Golf Course Owners Show

What are the two things that most men want to own? According to bestselling author Scott McKain, “A winery or a golf course.” During a recent trip, I attended a convention in the interest of the latter.

The National Golf Course Owners Association, with more than 5,300 members representing 7,200 courses, held its annual meeting and convention at the Hyatt Orange County, just a short distance from the Anaheim Convention Center. This year’s show was held at the same time as the Golf Industry Show, which is geared to course superintendents and club managers. Course owners came with the goal of improving their operations and marketing through three days of guest speeches and breakout sessions.

The show kicked off with a keynote address titled “What Customers Really Want” and delivered by McKain, whose books, including “All Business is Show Business,” specialize in customer service. McKain said companies such as Hertz and Marriott are the experts in customer relations as he implored golf course owners to live by those companies’ example. The customer service push continued with sessions such as “Creating a Way of Doing Business” and “Maverick Marketing.” Other sessions addressed future demographics, running a family business and online marketing.

One session that really caught my eye was “Pathways to Profit from Golfers of Today and Tomorrow,” by Peter Francese, a demographic specialist who refers to himself as “an accountant without the charisma.”

Francese assured golf course owners that the Baby Boomers have lots of money and will be spending it at nice golf courses. Francese, who is nationally known for his work, indicated that the growth opportunities would come from retirees, women and possibly minorities, depending on your geographic location.

Golf growth has been stagnant in the past five years due to poor “player retention.” According to event speakers, many people try golf but give up when they realize how difficult it can be. Francese says poor quality of golf instruction is partly to blame for these results, though he sees opportunities for growth and dramatic improvement.

In a session on online marketing, Emily Malatesta, vice president of business development for TIG Global, an Internet marketing company, told course owners how to design their websites to maximize “hits” and customer navigation.

Each evening there were receptions where the course owners could mingle. They came from all over the world and the US. I visited with course owners from Holland, Sweden, Germany and Canada as well as California, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, South Carolina, Oregon and Illinois. No matter where they came from, they shared one thing: Making money is not their primary goal in owning a golf course. For most, it is a labor of love which they either sought out or were born into. (For more information on this group visit www.ncoaa.org.)

The course owner’s convention flowed right into the Golf Industry Show just a few blocks away at the Anaheim Convention Center. This show is geared to owners, superintendents and course managers. Everything needed to run a course was on display, including golf carts, mowers, irrigation systems, insecticides, sod, software programs, fine china and on and on. This was the first year that all of these shows were held together allowing the club personnel to come as a team. Attendees left with the knowledge of the latest and best ways to do just about everything at their respective clubs.