Take a look at social media and you’ll find many of your colleagues are pushing dirt, hauling sand, laying pipe, and seeding rebuilt greens and fairways. For an industry some pundits say is dying, there sure is a lot of life in the construction business.
What’s most impressive is much of the remodeling and renovation is focused on making intelligent changes to the golf course. We’re installing bunkers that need less maintenance and resist wash-outs. We’re planting turf that require fewer inputs. We’re reconfiguring irrigation to conserve water. We’re adding tee boxes to give players of differing skill levels options. We’re investing in boring but important stuff like improved drainage.
Contrast this with our last big remodeling boom which was driven by length. Super-duper titanium drivers and ProV-type balls made it “critical” to stretch courses out to 7,800 yards or whatever and bunkers located 250 yards from the tee were “obsolete.”
This is another example of how a tiny fraction of golfers have historically driven decision-making. They are the noisy single-digit handicappers who dominate the conversation about how the course should be set up. It’s justified because they play a lot and probably spend a lot. But, consider the average American golfer.
There are 25 million or so Americans who play golf. Only 2 million of them have GHIN handicaps (about 1.5 million men and 500,000 women). Of men registered with GHIN, the average handicap is about 26. About 30 percent of players with a GHIN handicap are single-digit players. That means about 600,000 Americans have a single-digit handicap.
That’s 2.5 percent of all golfers.
Unless you’re at a place that regularly hosts majors, allowing 2.5 percent of your customer base to dictate how your course should play is the tail wagging the dog. Along the way, this mentality got many clubs into trouble with both debt and poor remodeling.
That’s why it’s great to see so many of our friends from the GCBAA and ASGCA busily engaged in very practical projects around the nation.
I’ll give you an example. About two miles from my front door here in Cleveland is the entrance to Canterbury Golf Club. The famed Herb Strong course hosted numerous majors over the years and is now home to one of the Web.com Championship events. Just a few days after that DAP Championship concluded, the folks from Frontier Golf, a GCBAA member contractor, showed up to start installing Better Billy Bunkers and fixing structural problems. Not sexy, but very important to the members’ enjoyment and the overall quality of the design. They’re not trying to make the course tougher, they’re just making it better.
We’re big fans of the GCBAA and members like Frontier and that’s one of the reasons we devote this issue to renovation and construction every year. We want to highlight the great work they do. But, we also want to help GCBAA with other goals – like their awesome Sticks for Kids program which gets junior clubs into the hands of children. One of the ways they fund that amazing effort is through a now legendary auction at their annual summer meeting. Members and suppliers donate really cool trips, rare shotguns, vast amounts of good wine and other cool stuff. Predictably, we donated a page of advertising in this issue.
Now, I wasn’t able to attend this year’s GCBAA meeting but apparently they opened the bar early and really poured ‘em stong, because they raised a ton of money for Sticks for Kids at the auction. And, astonishingly, our friend Jason Sloan from Frontier Golf – the same guys doing the work right down the street from my house – bought our donated ad page for a redonkulous sum of money.
So I said, “Dude!! Why??” Here’s Jason’s reply:
“The GCBAA Auction is not just about purchasing items, trips or advertisements (as it was in our case); but it is about trying to promote and grow the game of golf through the GCBAA Foundation’s charity Sticks for Kids, which the proceeds of the auction benefit. When you consider the value of the advertisement, and even more importantly the value that the auction purchase will provide to the foundation’s charity, the growth of the game of golf and especially to aspiring youth golfers, it was a no-brainer.”
Personally, engaging a GCBAA-member company like Frontier to do the practical projects we need to keep golf going in the right direction is also a no-brainer. Let’s continue to remember the other 97.5 percent and what we can do to provide them with fun, fitness and a love of the game.