During a conference call last week with renowned golf instructor Hank Haney and Mark King, the president and chief executive officer of TaylorMade, Haney was asked by a lad from the British press if he thought North America may start leaning towards the links style of courses so prevalent over there,
That question arose out of a statement by Haney that North American golf has not only constructed golf courses of great difficulty for beginners, but has also sought to achieve perfection in course conditioning, which from an operator’s perspective, means increased cost for those well-manicured fairways.
It’s an interesting contrast. I agree with Haney that golfers are now used to pristine conditions and that the reputation of a golf course is based largely on how difficult and how immaculate it is, a situation that is emphasized with the golf course rankings that appear in various media outlets.
Of course, golf course operators allow their egos to get the best of them if they care about these rankings or their reputations, but the funny thing is that the hardcore golfers – or any that I’ve talked to – would love to have the opportunities to play links courses in Scotland or Ireland, even if they aren’t immaculate by North American standards.
As I said in Friday’s contribution, golf is a different game over there and some would say a better game, so with less maintenance costs, why wouldn’t we here in North America consider a more natural approach?
In this challenging era for the industry, golf is caught between two conflicting viewpoints. On the consumer side, affordability is big issue with golf being thought of as too expensive, but on the industry side, discounting is a dirty word.
Can we bring the two sides closer together? If we lower maintenance costs and reflect that in the price to play, would it work? Would the savings from lower maintenance costs make that much difference in the fees if golf operations passed it along to consumers? Would hardcore golfers buy into what may be perceived as less-than-perfect conditions?
Would the egos of many operators allow the perception and expectations of golf courses to change? Is golf getting to a point where economics may force such a change for individual businesses, instead of the operators making that decision for themselves?
That’s the discussion for this week and the topic of our GNN Poll. You can also add your comments on this topic in the box below.
Which statement below reflects your feeling about scaling back on your course conditioning and passing along any savings in maintenance costs etc to the people paying for green fees/memberships?
- Economics may force us to do it whether we like it or not (44%)
- Golfers will welcome a lower price and we’re not hurting ourselves (22%)
- The savings wouldn’t be enough for a noticeable reduction in fees (15%)
- Lower standards will reflect negatively on the operation (11%)
- It still looks like discounting. The industry shouldn’t go down that road. (7%)
Ged Stonehouse says
We are seeing in the construction of new courses as well here in the Maritimes – there are currently 4 new courses under construction and 3 of them are building to a 3.5 star level – will be very nice but moderate – one is a higher end course that is going to go after the higher end green fee yet with a links style course.