Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Blame The Ecomony, If You Wish

I saw the headline of this article and was irked to say the least.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/21/nyregion/21golf.html_r=2&ei=5087&em=&en=c2fe232214daf2fc&ex=1204088400&pagewanted=print&oref=slogin&oref=slogin

Paul Vitello’s piece in the New York Times referred to some numbers from the National Golf Foundation, which stated that the number of people who play golf 25 times a year or more had fallen nearly 33% since the year 2000. The number of ‘casual’ players (8 rounds or less/year) was also dwindling.

And the golf industry (namely the golf industry on Long Island, NY) needed to get creative to make ends meet. Golf facilities like the Great Rock Golf Club erected a 4,000 square foot tent at their golf course (just off the 18th green) for social gatherings, weddings, and the like.

The article goes on to explain other mitigating factors behind this decline:

TIME CONSTRAINTS – golf is supposed to be a four-hour round (5 hours for hackers and dipsticks who don’t play ‘Ready Golf’) and for some people with families, it’s too much time out of the day.

DECLINE IN OUTDOOR ACTIVITY – more people are staying indoors and watching TV, kids/teens are playing video games.

OVERBUILDING/COMPETITION – according to the article, between 1990 and 2003, more than 3,000 golf courses were built in the US, riding golf’s popularity and capitalizing on a Baby Boomer generation that would be going into retirement.

Let me say that all of these are viable reasons, but what I believe the article is lacking…

Let me rephrase that.

The one factor that isn’t mentioned is CONSUMER INSIGHT.

Let me give you an example:

Some time ago, I played a course near Tucson, Arizona called The Pines of Marana. Overall, their facility was crappy at best. There was too much standing water on the course and it’s on the edge of the Sonoran Desert. The layout reminded me of Golden Tee and it’s proximity to the highway made it abnormally windy. Last but not least, their halfway house didn't have any food ready to go, making me wait 15 minutes for a boiled hot dog, chips & drink.

It’s safe to say that I will never play there again. Through my blog, I have urged other golfers to do the same.

My point is that golf courses, like restaurants and retail stores, despite their setbacks, controllable or uncontrollable, will always be at the mercy of the golfer’s (consumers) expectations and not wholly on socio-economic criteria.

Golf clubs like Great Rock aren’t necessarily suffering because of a dwindling golf population.

I would ask the brass at Great Rock to ask their consumers what they think of their course. It may be suffering because their golfers are spending their money on a different course that may be nicer, better groomed, better staffed and operated more professionally.

I'm not sure if this aspect was covered by Vitello and there's no evidence that the golf clubs he profiled are worth their salt.

Bottom line, if a golf course isn’t worth greens fee and the ground it lays upon, the consumer simply won’t play it again.

1 Comentário:

Acemakr said...

I think you've hit the nail on the head. Where I live (Denton, TX) there might be a dozen or so courses within a 15 miles of one another. A few are booked solid every day of the week and others run somewhere in the 30% to 45% of capacity. It's not price; a few turn away golfers who are willing to pay more than $75 a round.

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