips for best viewing of the event provided by the club’s co-founder, Bobby Jones. He points out seven locations around the golf course that allow patrons tremendous sightlines and the opportunity to watch multiple holes and players simultaneously. A patron can view 80 percent of the course from these seven locations and walk the equivalent of only 5.5 holes. This information helps prevent a river of spectators from flowing all around the course, which can create a foot traffic nightmare depending on the popularity of the player. It also maximizes the viewing experience for each person and allows more people to end the day refreshed and exhilarated rather than exhausted.
5. There are the players themselves and the preparation they make for the event. I touch on this last because it is the most obvious. Being a Masters Champion literally makes the career of any professional golfer. Since it is invitation only, getting into the competition is an accomplishment, but then there is the pressure involved in preparing for the four days of play. Few players come to the event by themselves. You see swing coaches and mental coaches present in abundance, along with the player’s alter ego, his caddy. Each plays a part in the practice and preparation. Each plays a part during the competition.
In running a marathon, there are two parts: The first half is the first 20 miles, and the second half is the last 6.2 miles. For the Masters, it is the same: The first 3.5 rounds and the last nine holes. In the final round, there were five different leaders by the time the final group had played nine holes. Most had names the average golf fan would recognize: Stuart Appleby, Retief Goosen, and, of course, Tiger Woods. One did not. He had been under the radar most of the week and most of his career. Playing on the Prairie Tour and achieving on the Nationwide Tour aren’t the credentials that golf’s superstars tout. But these were Zach Johnson’s credentials. He was also the first rookie to earn $2 million his first season on the PGA Tour. He played on the first Ryder Cup team he was eligible for. But that didn’t make him visible or a favorite at the Masters. Steady play, following his own game plan (including NOT going for the par 5s in two), staying focused on his game and not the fortunes of those around him—these were the things that allowed him to break through and win the coveted green jacket.
He followed the six Ps: Proper preparation and practice prevents poor performance. He also isolated each of the mistakes he made in the final round, minimized the cost of the mistake, and then left the mistake behind as he headed for the next tee. There are many lessons to learn there.
So the next time you go to an event of any kind, don’t just experience the event itself. Take some time to look around and ask what you can learn about the part training and performance improvement played to make the event what it is.
Until next month—add value and make a difference.
Have a question you’d like Bob to answer? E-mail him at BPike@BobPikeGroup.com.
Bob Pike, CSP, CPAE, is known as the “trainer’s trainer.” He is the author of more than 30 books, including “Creative Training Techniques Handbook.” You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook using bobpikectt.