Do you want to start a mini golf company? If YES, here is a detailed guide on how to start a miniature golf course business with no money and no experience.
Okay, so we have provided you an in-depth sample mini golf course business plan template. We also took it further by analyzing and drafting a sample mini golf marketing plan backed up by actionable guerrilla marketing ideas for mini golf businesses.
Table of Content
- Why Start a Mini Golf Course Business?
- What It Takes to Start a Mini Golf Course Successfully?
- Industry Overview
- Market Research and Feasibility Studies
- Niche ideas Within the Business That You Can Specialize in
- List of Well – Known Brands in the Industry
- Buying a Franchise vs Starting a Mini Golf Business from Scratch
- Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face
- Therefore some of the challenges and threats that you are likely to face when starting your mini golf business include; having to deal with competition from other existing mini golf businesses, having to deal with alternative entertainment options, economic downturn and having to deal with regulations from the industry.
- Best Legal Entity to Use for This Type of Business
- Insurance Policies
- Is Professional Certification Needed to Run a Mini Golf Course?
- Legal Documents You Need to Run a Mini Golf Business
- Financing Your Mini Golf Business
- Choosing a Suitable Location for your Mini Golf Course Business
- Technical and Manpower Details
- The Service Delivery Process of a Mini Golf Business
- Marketing ideas and Strategies
Why Start a Mini Golf Course Business?
The mini golf business is a business that is easy enough to start for an entrepreneur who is not only enthusiastic about mini golf but is also a people person that is able to professionally and courteously deal with several individuals and groups that are of different personalities, ages and temperaments.
Also, before you can decide that a mini golf business is for you, you need determine how you will be able to fit into the competitive landscape and still get a fair share of the business for yourself. It will be to the benefit of your business if you talk to someone running the business, not a close competitor but one whose location is far from yours.
Mini golf courses have been in existence for about a hundred years and it is an American form of entertainment that has remained viable ever since. Mini golf courses are regarded as one of the few American cultural icons left and can be found in cities, suburbs, and even rural towns across the country.
The fact that mini golf courses have a lot of appeal for families is why it has remained so popular. It is one of the few forms of entertainment that any age or gender can participate in. Even though there have been mini golf competitions in recent years, most of those who take part see it as majorly for social activity.
What It Takes to Start a Mini Golf Course Successfully?
In deciding to start your own mini golf business, you must have a significant amount of capital as the entrepreneur must factor the cost of getting a land. The cost of getting a land however varies depending on the state where you are looking to operate from and the region.
The good news is that you can build your mini golf on something as little as three-quarters of an acre. However, you can easily turn a profit if you know what you are doing and if you add other features intended to attract your customers.
One thing to understand in running a mini golf course is that the business is a seasonal business especially if it is built outdoors. In some parts of the country, mini golf courses stay open for just five months. This does not mean that you cannot however make your initial investment back especially if you do not waste time in trying to develop your own course.
How to get your investment back is in building a very fine course and then keeping it well maintained. This means if there are lots of clowns and castles on your mini golf course, they will need to be scrubbed and painted a lot of times. Engaging in a thorough research about the industry you intend to go into is very much in order as this will allow you know the viability of the business you intend going into.
Starting a Mini Golf Course Business – A Complete Guide
The mini golf course industry was really prominent in the early 20th century and enjoyed widespread popularity till the early 1990s. The industry however began to experience setbacks in recent years as a result of economic downturn experienced in the country as well as stiff competition from alternative forms of entertainment.
However, the industry is expected to experiences a short period of recovery which will be of huge benefit to the industry as a decline in unemployment is paving the way for consumers to want to spend more on entertainment for themselves and their families.
Between the periods of 2007 and 2012, the industry’s revenue declined annually at an average rate of 2.5 percent which is an estimated $303 million. During the recession, there was a decrease in disposable income which caused individuals to cut down on their entertainment budgets thereby leading to a quick decline of the industry in 2008 and 2009.
