There is one area in golf where I find myself soapboxing, evangelizing and pounding the drums without restraint and that area is affordable golf.
My fixation on affordable golf is stronger than my obsession with classical strategic design, punishing slow golfers, or my favorite, exposing the “Clubhouse” as the fastest way to rack up debt, lose money and kill a golf course.
Why am I fixated on affordable golf?
Because affordable golf is the locomotive that drives golf, the engine that recruits new players, brings dormant players back to life and serves as the training ground for the big step up to country club membership. Affordable golf was dangerously weakened when the “Open one course per day for 20 years” chant attracted waves of non-golf investors with dreams of huge profits. (In real estate, not golf.)
I watched it happen, up close. While struggling to turn around a ragged course in the mid ’80s, a consortium of investors, both domestic and foreign, jumped in and immediately raised the green fees from $16 to $35. Their reasoning amounted to “So what if we lose half our players, we’re still making the same money and the lot prices will triple!”
We did lose half our players. Then we lost some more.
The consortium applied pressure on us to “raise the bar” up to TV golf standards after a consultant concluded that the loss of play had been the result of inferior course grooming standards.
The consortium failed to understand a couple of key elements, the first of which was: Every course need not be an elite country club. (That course is not an elite CC now, it’s an apartment complex.)
Every course need not be an elite country club.
The second point they failed to grasp was the more important point: The Rabid Golfer, the player who supports this industry, wants to play several times a week.
In the quest for that next pure golf shot, Rabid Golfer will tolerate almost anything, except big green fees. No matter what the marketing experts claim, Rabid Golfer hates paying big fees for a round of golf. Once Rabid Golfer achieves a certain level of comfort on the golf course, he or she might join a country club in order to play several times a week, but many potential Rabid Golfers don’t make it to that critical point.
The affordability of golf issue has been gaining ground lately and part of that is due to the efforts of Richard Mandell, the golf course architect behind the 2012 Symposium on Affordable Golf. This year’s Symposium will be held in Southern Pines, NC, on October 29 and 30, and will focus on several topics of interest to those of us in course maintenance, like playability and reduced irrigation.
One topic that stands out for me is Zero-Waste Golf, a method dealing with the self-sustaining golf course. A discussion of green fee pricing is also scheduled, but I avoid those now, due to the tendency for the police to show up before I can complete my lecture.
If you are interested in attending, check out symposiumonaffordablegolf.com or just look up Richard Mandell Golf Architecture.
Here at the Rock, we’ve been practicing affordable golf for years; watch this video for tips on how to save money on spray applications.