Typically, real estate ads implore you to “Buy Now!” Their reasons are many, and many apply to the question of when to renovate your golf course:
1. It Will Never Be Cheaper
Over the last two years, prices have jump 15 to 20 percent after holding steady in the wake of the financial meltdown. Prices will continue rising sharply for a while, so sooner surely beats later.
2. You Know You Want To
Change for changes’ sake breathes new life in an old golf course. Playing a new course is exhilarating, and learning its new subtleties takes years.
3. Staying Alive … Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah, Staying Alive … Staying Alive
Staying in business is good, and a good reason to renovate. Given options, no one chooses a dilapidated golf facility. In the golf course business, the “cost to play” is keeping your facility in good repair.
4. Aging Course
Except for you and me, everything ages. If your golf course is as old as you are, it probably has some creaking pipes, too, and may be need the golf equivalent of a knee replacement.
5. Aging Golfers
Older golfers hate/won’t/can’t climb the endless hills we designed decades ago. Physical fitness is in overall decline. Architects are returning to softer designs for artistic, philosophical and practical reasons. Remember the old “Did she or didn’t she” hair color commercial? Architects want you to ask that about their earthmoving.
6. Keeping Up with the Joneses
Your competitors have, are or will be building a better mouse trap, even if not using that famous architectural family. Add a golf course cosmetic facelift to your “must do” list.
7. Fancy New Toys
Technology advances faster than Dustin Johnson’s swing speed. Even decade old courses pre-date some useful innovations. Irrigation efficiency, soil monitoring, web connectivity and new turfgrasses can pay for themselves quickly in reduced water consumption. These days, renovation doesn’t mean replace, it means upgrade.
8. Going in Style - Clubhouses
Fast food, restaurants and hotels have invested billions to freshen their décor. Some $100 hotels are now nicer than more expensive hotels. Private clubs are modernizing old clubhouses. Can a “Clubhouse Fixer Uppers” show be far behind?
9. Going in Style - Golf Courses
Golf course design trends have turned 180 degrees since 2000. Showy is out, and natural is in. For your course to survive, some 1980s era faux mounding must die. You might even make money selling your excess dirt.
10. Length Matters!
The 7,000-6,600-6,200-5,800-5,400 tee sets of the 1970 and ’80s suits nobody. Long hitters prefer 7,200-plus yards. Your middle tees might still fit the average male golf game, but your forward two tees are probably too damn long. It’s time to let your customers play golf as intended and that requires yardage options not exceeding 4,000, 5,000, and 6,000 yards.
11. Looking Back
Restorations are all the rage. Should the History Channel have a “golf architecture” show? With most Golden Age courses now preserved, focus will shift to preserving Dick Wilson and Robert Trent Jones courses.
12. Looking Forward
Looking at old course documentation for restorations, it’s clear those clubs focused on modernizing to their changing times. Preserving heritage is fine, but change is accelerating. One thing about certain about designing for the past … there’s not much future in it. Millennials won’t appreciate golf’s traditions like we do. Foregoing tradition is difficult for us, but if we are going to throw in the tradition towel, design can at least help us throw it in the right direction.
13. Rising Expectations
Modern golfers think they are guaranteed the rights to life, liberty and the routine par. Roughs and bunkers must be as perfect as fairways. Public school curriculums haven’t been dumbed down as much. The hazardless hazard trend won’t reverse any time soon. It may be worth redoing your sand bunkers just to keep your Yelp reviews positive.
14. Lower Budgets
In 1965 (and 1966, ’67, ’68) my grandmother said, “It’s getting tougher every year, pretty soon no one will survive.” We survived, but modern superintendents understand the sentiment. Many have stagnant budgets, and have already exhausted all possible in-house savings. Renovating can help by reducing and “right sizing” bunkers and turf areas to reduce and streamline maintenance.
15. Pay Some Bills
If your course has vacant land, selling it off for a pocket development in this hot housing market can pay some bills, even if needing to move a few holes around – if it doesn’t hurt golf quality. And for some, even if it does.
16. Only Perfect Practice Makes Perfect
Only recently have great practice facilities been a high priority. The emergence of the upscale driving range has raised practice standards as much as golf standards, first at private clubs, and soon at public courses. The New Age range allows replicating every shot found on the golf course, and every cocktail found in the bar.
17. Save the Turtles
Whether imposed by regulatory fiat or an in-house initiative, most renovations also foster sustainability, adding with more responsible turf choices, tree management plans, wildlife habitat creation, recycling and energy audits to the main stay focus of water consciousness in turf and landscape.
18. Faster Turtles
We now better understand how design affects pace of play, and faster play pleases your customers and allows more of them to come out and play.
19. The 19th Hole – Save the Ultimate Endangered Species – Your Golfers!
The fun in golf somehow got lost along the way. If form follows function, innovative designs will finally focus on fun for average players. Making a golf course hard is easy, but making one easy is hard.