No doubt many of you are seeing the most play and best revenues in a decade. Good weather, the strongest consumer confidence since 2001 and lowest unemployment rate in 16 years all paint a positive picture for golf businesses. And many of golf’s economic indicators are finally catching up to the macroeconomics.
New players hit an all-time high in 2016 with 2.5 million beginning golfers, according the National Golf Foundation (NGF). The 14-percent rise in new players compared to 2015 hedged the 2.4 million new golfers recorded in 2000. The caveat here is that off-course participation at ranges and simulators were included in the 2016 numbers. Still, it lays the foundation for a strong outlook that appears to be getting stronger.
Likewise the number of committed golfers – those who call golf either their favorite activity or one of several recreational pursuits – surged to 20.1 million people, the first year-over-year increase in this category in five years, according to NGF.
The momentum has been propped up in 2017 with mostly good weather and strong economic indicators. Major media outlets are taking notice, too. In addition to Golfweek and Golf Digest, Bloomberg, USA Today and other major organizations are pointing to golf’s great rebound, citing NGF’s data on surging interest and rounds played at golf courses and off-course facilities. Although many of those reports are tainted by lackluster sales from the ball and stick guys, it’s clear that golf businesses will benefit from the efficiencies they implemented during the doldrums of the previous decade.
Another positive development was the ClubCorp sale to investment fund Apollo Global Management (see story page 6). Clearly margins can still be made in club ownership and operations. And although new golf course starts are still lower than in previous years, we are still building more golf courses than anywhere in the world. Our International Update (page 18) shows pipeline projects and construction projects around the world. Asia leads North America in both pipeline and current projects, but no country is building more golf courses than the United States.
Given the turnaround and the deep sigh of relief that management teams are finally taking this year, now is the time for superintendents to right-size their budgets for 2018. This issue discusses long-term renovations and master planning. Architects are critical resources for restoration and renovation projects because they can help identify options and create a lifecycle schedule for all systems and features. Of course everyone knows that you’ve been telling the management team the same information for years, but there is power in an outsider validating the club’s needs and wants. Consultants exist for a reason, and architects can be your best ally for measured progress toward updates.
This issue also explores how you should vet, hire and interact with an architect, as well as tips and tricks to reduce maintenance costs when redesigning or updating a golf course.
Next month we tackle budgeting stories, including how maintenance standards can help justify labor, inputs, equipment and other line items in your budget. These long-term planning tools help keep the management team, members, golfing public and maintenance staff on the same page about how you maintain the golf course and what the costs are for the agreed-upon standard. We’ll discuss outsourcing that can take some pressure off the hourly staff and help you to get more done with the same resources.
It’s time to make a wish list, and these next two issues of Superintendent have some pretty good ideas on how to get buy-in from the rest of the team.