Also, the increasing ownership of home entertainment alternatives has caused a huge decline in earnings for the industry. The industry however saw a rebound in 2012 as the slow economic recovery meant that customers had enough to spend on entertainment.
The mini golf industry is one that is highly fragmented as there are no major players dominating the market. According to the united states Census Bureau, most of the mini golf courses – about 98 percent- were located in just one place with about half of the operators generating less than $250,000 in revenue.
The number of operators declined at an annual average rate of 2.3 percent which is due to the escalated competition that caused lower sales especially during the recession.
The mini golf business can be described a global success and this is because it is a social activity where people regardless of culture can participate in. Mini golf courses can be found in nearly all global regions – North America, South America, Central America, Europe, Asia, Australia and the Middle East.
According to estimates, more than a quarter of a billion mini golf games are played globally. Most mini golf courses are no longer stand-alone as they have been incorporated into the entertainment industry and can therefore be found in places such as shopping malls, bowling centers, skating rinks, amusement parks and tourists’ attractions.
Depending where one is located, the average game price falls between $6 and $9 with owners expected to get a return on their investment between 12 to 24 months. Most mini golf courses generate 70 percent of their revenue during the weekend which starts from Friday. The target market for mini golf courses are usually those celebrating birthdays, groups and those that just walk in to have fun.
There are more than 1,300 miniature golf courses in the United States of America; this represents a slight increase because as at 1997, the Economic Census counted 1,041 mini golf courses in existence that was owned by private entities. This figure however did not take into account those that were a part of other family entertainment facilities such as bowling centers, resorts, recreational parks and the rest.
According to the MGAUS, it is estimated that 550 new custom design mini golf courses and 850 new modular mini golf courses would have been constructed within 2007 and 2012. Also, still based on this estimate, it is expected that 150 new custom designs as well as 170 new modular mini golf courses would be constructed every year.
Market Research and Feasibility Studies
- Demographics and Psychographics
The demographic and psychographic compositions of those who will visit your mini golf course are mainly families. Others include small groups, individuals, business executives, wealthy personalities and celebrities. Therefore, if you are looking to define the demographics of your mini golf course business, you might need to make it all encompassing as there are different groups of people that can visit a mini golf course at any time.
Niche ideas Within the Business That You Can Specialize in
Entrepreneurs running a mini golf business alone without offering additional features have found their revenue dwindling. The niche area is where most mini golf owners have focused on in order to be able to generate more revenue and also stand out from their competitors.
However, before you can decide to go into a niche area, it is important that you conduct a thorough research so that you do not end up wasting resources on a niche that is likely not to work out for you. Below are some of the niche areas that you might need to explore when it comes to starting a mini golf business in the United States;
- Food and beverages
- Coin-operated games
- Resale of merchandise
- Athletic instruction
- Golf courses and country club services
- Fitness and recreational sport center services
The Level of Competition in the Mini Golf Industry
The mini golf business industry is a fragmented one as there are no major players with a dominating influence over the industry. This is largely due to the fact that most of the mini golf owners in the industry are found in a single location as only one or two owners have multiple locations all around the country.
In running a mini golf business, location is very important as it can help keep you in competition. This means that customers do not want to drive or travel too far before they are able to enjoy the social activity that a mini golf provides especially with the many alternative entertainment options available.
There are plenty mini golf courses all over the United States of America, therefore if you are looking to start your own mini golf business, not only will you face stiff competition from already existing ones and alternative entertainment options, but you should be prepared as well to combat these competition and stand out.
List of Well – Known Brands in the Industry
Even though this industry is very old in America and has many mini golf courses scattered all around the country, there are still ones that have stood out from the others and this might be due to the additional features they have on their mini golf courses, their length of time in the industry – as being one of the oldest mini golf courses can make the mini golf course popular, and several other factors.
