Local pros are best people to grow golf

This past week I read an interesting column from one of my favorite Golf Channel analysts, Brandell Chamblee. I’ve always found him to be straight forward with his thoughts and he certainly doesn’t pull any punches. Personally, I think he’d be a great replacement for Johnny Miller whenever that time should come.

This week Chamblee wrote a piece about growing the game. I know I touched on this thought last year, but I thought his take would be a great topic to discuss locally.

In his piece Chamblee discussed a number of issues, with, in my opinion at least, his main point being that the “golf professional” needs to be the main individual to bring in new golfers. And for this column’s purpose, I agree.

Our local golf environment is unique in that there are actually four distinct ownership structures: Mill Creek and Stambaugh are still municipally owned facilities. Ed Muransky (The Lake Club) and Ron Klingle (Avalon Group) are showing the success that can be had with the newer corporate-owned facility. Tippecanoe, Trumbull, Salem and Youngstown still follow the member-owned private facility model. And there are still a slew of very good family-owned public courses.

As business owners first, obviously the goal of each of these models is to turn a profit. So with profits being the goal, each course has tried to come up with ways to increase the main variable in the revenue equation; rounds played.

The problem however, in my opinion, is that the outcome of these individual efforts is actually a zero-sum result.

Course A cuts their price on Mondays to increase rounds during their slow time. That could work for Course A, but it certainly takes rounds away from Course B. Course C then cuts their rates even less. Good for Course C, maybe. Probably bad for Courses A and B.

And the worst part of it is, if you look at the total money generated from all of the rounds played, it’s actually less at the end than it would have been in the beginning. One hundred golfers used to pay $30 for golf on Monday; $3,000 in course revenue. Now those same 100 golfers pay $22; $2,200 in revenue.

So back to Chamblee’s point with the golf professionals. As pressure to add rounds has increased, golf professionals have been spending more and more time in their offices and less and less time actually out with their members/golfers. This is a problem.

Golf professionals have been the second-biggest force behind golf’s growth over the last 100 years (behind guys named Jones, Palmer, Nicklaus, and Woods). They get people involved. Ingratiate themselves. Tell the history. Explain the rules. The etiquette. They teach the game. In short, they help bring people into the game and then they it more enjoyable.

We’re lucky in this area to have the PGA and local golf professionals we do. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but like Chamblee, I think these guys need to be (and will be) our front line to local growth.

Jonah Karzmer is a former golf professional who writes a Sunday golf column for The Vindicator. In his spare time he sells commercial insurance and loves getting feedback on his weekly columns via email at Jonah@thekarzmerinsurance.com

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