USGA Update
USGA Update

BFF (Best Friends Forever)

By Chris Hartwiger and Patrick O’Brien, USGA SE Region Agronomists

Everyone loves to have a BFF, especially those of us in the golf industry.  Do you know who your BFF is?  Actually, your BFF is also your BCF (Best Customer Forever) and this article is devoted to getting to know him (or her).  Time spent getting to know your best customer(s) is a worthwhile investment.   Understanding who your best customers are and how they play golf is the first step in building a long term relationship that maximizes golfer satisfaction.  Let’s head over to the first tee where your best customer has shown up with three others just like himself.   

Who Is Your Best Customer? 
One of the many interesting aspects of the USGA Golf Handicap Information Network (GHIN) system is the ability to sort the handicaps of millions of golfers.  A summary of handicap indexes for men in the GHIN system is found in Table 1.  The median handicap is approximately 14.5.  The median denotes the middle number, with half the population above this number and the other half below it.  Also, notice that the middle 50% of the population of golfers has a handicap index of approximately 9 to 20.  These are your best customers because there are so many of them!  This same type of analysis can be applied for the population of women golfers whose handicap indexes are summarized in Table 2

The USGA developed the USGA Handicap System to enable golfers of all skill levels to compete on an equitable basis.  In developing the system, the USGA collected information and made assumptions about how the “bogey golfer” plays the game.  According to the USGA Handicap System Manual, a male "bogey golfer" “is a player who has a Course Handicap of approximately 20 on a course of standard difficulty. He can hit tee shots an average of 200 yards and reach a 370-yard hole in two shots at sea level. A female bogey golfer is a player who has a Course Handicap of approximately 24 on a course of standard difficulty.  She can hit tee shots an average of 150 yards and reach a 280-yard hole in two shots.” (Source:  USGA Handicap Manual,

Making the Agronomic Connection
What’s agronomy got to do with all these statistics?  Plenty.  We have learned your best customers are not very good golfers and they really do not hit the ball modest distances.  Understanding these characteristics is the first step in ensuring a good golf experience for them.  After all, the condition and setup of the golf course has much to do with customer satisfaction and the agronomy department exerts significant influence on how enjoyable the round of golf is.  Below are a few examples of how the golf maintenance staff can impact the playability and enjoyment of the golf course: 
• Tee Location – The length of the golf holes relative to skill has a major impact on the difficulty of the course.  Get players teeing off from tees that are appropriate based on how far they hit the ball.
• Rough Height - In the southeast, we understand that two inch bermudagrass is not twice as hard as one inch rough, it is exponentially harder.  The era of championship rough is over and the era of kinder, gentler rough is here to stay for the foreseeable future. 
• Green Speed – What is the preferred green speed for your best customers?  There are ways to determine this and producing a green speed desired by your best customers, assuming it is agronomically sustainable) will increase golfer satisfaction. 
• Landing areas – Knowing how far your best customer hits the ball and where bunkers are positioned in relation to tee placement can confirm that the challenge is proportional or not.  For example, it wouldn’t be a good idea to have the narrowest landing area flanked by bunkers on the longest par four. 

Up Next
Getting to know your best customers and how they play the game is time well spent.  At the GIS Conference in Las Vegas, I had the privilege of presenting this data in a presentation called, “The Fun Factor – How Understanding Your Customers Can Improve Your Bottom Line.”  Look for a video link and short article on this topic in the Green Section Record online and under Course Care at . Until then, we hope you have the chance to make many, many BFF’s at your golf facility. 

Source: Patrick O'Brien 770-229-8125 or  and Chris Hartwiger 205-444-5079 or