Therefore some of the most popular mini golf courses in existence in the United States of America include;
- Putt-Putt LLC
- Monster Entertainment LLC
- Camelot Golfland
- Pirate Island Golf
- Prehistoric Golf
- Smuggler’s Cove Adventure Golf
- Disney’s Winter Summerland Golf
- Lexington Ice Center Mini Golf Course
- Putting Edge Fun Center
- Volcano Island Mini Golf
- Par-king Roller Coaster Golf
The mini golf course business began to take shape in the 1950s and boomed until the 90s when its popularity began to slow down due to technology being built for home use as most customers especially kids now prefer to engage in interactive pastimes.
The paintball and roller skating games have experienced a downturn especially between the periods of 2008 and 2013, which is why new mini golf courses are struggling to stay alive by designing a course that is technologically inclined in order to still be able to attract and retain their customers.
According to statistics, the growth potential of a mini golf business varies depending on the location of the business. Businesses in the United States that focused solely on mini-golf have experienced a decline in revenue in recent years which is why many have begun diversifying to include other features such as a game arcade or video arcade that has served to attract a lot of individuals to the mini golf courses.
The mini golf business is one that has a strong potential towards profitability with minimal overhead especially when compared to other businesses that will require not only an enormous operating cost but also a large staff before they can turn a huge profit. Mini golf courses have been known to return their initial investment in at most two years whether it is a stand-alone business or it is in collaboration with other businesses.
Buying a Franchise vs Starting a Mini Golf Business from Scratch
In starting any business, one major decision you will need to take which could mar or grow your business is whether to start your business from scratch or to buy an existing franchise. While each option has its pros and cons, it is usually best to choose the one that aligns with your corporate goals and objectives.
In choosing to buy a franchise, you are choosing to be mentored through the startup phase which can be very rough for newbie entrepreneurs. Even though there are few franchises in existence, it is usually best if you conduct a thorough research on the ones you have in mind so that you can settle for the franchise that aligns with your goals.
If you are looking at starting your mini golf business by yourself, then you should be prepared to do a thorough research about the business so that you do not end up wasting money and resources starting a business that you have no understanding about.
You will need to not only have a business plan at hand but you will also need to build a solid business structure where you can hire only those who understand your vision and have the experience you need in order to help you achieve all your goals and objectives. Running a mini golf business by yourself might look overwhelming but it is not something that cannot be done.
Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face
When starting any business, you should be prepared for any threats and challenges that are likely to crop up and know how best to handle them. This is why it is usually advisable to have your plans written out as you can then have an idea of challenges you would likely face and how you can easily combat them. It is however important to note that not all threats or challenges can be easily handled and the best you can do is to ride through the moments hoping for the best.
Therefore some of the challenges and threats that you are likely to face when starting your mini golf business include; having to deal with competition from other existing mini golf businesses, having to deal with alternative entertainment options, economic downturn and having to deal with regulations from the industry.
Best Legal Entity to Use for This Type of Business
One of the most important decisions that you will take which will have an impact on your business is what legal structure you should choose for your mini golf business. Even though there are several legal entities available for entrepreneurs looking to start their business in the United States, not all of them is suitable for the mini golf course business.
Most entrepreneurs that start this business often choose a Limited Liability Company (LLC) as opposed to other legal entities such as Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, S Corporation, and C Corporation. An LLC is the simplest way an entrepreneur can structure the business in order to be able to protect his or her personal liability.
Now, while a C or S Corporation provides this same feature; setting it up is not usually as simple as that of an LLC. The LLC also ensures that the entrepreneur cuts down on paperwork, makes the business appear more credible and also prevents the business from double taxation.
Forming an LLC is quite easy as you will need to first select the state where you intend to operate your business. Then it is important that you choose a unique name for your LLC, and then choose a registered agent who is nominated by your company to help send or receive papers such as state filings and legal action on behalf of your company. The next step is to file the articles of organization and then create an operating agreement.
Even though all LLCs offer the same features, there are however some certain LLCs that work better for certain kinds of businesses. The Domestic LLC for instance is for businesses that are operating in the state where it was formed; this therefore means that most LLCs are domestic LLCs.
Foreign LLCs are for businesses that are looking to have some form of physical presence or operate in a new state different from where it was formed. A professional LLC is one that has been formed for entrepreneurs that intend to perform a professional service.
One reason why most entrepreneurs prefer an LLC to an S or C Corporation is that LLCs are not required to pay federal income tax. LLC have something called pass-through taxation which therefore means that the LLC’s profits are passed through to the members who then have to pay the taxes from the share of their earnings via their individual tax returns.
If you however intend to sell goods or offer services that are taxable in nature, then you will need to not only register for a sellers permit but will also collect sales tax on behalf of the state where you are operating your business from.
Catchy Business Name ideas Suitable for a Mini Golf Business
When looking to start a business, before you register and run all the paper works, it is vital that you have a business name and choosing a name that will not only identify your business but allow you to stand out is something that can stump many entrepreneurs.
If you have no idea on what name you can choose for your mini golf business, you can look to other mini golf businesses in existence for inspiration. Below therefore are some of the catchy business names that are suitable for your mini golf business;
- Ice Age Golf
- Water-theme Golf
- Victorian Age Golf
- Leakin’ Golf
- Pop Up Golf
Having insurance policies when running a business in the United States is mandatory because with an insurance policy, the entrepreneur does not have to worry about paying for issues when they crop up. While it is best to have insurance, just buying any kind of insurance might result to you wasting money on policies that will not benefit your business.
Contact an insurance agent or broker as regards what insurance policies will best suit your mini golf business. Below therefore are some of the basic insurance policies that you should look towards purchasing when looking to start your own mini golf business;
- General Liability Insurance
- Workers Compensation Insurance
- Professional Liability Insurance
- Auto Insurance
- Property Insurance
- Payment Protection Insurance
- Health Insurance
- Overhead Expense Disability Insurance
- Business Owner’s Policy Group Insurance
Intellectual Property Protection/Trademark
While there have been several creative themes that owners have created to make their mini golf courses more attractive to customers, none of these new creations have been patented as other mini golf course owners have modified on the idea to use for their mini golf courses without consequences of any sort.
This does not however mean that you cannot apply for intellectual property protection on some areas of your business such as your company name, logo, domain name and any other concept you deem important. Engage the services of an attorney to help you out with applying for an IPP with the USPTO.
Is Professional Certification Needed to Run a Mini Golf Course?
In starting your mini golf business, there are several things that you do not need to worry about and one of them is professional certification. The mini golf business is one that is in the entertainment industry and can be run by just anyone who has the resources and business acumen.
If you however choose to take professional courses in management, marketing or accounting to boost your business experience, then you can do so.
Legal Documents You Need to Run a Mini Golf Business
It is expected that you have some basic legal documents in place before starting and running whatever business in the United States. Not doing so will mean that you are aiming to get in trouble with the law.
It is therefore very essential that you understand the market you are going into and know what the requirements are by either finding out from those already in the business, checking with your city or county clerk’s office or getting in touch with an attorney to help you in getting all the documents that you will need to run your mini golf business legally.
Below are some of the basic documents that you will need in order to start your own mini golf business in the United States of America;
- Certificate of Occupancy
- Food Sale License
- Music Licensing
- Sales Permit
- Business Licenses and Permits
- Certificate of Incorporation
- Operating Agreement
- Certificate of Good Standing
- Insurance Policy
- Unemployment Insurance Tax
- Business Plan
- Income Withholding Tax
- Employment Agreement
- Employer Identification Number (EIN)
- Federal Tax Identification Number (TIN)
Financing Your Mini Golf Business
When looking to start a business, one of the things you have to worry about is where you will get the money with which to finance your business, because a mini golf business is one that requires a substantial amount of money to start up and run the business for at least two to three years.
Sourcing for finance is not something that is easy for any entrepreneur, which is why it is important to have a business plan in place as this will help convince other entrepreneurs as regards your seriousness and commitment to the business. Some of the financing options that you can explore for your mini golf business include;
- Getting part of your start-up capital from revenue generated from sale of stock or properties
- Sourcing for soft loan from wealthy family members and friends
- Applying for loan from commercial banks
- Getting start-up capital from private investors and business partners
Choosing a Suitable Location for your Mini Golf Course Business
The location you intend to choose for your mini golf course is very important as this could make the difference between the growth and failure of the business. This is why it is advised that you conduct a thorough research regarding the business before starting it so that you do not end up running a business that will drain your resources.
The mini golf course is one that requires you to be physically located at a place; this means that this is not a business that you can run from home or in your backyard. There are certain requirements that you will need to fulfill and one of them is getting a certificate of occupancy that will ensure that you have met all the building codes, government regulations as well as zoning laws.
In order to make your mini golf business very lucrative, you might consider locating it in a complimentary location. A complimentary location is one where there are several other attractions where the mini golf is such as tourist spots, shopping malls, amusement parks, bowling centers and such other entertainment centers.
In getting a location, you should ensure that it meets the requirements that a mini golf course should have. A stand-alone mini golf course for instance will need 3,600 to 5,000 square feet for an 18 hole course or 1,800 to 2,700 square feet for a 9 hole course and this is outside other considerations for restrooms, party rooms, storage, offices and other sort of rooms.
Technical and Manpower Details
If you are looking to start a mini golf business, you must be enthusiastic about the business and be able to in large part effect minor repairs and carry out maintenance or get people to do it for you. Because of the fact that you will be dealing with a lot of individuals and groups, you must possess a special skill that will allow you to deal courteously and professionally with everyone.
In carrying out daily activities on your mini golf course, you or a staff member are required to talk to the customers, get their payments, provide them with the necessary equipment needed and also explain any particular regulations that you might require.
The costs that are involved in opening a mini golf course vary depending on the area or region where you intend to operate your business from. Start-up costs for most entrepreneurs usually run up to $500,000, with the money being used for land lease, architectural plans, land development and improvements, insurance deposits as well as all the necessary decorations needed.
The basic equipment that you will need to run your mini golf business include; office computers and supplies, ticket machines, POS machines, golf balls and clubs, signage and redemption prizes.
It is very obvious that this is not a business that you can run by yourself especially during peak periods when you will be seeing a lot of customer, so it is necessary that you build a solid business structure that will allow you to hire competent and committed staff for your business.
Those you should be looking towards hiring are; Chief Executive Officer, Manager, Human Resources and Admin Manager, Purchasing Manager, Inventory Manager, Marketing Executives, Accountants, Customer Service Executives, Security Guard and Cleaner. From the above analysis, you will require at least 11 key people to be able to run your business successfully.
The Service Delivery Process of a Mini Golf Business
The service delivery process involved in a mini golf business includes talking to the customers that come to the mini golf, taking their payment, giving them the necessary equipment that they require, and also explaining regulations that are specific to the course.
You will also ensure that the course is fixed and maintained, with additional equipment that is needed being brought in, while also ensuring that you network with other local businesses so that they could help in promoting your mini golf course.
While these are basic duties, others might involve maintaining and repairing machines of additional features such as arcade games that you might have brought in to make the mini golf course more attractive to your customers.
Marketing ideas and Strategies
When looking to start your mini golf business, you should be aware of the various competitions that you are likely to face and be prepared for it. One of the ways by which you can compete is via marketing. Marketing is the ability to determine what it is your target market wants and then create strategies that will ensure that these needs are met.
Marketing therefore helps you to not only be able to penetrate the market and get a fair share for yourself, but you also get to be able to compete against your competitors and stand out.
Another good thing with marketing is that although it allows a business to generate the revenue that will grow and sustain the business, it also allows the business to gain awareness via its marketing campaign. This is why it is very necessary that a thorough market research be conducted before marketing strategies are created so that the marketing campaigns can be very effective.
Another thing that is very important when it comes to marketing a business is the location of the business which in itself is a marketing strategy. If for instance you locate your business in an area that is not so conspicuous and easy to access, many people are likely not to know about your mini golf and you may have to put in extra efforts into marketing your mini golf course unlike when you are located in an area that is very visible and easy to access.
If you are starting your business in a location that has one or two other competitors, you might need to engage the services of a marketing consultant to help you craft strategies that will help boost your business. If not, you can as well hire marketing executives with experience in your kind of business to help craft marketing strategies that will be in line with your corporate goals and objectives.
Below are some of the marketing strategies that you will require in order to grow and sustain your mini golf business;
- Attend trade shows and join professional associations in order to market your mini golf course
- Ensure that your marketing executives are able to meet with groups in a bid to market your mini golf course
- Put up billboards in strategic locations in order to draw attention to your mini golf business
- Place adverts in local newspapers and magazines as well as on radio ad television stations
- Distribute handbills and fliers in various strategic locations so as to create awareness for your mini golf business
- Ensure that your mini golf business is listed in offline and online directories
Possible Competitive Strategies for Winning your Competitors
When starting your mini golf business as an entrepreneur, you should be prepared to face your competitors and have strategies in place that will allow you not only combat but win over your competitors. If you do not have plans in place on how to win over your competitors and make your business stand out, then it is safe to say that you aren’t serious about your business.
Some of the competitive strategies that you should therefore look to have in place when looking to win over your competitors include; providing additional features with which to attract and retain your customers, having different package rates for your customers, and throwing in promotional offers every now and then to draw in more customers to your mini golf course.
Possible Ways to Increase Clients Retention
As an entrepreneur starting a business, one of the sole aims of starting the business is to generate revenue and make profit that will allow you grow and ensure the sustainability of the business. The chief way to generate revenue for a business is via customers and so it is necessary that you craft strategies on how to not only attract clients to your business but also ensure that a large number of the clients you attract are being retained.
One of the reasons why retaining a large number of customers is most beneficial to your business is that you get to spend less when a high number of your loyal customers stick to your brand in comparison to having to place adverts to keep attracting customers which costs money. Once you are able to find out who your customers are and what they want, it will be easier to meet these wants and therefore keep them loyal to your brand.
One major way by which you can attract and increase customer retention for your business is to encourage your customers to bring their special events and occasions to your mini golf course. You can improve on this by setting aside special days and times which you can offer certain promotions that will encourage more of your customers to not only come but bring new customers with them.
Another way you can increase customer retention for your mini golf course is to ensure that you add interactive features such as games and video games which most of your customers don’t easily have in their homes, so that they have no choice than to be at your mini golf course in order to participate in the games or additional features that you have.
Strategies to boost your brand awareness and Create Your Corporate Identity
Having strategies in place that will boost publicity for your mini golf course is very important, this is because not only will you be creating awareness for your business but you will also be able to convert most of the awareness to revenue for your business.
Except you are looking to run a business that nobody knows about, then you might not need to bother with promoting the business. However, no one goes into a business to hope that customers know about it, so you must craft strategies that will increase awareness for your business and also allow you to generate more revenue.
There are so many ways you can effectively boost awareness for your business without having to shell out so much money. The internet for instance, has made it possible for entrepreneurs to use it to promote their businesses at little or no cost. However, you cannot depend on the internet alone as you will have to use offline means to promote your mini golf business too
Below are some of the ideas you can use to boost awareness for your mini golf course and also create a corporate identity for your business;
- Offer promotional programs that will require your customers to bring in new customers for your business
- Promote your mini golf course on various social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat
- Create an interactive website and ensure that your customers are aware of it
- Create an attractive signage that can be seen from far in order to create awareness for your business
- Distribute handbills and fliers in various strategic locations in order to create awareness for your mini golf course
- Place adverts for your mini golf course on radio and television stations as well as the local newspapers